Tag Archives: Port

Tulleeho Grapevine – Sherry, Port, Madeira – Elisabeth Spinnler

Spain and Portugal’s fortified heritage wines … the comeback!

Sherry, Port and Madeira are again trendy as younger customers are changing the image of these wines. Whether in London or New York, a new generation is responsible for slowly but steadily rising consumption. Clichés are still around. Port is the Christmas drink and wine for family gatherings, Sherry, grandma’s preferred sweet afternoon drink and Madeira, the one used for refined cooking! But today’s Ports, Sherries and Madeiras are getting more experimental when used in the cocktail world, one of several reasons for the sustained comeback of all three in many parts of the world.

Sherry enjoys special momentum in New York for some time already, dry styles above all, fresh and chilled. The whole range of finer Sherries is much in demand, the Finos and Manzanillas, biologically aged by their own yeast resulting in wine with delicate but marked saline flavours. Manzanillas in particular have this incorporated sea breeze, the much appreciated seaside saltiness on the palate, the pleasant feeling of freshness so typical for the wines of the Sanlúcar de Barrameda vineyards.



Though any Sherry is exceptional on its own, they match extremely well with many types of food. It’s the case with Spanish cuisine, the tapas. But it is equally a perfect match for food pairing with more spicy cuisines, from the Japanese with fresh fish to any other Asian cuisine with more fried food. Or simply drink it with any artisan cheese and some bread.

Sherry and Cheese
Sherry and Cheese

For Port the story is not less interesting. The prestigious wine is a raison d’être for new bars inside and outside Portugal and their trendy Port mixes are the link for young consumers to get to know the wine. Port Tonic, the mix of White Port with Tonic Water, a blend of sweetness with bitterness, is already a classic. CaipiRoyal, the extra dry White Port on crushed ice, mixed with lime or any other fruit juice such as strawberry or pineapple, is another fashionable cocktail. These are drinks for any occasion, unpretentious and fun.

Port Tonic

Standard Ports, Reserve Tawnies, Colheitas and Vintage Ports, whether drunk on their own or accompanied by cheese, truffles or other delicatessen, are as special as they always were. Powerful, elegant and with unique flavours, the wine produced from grapes grown in the intensely sloped vineyards hanging over the Douro river is more than ever appreciated as the flagship wine for a country well-known for its rich wine legacy.

Madeira wine is making a come back of its own. The many different kinds of it seduce at any age and are a many connoisseurs favourite. It’s as well a hot ingredient in the cocktail world, where its wide range of aromas and flavours, from slightly saline, spicy or kind of citrus to richer and sweeter notes of nuts and figs, are used to create unique drinks.

Lighter and fresher versions of Ports and Sherries, White Ports, Finos and Manzanillas, as Sercial and Verdelho for the Madeiras, are clearly the style favourites in the cocktail world. They match the dryer contemporary taste and wine producers are honouring that. But the slow revival of the integral range of fortified wines could represent more. There is some nostalgia in the air, a tendency of valuing timelessness, traditional values not for the sake of tradition but for their authenticity. Associated with them also those precious moments of conviviality, the time to enjoy them, as may be the end afternoon of a hot summer day rewarded by a fresh Sherry, Port or Madeira in the company of friends. Interesting to know that in all wine regions efforts are made to produce them again organically, meaning that some of the wines will soon be like they still were some fifty-sixty years ago.

Elisabeth Spinnler

Letter from Portugal – Port – Vol 2 – Elisabeth Spinnler

The river Douro in the Northern part of Portugal was a cradle for winemaking since ancient times, before the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula and their strong encouragement of viticulture. Wine, together with cereals and olive oil, represented the pillars of the local economy. Douro wines got on the world map much later though, during the 2nd half of the 17th century as a result of war between France and England.

Once England boycotted the importation of French wines, and the London elite ran dry on wine, the search for alternatives began and Portugal was the answer. Very rapidly Porto attracted a flourishing British merchant community, which traded in wool and cloth and sent Douro wine back to England. Commercial activities have rapidly been sealed in a famous Treaty signed in 1703. The two countries agreed that wine could be imported into England at a greatly reduced tax rate and British wool was admitted into Portugal duty-free. It was the starting point for the rapidly growing international interest in traditional Douro wines, the wines with their characteristically deep purple color and a special dryness in the mouth.

River Douro
River Douro

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]As a result of the Treaty, wine got shipped in big quantities to England. The Portuguese, in order to prevent any potential damage during the passage, started to add small amounts of brandy to the wine, which represented a first step towards today’s style of Port. Furthermore, to please even more the British palate, they also started to add some sugar, something that became slowly but surely common practice, as they liked it. Hence the British influence had the final say, Port wine got once and for ever today’s style: sweetish, typically deep purple black, full bodied and fortified with added brandy.

The British merchants settled in the region and dominated the Port wine trade for a long time. As a matter of fact many of them are still here today. The Portuguese, on the other hand, keen to protect the authenticity of their wine and to control its price, created in 1756 a supervisory entity, which established the exact extension of the Douro wine regions, demarcating clearly as up to where it was allowed to label the wine as ‘Port’. It was worldwide the first time that a wine region got its formal demarcation.

Today the Douro wine region has become a notorious attraction for custom-made visits. Starting in the city of Porto you can enjoy the view of the vineyards on exclusive boat trips up the meanders of the Douro River, a landscape marked by old and new stone-terraced hills. The river may have fashioned the millenary landscape, but the terraces are due to the hard labor of men and women who built and rebuilt the hillsides rising from its banks over the last three centuries to enable the vineyards’ plantation. Today they are part of the landscape that UNESCO has classified as a World Heritage Site.

The Douro region as a natural treasure for growing grapes and making wines, is a region of canicular hot summers and bone-chilling cold winters, a land of extremes, where the vines, on poor soil and between broken slabs of schistous rocks, grow deeply their roots in search of scarce water. Several indigenous varietals are the base of Port, always being a blend. The diversity of soils and existing micro climates means that grapes are different according to where the vines have been planted. The Douro vintners’ artistry therefore starts in the vineyard, with the decision to determine the best combination of grape varietal, soil, location and micro climate for each piece of vineyard. Douro wines are terroir wines expressing beautifully the sense of place.

The whole wine making process is complex, starting with the fermentation process, the addition of the brandy, quantity and timing of it with respect to the sweetness or dryness of the Port to be created. Some of the most prestigious wineries still practice wine making as performed centuries ago, including foot-treading the freshly harvested grapes. The final result of all of them is Port with a final alcohol content varying between 19 and 23°.

Foot-treading the freshly harvested grapes
Foot-treading the freshly harvested grapes

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite the city of Porto, is the location just before the Douro River’s mouth into the sea. Port wine producers stored the wine here, and still today thousands of wine casks are maturing in dozens of wine lodges. It is here that the wine is transforming over time into the sweet, soft and light nectar with its incomparably delicate aromas that is appreciated today allover the planet.

One of the oldest lodges of Vila Nova da Gaia is Taylor’s, located in Rua do Choupelo nr. 250. They just reopened a freshly restored visitor’s part, a beautiful open space, where you can follow step by step the making of Port as practiced over more than three hundred years. You will get a glimpse of their wine casks, stored on the naturally sandy cellar floors, and can assist to some day to day work, follow on screen the work in the vineyards throughout the year, and get an introduction into the Taylor’s family history, one of the most significant Port producer.

Taylor's Port Warehouses
Taylor’s Port Warehouses

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Back to Lisbon and the result of the cocktail competition, which was held during Lisbon’s 1st Cocktail week. Voted by the jury and the public to be ‘The Best Cocktail 2016’ was a cocktail called Apple Lover’s, a mix of Gin, Green Apple Juice (Granny Smith), Sugar Syrup, Lemon Juice, Egg White and Basil.

My next letter will be from Madeira, the homeland of another famous wine, Madeira wine, homeland also of Cristiano Ronaldo!

Nina Spinnler from Portugal[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Letter from Portugal – Lisbon Cocktail Week & Port – Elisabeth Spinnler

The Lisbon Cocktail Week closed its 1st edition days ago. Ten days with over 50 bars offering special cocktails at special prices. And the city was in a special vibe after 5pm when all of us could try the magic mixes with or without alcohol, lots of them created for the occasion. There were bars, which invited public figures to learn the technique of properly handling the cocktail shaker, attracting the crowds with great music, lots of live performers a little everywhere. The event was inspiring, kind of a novelty in a country that usually chills out with either a beer, some wine or, take a guess…….a glass of Port.

My newsletter is about Port, honoring its distinct and prestigious place it is holding for over 300 years in wine history, not only in Portugal. The unique wine continues to be re-discovered in the new millennium by new and young consumers. The reason is simple: to drink a Port requires no special occasion and no special accompaniment – it just IS PLEASANT ANYTIME! Drink it neat or use it as a main ingredient for cocktails, its opulent flavors and its round and velvety texture gives both classic and modern cocktails enticing aromas, an alluring character and robust body.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]There is a lot of history around Port aside the fact that it consists of being a family with various categories. Let me present them, so you know them when enjoying them. Port is above all classified by color, is either white or red, as are other wines. Red Port is without any doubt the most famous one. Both are higher in alcohol than normal wines, caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits, a kind of brandy, resulting in wines with 19 to 23% of alcohol.

The family of White Ports consists of two very different types of wines. Above all there are the young Whites, sold quite immediately after they have been produced. Young Whites are drunk as an aperitif mainly, served with a slice of lemon and ice, with tonic water or just chilled. The old Whites on the other hand, are the ones that have aged in wood, are much more oxidized and generally drunk after the meal, dessert wines. Both Whites are completely different in style and in their aromas. Whereas the young Whites are inexpensive, the old Whites are rare, prestigious and expensive, competing in their complexity with aged Red Ports, Old Tawnies.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]The family of Red Ports, the overwhelming majority of Ports, is made from red grapes and divided into following sub-categories: Ruby, Reserve Ruby, Tawny, Reserve Tawny, Tawny with an indication of age, Late Bottled Vintage (or LBV Ports) and Vintage Port, the jewel in the crown.

Tay PDT Fine Ruby Port

The Ruby Ports, red wines with the color of the precious stone ‘ruby’, are young wines, kept in very large wooden vats or even stainless steel tanks, that are practically never aired, in order to retain the bright red color and the characteristics of young wine. Ruby Ports are wines that must be drunk young, they are fresh in the mouth and are sold at an average age of three years. Always delightful to drink, they represent excellent value for money. Reserve Ruby Ports is the superior category, more full-bodied and more concentrated than a standard Ruby, they have some of the character of Vintage Ports. Hence, any Reserve Ruby is an excellent choice out of the medium-priced Ports, as they have an overall high quality standard.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Tawny Ports are wines aged in wood. When not accompanied by any other designation, Tawny Ports correspond to standard young wines, are an average of three years old and to be drunk within one or two months once the bottle opened. Reserve Tawny Ports, in difference, are sold when between five and seven years old. They are wines easily drunk, quite fruity, some of them already revealing hints of dried fruit on the nose and therefore pleasant at the end of a meal. These wines neither, they do not improve in the bottle and should not be kept for storage. Tawnies with an indication of age, 10, 20, 30 or more years, have aged in wood through oxidation over the indicated years. The color of 10 Year Old Ports is usually one in transition from red to a golden reddish brown, the latter being the characteristics of oxidized wines. Their market price is generally cheap for the quality of the wines they are. Winemakers have taken great care of them over the years, are masters in the art of blending and at the expertise when identifying the right aromas in the young wines. The date of bottling must be indicated either on the front or back label. Buy the bottle with the most recent date and drink it without too much delay.

Taylor's Fine Tawny and mille-feuille[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]Late Bottled Vintage Ports or LBVs, are wines produced in a single year exclusively, are black purple colored and well structured. The purpose of the Late Bottled designation is to point out that these wines are bottled much later than classic Vintage Ports, between the 4th and 6th year after harvest. With this type of wines, producers offer great quality wines in years with no conditions for Vintage Ports. They are full-bodied and frequently tannic. Traditional LBVs are not filtered before bottling, meaning that there will be a deposit over the years and you will need to decant the wine before serving it.

Taylor's 1863 Image

Vintage Port is made when Mother Nature made it all perfect and a set of factors have come together: flowering of the vines occurred without any problems, the fruit set has not been affected neither by frost nor by hail, the grapes ripened over the usual 40 days without suffering any great differences in temperature, there was enough water in the subsoil to feed the vine during the hot summer months, the grapes attained an excellent state of maturation at the time of the harvest and the September rains caused no rot! If all this was the case, the wine producer can choose to declare his wine Vintage.

The classification as Vintage requires bottling of the wine between the 2nd and 3rd year after it is made, more specifically between July 1st of the 2nd year and December 31st of the 3rd year. This lapse of time permits the producer to be sure that the wine will correspond to the superior quality requirements of Vintage wines, the two winters and one summer being the time for observing the evolution of it. This is where his brand’s reputation is at stake! The year the majority of Port producers declare it as being Vintage, the resulting Ports are called Classic Vintage Ports. Usually 10 to 15 years after the harvest, the aromas of Vintage Ports open up with a burst of ripe fruit and a complexity, which is the heart of these unique wines, unequalled worldwide.

There is a 2nd part dedicated to Port to be published in one of the next Newsletters, as the story of Port is complex and interesting. Will also present you the cocktail voted by the jury and the public to be ‘The Best’ at this year’s Lisbon Cocktail Week.

by Nina Spinnler from Portugal