It is not often that I climb on a whinebox, but I feel like some education and elucidation is required about the most regal of wines, Port. As a lover of the stuff, I disdain the pretenders to the throne – sweet wines that dare call themselves Port, but share no DNA (or other connection) whatsoever.
Port is made in Portugal. Only Portugal. Its indigenous grapes come from the Douro, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. It has a fascinating history, wonderful characters, and a romantic process that starts as it has for hundreds of years with grapes growing on impossibly-steep slopes. Young wine awaits its fate, like a prince anticipating the throne, in casks or barrels in cellars, sometimes for decades, then is carefully blended and sold when it is ready to drink. The exception to that is Vintage Port. It is bottled long before its time with the expectation that the purchaser will cellar it for the decades it needs.
Pretenders come from wherever there is a winemaker with the audacity to think he/she can make a wine worthy of the Port moniker. The ones I’ve tasted are rubbish compared to Port as they possess none of the complexity, flavour profiles or impact. As simple, sweet wines, they pass, but they are peasants, not kings.
My ire comes from a recent trip to California where I spoke with the owner (a purported wine expert) of a large warehouse filled with wine for sale. When I asked him where the Port Wine section was, he asked me what country I was interested in. Indeed! (I mentally stamped my foot). He would probably ask the same question about Champagne.