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Port Wine

Why care about Port? Because it's the wine which made European expansion beyond the confines of the home continent possible. It's not like mere mortal wines of the era could withstand months sailing across the oceans through the tropics only to be dumped ashore for consumption and storage in "uncertain" climes. And it's not like settlers, soldiers, and sailors of the colonial era could be expected to get it all done without a little social lubricant to help them through the day. Yes, Port's combination of high sugars, high alcohol, and (often) high tannins gives this wine the shelf life and endurance of the proverbial horse. The even better news is that Port can also be super tasty and basically breaks down into two major styles which can be pretty easily understood.

Tawny Ports spend their formative years in wood barrels and are considered ready for consumption when they are bottled and released. Tawnys are so named for the amber/brown color they show after years of barrel aging. They generally have a smooth, caramel flavor quality and offer a great accompaniment to Crème Brulee and candied nut desserts. When you see an age designation (10yr, 20yr, 40yr) on a bottle of Tawny Port that is an indication of how long the wine spent in wood barrels before moving into the bottle in your hand.

are also sometimes called "bottle aged' Ports as the best of them are the Vintage Ports which are released and sold to you with the expectation that you will now hold them in your cellar for the next 20+ years until they reach optimal maturity. Vintage dated Ports which come from a single vintage year are both a comparative rarity, and the top tier of the Ruby Port spectrum. Ports labeled LBV or Late Bottled Vintage are a hybrid style taking the "drinkability" of the wood aged Tawnys and combining it with the intensity and power of a great Ruby/Vintage Port. The workhorse of the Ruby world is the "Character Port" which is a non vintage dated Ruby made in a consistent style and sold in high volume at comparatively accessible prices. When you hear people talking about matching Stilton and other strong blue veined cheeses with Port, they are invariably talking about the Ruby variety.

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