By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Tonight I tasted 100 years of Quinta Do Portal ports with Mike Dunnavant, the proprietor of The Wine Loft of Birmingham.
Port is a fortified wine. Fortified wines are made by adding grape spirit or brandy to the winemaking process. In port, brandy is added before the wine has finished fermenting. Port is traditionally served at the end of a meal with dessert, especially chocolate or cheese. It can also be enjoyed as an after-dinner drink or even as an aperitif or with a cigar in front of the fireplace.
Port wine is produced in the mountainous eastern reaches of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, where these wines have been made for more than 2,000 years. In 1756, the Douro’s port wine vineyards became the world’s first vineyard area to be legally demarcated. The climate, soil, variety of grapes (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, or Tinta Barroca), and winemaking traditions contribute to the unique terroir of the Douro Valley. The first wines named port were shipped in 1678.
Prolonged wood aging is the most important difference between tawny ports, bottle-aged ports, and vintage ports. From the Quinta Do Portal portfolio of tawny ports, we start our tasting with Portal 10-Year-Old Aged Tawny Port. The port is dark in color and full in body with notes of dry fruit. Next we taste the Portal 20-Year-Old Aged Tawny Port. It is amber in color with notes of orange and plum and is far more complex than the 10-year port. Our third port is Portal 30-Year-Old Aged Tawny Port, which has golden hues with notes of dried fruit, mandarin orange, and toasted nuts, and balances acidity and sweetness with a long and lovely finish. But my favorite is the Portal 40-Year-Old Aged Tawny Port. It is maple in color with a golden rim and hints of amber. Its nutty and honey notes are balanced with fresh acidity, making for a rich and smooth drink.
Each Wednesday they offer this 100-Year Flight, which includes 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-year-old ports in one and one half ounce pours for $20 at The Wine Loft. Or you can order two-ounce pours of this flight for $40 or any of the ports by the glass or bottle, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:00 p.m.