As I read, study and write about wines, I am intrigued by the influence the preservation of food had on certain culinary and beverage specialties. I am also very interested in the way wines’ different stories can tell us so much about history and economics. Port tells the story of war, commerce during war times, food storage and preservation before the days of modern amenities.
During one of the many English-French war periods in the 17th century, England boycotted French wines. The closest (or most amenable) source for their wine was Portugal. The turbulent travel across the water did not help the wine, which needs calmness to settle and age well.
To address this problem, the British added a touch of brandy to sustain the wine during its voyage. The fortification of the wine made it sweeter, higher in alcohol content and more full-bodied. And shall I add more delicious ☺
The name Port derives from the coastal city Porto (second in size only to Portugal’s capital, Lisboa/Lisbon), a major city along the Douro River in the Douro Valley, a beautiful wine region of Portugal. While the term Port is used to describe fortified wines made in many different countries, according to port maker Taylor Fladgate, “Port [from Portugal] owes its distinctive character to a unique association of climate, soil, grape variety and wine making tradition. The unique terroir of the Douro Valley and its remarkable wines cannot be replicated elsewhere.” So be it. I’m happy to use the term fortified wine rather than Port to describe the wonderful wines of this style made outside of Portugal.
What interests me more is how fortified wines from different region compare to one another. If you’ve tried a lot of fortified wines, including Ports from Portugal, what have you noticed as the regional differences? I would love to hear about your experiences.