Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Fladgate Partnership has released three exceptional 2018 Vintage Ports to fire up romance at-home: Taylor Fladgate Classic Vintage 2018, Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage 2018 and Croft Port Quinta da Roêda Vintage 2018. These amazing wines will be the perfect ending to your special dinner, whether sipped on their own or accompanying your desserts.
But, while it is true that Port is a natural paring when it comes to Valentine’s staples like chocolate, sumptuous desserts and cheese plates, these Portuguese fortified wines also make delightful companions to other less expected food items.
According to David Fonseca Guimaraens, technical director and head winemaker of The Fladgate Partnership, “Port is very versatile – maybe one of the most versatile wines – and can be paired with many kinds of food and consumed in different moments. But it should not be forced in pairings that do not fit,” he states.
He explains that, in some parts of the world, Port is known to be served all the way through the meal. “We think this a little extreme,” he adds, “and suggest that key moments are dedicated to really savor the flavor profiles that each of the Port wines can deliver.”
MORE FOR YOU
White Port, for instance, is highly underrated. It plays well in cocktails, adding a salty minerality and a sweetness that does not overwhelm, but it’s best to keep them simple, sessionable, and at a low ABV to let the flavors of the Port shine through. It’s a great aperitif when served chilled, straight, or poured over ice in a tall glass topped with tonic and fresh mint. Extra dry white port mixed with tonic water is a very versatile drink and can accompany almost anything -the acidity and bitterness of tonic allows all the freedom for pairing.
Seafood dishes like caramelized scallops or fried sardines will be a lovely pairing, and accompanied by salted almonds, olives or hand cut potato chips, it is the perfect summer drink. Do not pair with oysters, says Guimaraens, as the very specific and intense flavors would clash and ruin both the oyster and the wine flavors. Instead, he recommends trying chilled white Port with foie gras.
“The hints of honey and balanced acidity in the wine complement the rich paté beautifully,” he says. “White Ports are also rather excellent when drizzled into a warm soup, adding some wonderful depth on a cold winter’s day. And why not try it as part of a dessert? Serve two scoops of lemon or lime sorbet into a martini glass and pour a measure of Taylor’s Chip Dry or White Port over the sorbet. It is divine.”
Croft was the first, and currently the only, producer of Port rosé in the market. Croft Pink is softly macerated for 12 hours to extract delicate floral notes and a pale ruby color, with a pleasantly balanced sweetness. It also mixes nicely with tonic and in cocktails, but best keep them light. Clearly an aperitif for small snacks such as canapés. A surprisingly great pairing? Pizza bites.
Full bodied and fruity Ports (Ruby and LBV) pair heavenly with strong cheeses, dark chocolate and chocolate desserts. Ruby or LBV are often used in their natural form in the culinary world to make reductions, which are wonderful when poured over a piece of venison or steak. In cocktails, the intense berry flavors play well with Bourbon to create variations on the Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
Rich and mellow Tawny Ports should be served slightly chilled and are surprisingly good as an aperitif. A 20-year-old Tawny has a wonderful acidity and pairs beautifully with foie gras and brioche at the beginning of a meal. Tawnies can also be good with savories like crispy Peking duck. “An older Tawny port need no accompaniment, except time to savor them and a good armchair,” says Guimaraens.
Some of his coup the coeur pairings are Croft White Port and stilton paté; Croft Pink with salted almonds, potato crisps and cured ham, and Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old with wild strawberries. “Not very easy to obtain, but if you happen across them be sure to buy them – it is a truly memorable experience and well worth the hunt.”
He also recommends that Fonseca Bin 27, with its characteristic rich fruity nose crammed with pure blackberry and cassis, is a match made in heaven with dark chocolate mousse. “But consider pairing with cassis or raspberry flavored macaroons and your life will never be the same again. And a Vintage Port, by itself, is just the perfect end to any meal.”
Aside from the recent 2018 Vintage Port releases, serious collectors and Port lovers should seek out the special release of Taylor Fladgate’s 1961 Single Harvest Vintage Port ($395 SRP, only 780 bottles available).
“2018 was a year in which overall conditions weren’t just excellent, but exceptional, in the Douro superior,” says Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, parent company of the three iconic Port houses. “Although a declaration normally only happens about three times a decade, the exceptional run of years has meant that Taylor Fladgate is able to make a third in a row. This is very unusual, but we only declare a Classic Vintage when the quality is there and that is dictated by the year, not by any other consideration.”
According to Guimaraens, the Douro Superior had a combination of abundant ground water and hot summer weather, which results in the production of great Vintage Port. “It has given us the excellent phenolic maturity typical of a hot ripening season, but the fine multi-layered fruit and fresh acidity we normally see in cooler years,” he says. “It is important to note that the 2018 wines have the highest color intensity of recent vintages, always a sign of good extraction and longevity.”
Why not bring something new to the table and surprise your Valentine with some sexy Ports, whether in cocktails, paired with your appetizers, as part of a recipe or as a lovely end to your meal. Who knows, it might spice things up a notch.
Port Coffee Cocktail
Courtesy of portcocktails.com
2 oz. Croft Tawny Reserve Port
2 oz. cold brew coffee
1 oz. Irish Cream Liqueur
Add the Croft Reserve Tawny Port, cold brew coffee and Irish cream liqueur to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with coffee beans.