Oh Brother, Where Art Though for this Port?

Calitzdorp - Port Capital of South Africa.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it is okay for a man to cry. I’ll never forget how hard it was to hold back the tears upon hearing that my first born Dachshund, Grimelda von Zimmerschatz, had given birth to a litter of six. Or the teary feeling of pride on that crisp Namibian morning when I felled my first kudu cow with one shot to the head.
And as for the night when my house was burgled and the thieves fled with my precious collectors-item Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with Christine Brinkley on the cover, well, I was not ashamed at breaking down in tears in-front of the two Police inspectors. One even offered me his handkerchief.
A man must cry, sometimes. Although unlike the self-pitying yelps of women, male tears usually originate from some feeling of emotional pride. Or sense of achievement.
This was the case in July this year when I was ordained into the Port Lovers Fraternity of Espinho in Northern Portugal. Look, I was not expecting it. There we were, just going out to dinner with a heap of oldish mustached men. Sure, the Ports following the grilled octopus and duck rice were monumental: Dow’s 1963. Graham’s 1977. Fonseca 1949. But when Senhor Gustavo Salmeida stood up and announced that I was being inducted into the brotherhood of Port Lovers, it brought a tear to my eye.
This is what we drink for. Moments like these.
The Fraternity comes with a lot of responsibility, I have found. I have to keep copious tasting notes which must be translated into Portuguese and mailed to headquarters in Espinho. I am also expected to keep a cellar of Port, and trust me, it aint’t cheap.
In any event, as a member of the Fraternity it is expected of me to espouse the magical quality of Port, which said in all modesty comes quite naturally.
There is a storm brewing, however. The Espinho Brotherhood are a bit pissed because in the latest list of recommended Ports I sent them, I included one South African drop.
Carel Nel, Port maestro in any language.
Okay, perhaps it was a bit mischevous. Like rocking up at the Swartland Revolution sober and with clean hair waving a bottle of Riesling made in Durbanville. In any event, the Port I included in my list of “recommended” for perusal by the Fraternity back in Portugal is from Boplaas. And none other than the Cape Vintage Reserve 2006.
During a recent cold spell in Cape Town I eschewed Ferreira 1971s, the Sandeman 1987s and all those Taylor’s 1963s and went straight for the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2006. I had tasted the wine before, but in limited thimblefulls. Now I was in the mood for some serious fraternising with a few solid glasses of this Cape great.
First sign of greatness is the colour. This stuff is black enough to give Julius Malema an inferiority complex. Of course, blackness is a sign that the Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the main cultivars used in the wine ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ had ripened to perfection. Depth in colour means the skins’ contribution to the final product, which is of major importance in Port development, had been immense and suitably so.
And immense, power and huge are descriptions you don’t shy away from when describing vintage Port. Tawny can be all cute and Christmas cakey, and damn delicious too. But a vintage has to be a sledgehammer wrapped in a Matisse. Without weight and focused force, forget about it. Might as well be drinking some of other whimpish botrytised Chenin Blanc.
With enough power to stop a teetotaller or Imam at a hundred yards, the Boplaas Cape Vintage 2006 leads you into a brooding, shady place smelling of patchouli, spice market and candied figs. The palate entry is explosive, much like the first scene in A Streetcar Named Desire where Marlon Brando hits the screen. You don’t know where to look, where to hide, but you are fixed to your seat.
Tobacco and decadent black fruit give way to dry tannins and heady flavours of dried Peppadew, pomegranate seed and sweetly sauced gammon.
All this is presented with a crisp and bracing freshness ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the Port has decades to go. Once those tannins even out and the typical smokey sweetness of a fine old vintage becomes evident, this South African Port will stand its own with the best of the best.
It speaks of the commitment of Carel Nel to making qualilty Port. His technical proficiency in harvesting, blending, fortifying.
But most of all, it speaks of a big heart beating to the pursuing of a dream so sweet you get tears in your eyes thinking about it.

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