Port for Thought

So far, it has been a good year for Port drinking. And if things continue in this vein, my Douro resident permit should surely be in the mail. What’s more, since committing to dropping two bottles orfPort a week three months ago, my GP reckons I am in far better shape than ever. Blood pressure is temperate. The pulse is as calm and regular enough to manage a Formula One pit stop. And a painful stabbing check produced the verdict of my liver being is as unblemished and pure as a nun’s thigh.

This is no doubt the result of Port’s purity. The fortification arrests the ferment, allowing all of the natural grape’s goodness to be captured in the drink. A lot of good stuff gets fermented out of the grape, this not being the case with Port.

Of course, the fact that I have been fortunate enough to access two of the world’s greatest Ports over the past two years, has also played a role in my current euphoric obsession.

Last year in Oporto, Danie de Wet, Joaquim Sa of Amorim Cork fame and I were exposed to the Graham’s 2007, which according to the Symington machine is the greatest vintage since 1963. This was followed by a memorable gathering of the Wine Swines earlier this year, when Swine member Sa offered a Dow’s 2007. Dave Hughes called for silence and proclaimed this to be “the best Port ever”.

How is a great Port?

It starts with texture. The comforting pleasure of a silky liquid substance languishing in your mouth where it is slowly warmed by one’s body heat. Then a set of sensors are activated by the spirit-wine combination, sending seductive shocks pulsating through the face, head neck and upper half of the body. It is a sensation a fire-fly must feel when it lights up and flickers glowingly through the forest, knowing that its magical presence is making the world a better place.

The flavours. Oh Lord, and the flavours.

There is a tipping point when dealing with the ratio of sweetness in a wine. The point where it goes from acceptable to nice to delicious, before bolting off into a sticky, cloying direction.

Then there is the point of perfect clear harmony. The point where a great wine with all its vine and soil and sun related complexities is gently picked up by a velvet glove and lifted in an ethereal fruit-filled afterlife.

The Graham’s and the Dow’s 2007 were both at this stage. These Ports are wines, which are there for all to taste. But the magical marriage of wine, fruit and fortification had transformed them into not a taste, but into an experience filled with sensation, emotion and memory.

Okay, so all this Port I’ve been glugging has not been of the 2007 Portuguese stuff, but some truly special items.

On the local front, Monis Vintage 2006 has left its mark. Monis Maestro Dirkie Cristowitz is a whizz with the fortified stuff when he is not fermenting six million litres of Chinese apple juice for Distell’s Savannah ciders. The Monis 2006 is soft and approachable, smoky and satisfying with a thrust of wildflower and honey. As dependable as a natural cork stopper on a 10 year old wine.

Calitzdorp, from where the Monis grapes originate and South Africa’s Port capital, never fails to deliver a Port of monstrous beauty. The Boplaas 2007 Vintage is such a Port and shares many characteristics with the great Portuguese numbers, including that mysterious whiff of spearmint on the first glass and if the wine has not been decanted.

Unfortunately, Port is a drink for the home as most restaurants are clueless with regards to its serving. It is wine, for Heaven’s sake, so serve it in a big glass to show the aroma instead of those transparent nipple-caps most establishments prefer. And once the bottle is open, a Ruby or Vintage should be consumed in two to three days. Not kept on the shelf in an open bottle for generations.

But home is where the Port is.

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