Home' A Plus Magazine : Jan 2013 Contents 58 January 2013
Exports of Port
Consumption in China of
Portugal's signature product
soars from a low baseline,
writes George W. Russell
Hong Kong's festive season, which
extends from December to Febru-
ary -- thanks to Christmas, the cal-
endar and lunar new years -- and is pleasantly
chilly and gloomy, should be an ideal time to
drink Port, a wintry beverage if ever there
However, the silky smoothness of Port
hasn't really yet caught on in Asia, although
the Mainland is becoming much more recep-
tive to its charms. Exports of Port to China in
the first nine months of 2012 rose 80 percent
to 36,000 litres year-on-year, according to the
Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto in
Porto, Portugal, home of the fortified wine.
That is tiny compared with exports to
France, which totalled 22.5 million litres
in 2011. The French (and the Dutch and the
Belgians) drink Port like Dubonnet, as an
aperitif, while the Chinese consume it in the
traditional manner, after dinner.
Port is made in the Douro region from a
combination of up to 30 different grape vari-
eties, all native to the Iberian Peninsula and
its very warm and dry weather conditions.
The dominant varieties are Touriga Fran-
cesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta
Barroca, Tinta Amarela and Tinto Cão.
While virtually every other wine process
has been automated to some extent at least,
making Port still usually involves crushing
the grapes under the estate workers' feet, a
source of consternation to some Chinese con-
sumers. "We don't show foot treading in our
brochure aimed at the Mainland market,"
says Sophia Bergqvist, owner of the Quinta
de la Rosa estate in Pinhão.
When trodden completely, fermenta-
tion begins to release tannins from the skins.
"Treading is still the best way of achieving gen-
tle but complete extraction, producing wines
with structure, depth of flavour and balance,"
says David Guimaraens, head of winemaking
at Taylor's Port in Vila Nova de Gaia.
As the alcohol content rises and the sugar
density falls, the fermenting wine, known
as must, is prepared for fortification. The
wine is mixed with brandy as both liquids are
poured into a vat. There are various ratios of
brandy to must, and different temperatures
and sugar densities, depending on the prod-
The brandy raises the alcohol strength of
the wine to a level where the yeasts respon-
sible for fermentation can no longer survive.
Fermentation stops before all the sugar has
been turned into alcohol so some of the natu-
ral sweetness of the grape is preser ved. The
Port is then matured in wooden casks or bar-
rels, blended and bottled.
There are several varieties of Port, among
them ruby (the cheapest and youngest), reserve
(an aged ruby), tawny (sweet to medium with
at least two years in barrels), late-bottled vin-
tage (a ready to drink and filtered Port with
three to four years in barrels) and vintage
(made with grapes from a single year).
A nice entry-level product is Barros Ruby
Port (HK$98, Watson's Wine Cellar, Cen-
tral). It's fruity -- by Port standards -- and can
be served slightly chilled with strong cheese
such as Stilton.
For a basic tawny, made by mixing light
and dark wines, try Cockburn's Fine Tawny
Port (HK$116, Rare and Fine Wines, Sheung
Wan), a toffee-like blend. Cockburn's 10-Year-
Old Tawny Port (HK$212, Rare and Fine
Wines, Sheung Wan) is more chocolate fla-
voured and has a lightly spicy finish.
A late-bottled vintage to look forward to
in 2013 is Quinta de la Rosa LBV, available in
Hong Kong from this year. Bergqvist explains
that brandy is added when the alcohol con-
tent rises to 17-18 percent, and the density is
7.5 Baumé, producing a silky, medium-bod-
ied wine. "It's not a jammy full-bodied Port,"
Vintage Ports develop muscular charac-
teristics such as the licorice-infused Dow's
Vintage Port 1997 (HK$898, Watson's Wine
Cellar, Central). At the top end is the Fonseca
Vintage Port 1960 (HK$3,380, Rare and Fine
Wines, Sheung Wan) with its mauve colour
and redolence of luxuriously aged fruit.
And never mind that the best Port is always
trodden by foot. Not only are they the clean-
est of extremities but also, as Bergqvist points
out, "fermentation kills everything."
Barrels of port mature in the cellars at Taylor’s Port,
Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.
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