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"From Portugal with Love
"

  by Fred McMillin


Prologue

Fortified wines are produced by adding concentrated alcohol produced by the distillation of wine. California's dessert wines are molded after some of Europe's most famous, such as Portugal's Port... In fact, the most interesting California fortified dessert wines are the Ports made from Portuguese grape varieties.

...Dr. Marian Baldy, Ph.D., The University Wine Course


The Rest of the Story

Ladies First—There is no doubt that Port wine originated in Portugal. Its history is long and colorful. For example, noted author Henry Vizetelly described the ladies' role in the 1877 crush on the Upper Douro in Portugal. "The young women skillfully gathered their garments up around them. When all was duly adjusted they sprang into the lagar, and, delighted with their task, danced for a time among the grapes with the frenzy if not the grace of a troop of wild Bacchanals."

From there, he traveled down the Douro River to the shipping lodges. "Perched on a lofty hill is the granite building of Messrs. C. C. Sandeman Sons, the eminent Port wine shipper who regularly heads the Oporto shipping list."

Those leading Sandeman Ports were made from five, little-known Portuguese varietals. So, a century later (1979) when Robert Mondavi began to experiment with Port production, he planted a vineyard of those same varietals. Today, the wine's name recognizes those vines; it's called Porto Cinco.

Also, California's Charles Mitchell took Dr. Baldy's advice, and uses Portuguese vines for his El Dorado County Port.

My panel liked all three, and rated them as follows:

3rd  -  Charles B. Mitchell Port, $20
2nd  -  R. Mondavi Woodbridge Portocinco, '93, $15
Winner - Sandeman 1988 Quinta do Vau Vintage Port, Portugal, $38


Service

At Sandeman's in Portugal, my wife and I were served their Port with thin slices of sharp white cheese and quince marmelada (jam) on a semi-sweet cracker. At Sandeman's in London it was served with Stilton cheese and crackers.


Postscript

For more about these wineries, see the following WineDay articles:


Note

In 1790 George Sandeman hadn't enough money for an office, so he worked out of Tom's Coffee Shop in London. Nearby was a budding insurance company working out of a coffee shop named Lloyd's...you know how THAT one came out!

 

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