Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 10 Questions about Wine: 3 & 4

Welcome to our second in a series of blog posts that answers the “top questions asked about wine on” Today we sort out a question about Port wine and another about bottle quantities. In case you missed it, compiled a list of the inquiries that the internet search engine receives on the subject of wine on a daily basis. We’re taking them on two at a time, giving you the ammunition you need for a more wine-savvy you! Without further adieu, here are questions number three and four.

#3. What is Port wine?

Very simply, Port is a fortified wine. Fortified wines are made by adding spirits (in this case brandy, a spirit made from grapes) to wine in order to stop fermentation and add alcohol strength. When fermentation is halted early, not all of the sugar has yet been converted to alcohol, resulting in some degree of sweetness in the finished product. Port is traditionally made in Portugal (pretty easy to remember, aye?) in the Douro region near the city of Oporto. Although not authentically Port, other wine regions, including California, are making Port wines these days. Port has about 20% alcohol versus approximately 13% for unfortified wines.

On the surface, Port seems like a nice, simple alcoholic beverage to enjoy after your meal or with dessert. Open the door of knowledge, however, and the intricacies of Port come hurtling in. Here’s the (somewhat) simple breakdown according to how the Ports are aged, which makes the biggest difference in flavor profile.

Bottle Aged Ports: Bright, ruby colored, fruity wines.

Vintage Port – Made only in the best vintages (declared vintages) and aged 15-50 years or more. Rich & fruity.

Single-Quinta Port – Made from grapes from a single vineyard, usually made in undeclared vintages. Aged about 10 years. Forward & fruity.

Port Aged in Large Wooden Vats: Full-bodied with some forward fruitiness.

Ruby Port – Aged for 2 years and bottled while still bright, sweet, fruity, and fresh.

Late-Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) – Made from grapes from a single vintage (declared or otherwise.) Aged 4 to 6 years; sometimes referred to as a higher quality Ruby Port.

Port Aged in Small Wooden Casks: Tawny in color, less fruity, more complex.

Tawny Port – Aged 3 to 4 years. Light but not as sweet and fruity as Ruby Port.

Aged Tawny Port – Blend of Ports that have been aged for 10 to 40 years. When a label specifies 10, 20, 30, or 40 it refers to the average age of the blend in the bottle. Expect complex flavors & a silky texture.

Colheita Port – From a single, undeclared vintage and aged for a minimum of 7 years. The two dates on the label refer to the date the grapes were harvested, and the date the wine was bottled.

#4. How many bottles of wine are in a case?

A standard case of wine contains twelve 750 ml bottles. There are some exceptions for different sized bottles or more rare and expensive wines, which can come in cases of 6 bottles or even 3. For example, the cult California wine, Scarecrow, is packaged in a case of 3, magnums (1500ml bottles) generally come in cases of 6, and half bottles (375ml bottles) are commonly presented in cases of 24.

When shopping for wine, the consumer can feel comfortable assuming a case means 12 bottles. Retail stores sometimes offer a case discount, which means you get a percentage off if you purchase 12 bottles. A mixed case means you can mix and match 12 different wines as opposed to being required to buy 12 bottles of the same wine.

Tomorrow the fun continues as we discuss Marsala wine (surprisingly making the top 5!) and the age old question about what goes best with America’s favorite white meat. Happy Passover y’all!

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