- Porto Morgado, 10 Years Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal ($10.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
We are publishing a early since this week Thirsty Thursday falls on the Thanksgiving holiday, and some of you may still find yourself at your local Trader Joe’s as part of your preparations for your celebration. If not, this would be a good wine to buy for the other upcoming holidays and cold winter evenings for that matter.
Pours a lovely brownish red, lighter colored than some Tawnies. Subtle nose, with pretty notes of cherries, raisins, prunes, almonds and wood. On the palate one gets wood, caramel, eucalyptus and spice cake. It sort of tastes like pecan pie in a glass. I like Tawnies to be sweet, but not cloying (Taylor Fladgate 20-year old is a favorite in our house) and while this 10 year old is not quite as polished, it is a fraction of the price of the Taylor Fladgate. I think this Morgado strikes a nice balance and is a real bargain for what you get. It would pair well with most traditional desserts and cheese trays.
I can’t imagine a holiday season without the warming comforts of Port by the fireplace. But many American wine drinkers simply don’t think to keep a bottle on hand. One of the reasons keeping a bottle – or two – on hand is a good idea is that unlike table wines, port lasts really well once opened. In fact, this knack for self-preservation is reason that port exists! Let me explain…
A Little History of Port Wine
In the late 1600’s Great Britain declared war on France, which resulted in an instant wine shortage for the Brits. To satiate their thirst, the British turned to Portugal for their wine supply. Unfortunately the long ocean journey caused the Portuguese wines to spoil. Thus neutral brandy was added to the wine. This raises the alcohol content and deters spoilage.
Typically, red table wines are fermented dry, meaning that virtually all the sugars in the grapes are converted to alcohol. In the case of wine destined to be port, the red grapes only go through a few days of fermentation before neutral grape spirits are added to the batch. The spirits raise the alcohol level to a point where natural fermentation stops, resulting in a wine that is high in alcohol – and sweet, because most of the sugars remain in the wine. This is why port is both sweet and high in alcohol, whereas table wines are usually one of the other. (Note, this Porto Morgado clocks in a 20% alcohol, whereas most table wines are around 15%.)
A Brief Primer on Port
There are many Port-style wines out there, but true port only comes from Portugal. The youngest of these are Ruby Ports. At the other end of the spectrum are vintage ports, which like most wines, are associated with the year in which they are harvested. These are typically the most costly ports. In the middle you have the Tawnies which are usually labeled with the average number of years it has aged. For example, a bottle labeled as “10 year Tawny Port” is made from wine that has been aging in a cask for an average 10 years, some casks are potentially older or younger. Tawny Port without an age on the label is likely a blend of red and white Port, which adds complexity and flavor.
If your holiday weekend preparations do find you shopping at your local TJ’s, keep an eye out for our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine. It’s a shopping list comprised of our most recent reviews.
If you’re headed to Costco soon, you can find our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list of Costco wine finds.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone,