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Port for a Traditional British Christmas

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What is Port and Where Does it Come From?
Port for a Traditional British Christmas

Douro Valley Portugal

Photo © RFB Photography
Though Port Is not produced in the UK, it is regarded historically as a thoroughly British drink especially as Port is a traditional British Christmas drink.

Many of the leading Port brands were originally British owned and some major producers still are. Surprising for a country that has embraced drinking Port since the 17th century, is that most Brits buy only one bottle a year – at Christmas

Where it Comes From

The wine comes from the spectacular terraced hillsides of the Douro valley in Portugal and takes its name from Oporto which lies at the mouth of the Douro river. The bustling suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia lies opposite Oporto on the steep south bank of the river and is the true home to Port. Gaia is dominated by the Port wine lodges, with over fifty wine companies based in its narrow, twisting streets. Here, the aging and blending of most of the world's supply of Port wine takes place.

History

No one knows exactly when port, as we know it, appeared. One story is a wine merchant in Liverpool, in 1678, sent his sons to Portugal to find a wine source. In the Douro Valley they came on a monastery in Lamego. The abbot was adding brandy to the wine during rather than after fermentation producing a port-type wine. In any event, sometime during the end of the 1600's or beginning of the 1700's, someone came up with the idea of stopping the fermentation with brandy while the wine was still sweet, fruity, and strong.

Port and Food

Port is traditionally consumed as an accompaniment to cheeses, with desserts or as a digestif. It is, however, much more versatile. Consider it as any other wine when matching with food.

A Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) or a 10-year Tawny with ‘gamey’ dishes, such as venison, buffalo, pheasant, and partridge.

Chill down a 20-Year Old Tawny Porto with foie gras and are also good with any desserts containing nuts and dried fruits.

A heavenly match is LBV with chocolate and desserts based on strawberries, raspberries, cherries and currants.

The best and most classic combination is Vintage Port served with a good quality Stilton but also consider blue cheese or a Cheddar, Gloucester or aged crumbly Parmesan.

Walnuts, chestnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts all bring out the best in port.

Port can also be a dessert on its own with a small bowl of nuts or as a digestif after dinner. It is not however a wine for fast drinking. It demands a leisurely pace, contemplative sips and the company of good friends.

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