I’m officially declaring November to be “Port & Fireplace Month”. As far as wines go, you can’t get much more autumnal than Port. Light a crackling fire in the fireplace scaring off the chill, and enjoy the fall foliage outside your window while savoring a glass of Churchill’s Port poured hearth side.
Even though the recommended way to serve is cellar temperature at 54-57 F, I think Port needs a touch more warmth to make its flavors really blossom. I’m not advocating warming it with cupped hands around the glass or placing it up close to a heat source. Rather, serving in a warm atmosphere such as fireside greatly enhances the imbibing experience. Like a bouquet of roses, you can’t truly savor the sweet fragrances and optimal color display without waiting until they are fully in bloom. Port responds in the same way. And then there is the visual appeal of looking through a full glass at the flames giving this ravishingly rich wine an undulating flare. No technique here, just sip slowly and with each mouthful, you’ll pleasantly discover light notes of sweet honey, spices, and hints of syrupy plum igniting your palette.
I’ve had my first in depth introduction to Port courtesy of Churchill’s and Frederick Wildman and Sons. Churchill has a short history of 30 years in an industry mostly established at the turn of both the 18th and 19th centuries. Founded in 1981 by British owner John Graham, Churchill procures its grapes from Quinta da Gricha, a grade “A” estate vineyard situated on the south bank of Portugal’s River Douro between Pinhão and Tua. All Ports including the 10 year aged Tawny I tasted are made in traditional granite lagares (treading tanks) built in 1852.
photo courtesy of Steve Mirsky