Port is wine. There, we’ve said it. It’s about time we treat it like such. Jorge Nunes, a noted Portuguese enologist and market manager at Symington Family Wines, shares with us valuable wisdom about how Port is made, how to enjoy it and what’s next for the eternal, fortified red.
Port is not just sticky and sweet, as Jorge says, “Port is one of the most approachable wines in the world.” It’s soft, sweet and gratifying.
Port has a long history, “It’s an old wine, it’s been around for 400 years”, confirms Jorge, but it has lost fandom; it’s largely unappreciated. So, what is Port?
This is a fortified wine, which means a spirit is added in the winemaking process to stop fermentation making it naturally sweet and high in alcohol.
It all starts at the vineyards. The steep rows of vines along the Douro River grow native grape varieties that end up as one of the grandest wine styles around.
“There’s one specific Port, the Vintage Port… it’s a vineyard wine.” Jorge describes proudly. “It’s the top of the top, a wine that is collectible, it’s an investment opportunity, it’s a wine that lasts for 50, 60 years in the bottle.” It represents a fraction of production, and for the price, it’s a great value.
Port is hard to make and sometimes takes decades. “We are one of the last affordable fine wines around, for what you get,” says Jorge with poise.
“If you’re producing a 20-year-old wine, there’s an element of patience, an element of waiting, an element of caring for that for two decades,” Blending, aging and waiting are a big part of making Port.
Sadly, most restaurants and bars serve Port the wrong way. Port is stored inexpertly on the bar shelf, at room temperature, and the bottle is probably opened since the restaurant’s inauguration day.
You’ll get a poor serving in a small glass; too small to enjoy Port’s amazing bouquet, and it’s served too warm, making it undrinkable.
Jorge speaks out, “Serve it chilled, in a proper wine glass, and keep it in the fridge.” Your experience depends on how you serve it. It is to be treated like wine, and not like just another bottle of liquor.
When done right, you get bright red fruit aromas, spices and a coating, rich palate of long flavors that linger through a deeply satisfying aftertaste.
Serve it chilled, in a proper wine glass!
Tips on how to enjoy Port by Jorge Nunes
So, what do the Chinese consumers think about Port?
Jorge lives in Hong Kong, he moved to Asia seven years ago as the market manager for Symington Family Estates.
There’s a misconception: Chinese love sweet, but not that sweet. The problem is again the serving temperature. If served well, chilled Port is delectable and pleasing. Asians have a sweet tooth but prefer a balanced palate.
Port, served chilled in the right glass, is food friendly and versatile, perfect as an apéritif or last course. Ideal with chocolate or blue cheese; this ruby-red beauty is a world of opportunities.
As wine education continues to evolve in China, Portugal's national treasure will continue peak interest across Asia.
Listen to Jorge’s passion in our latest Bottled in China podcast.
Author: Franco Salzillo, Certified Somm & Wine Writer