Subscribe to our mailing list

 

HOURS
Normal Hours:
Mon 9-7
Tues-Sat: 9-7:30

OPEN THANKSGIVING DAY 10-4

 

FAVARO ERBALUCE
Cool Italian White

SPECIAL BOTTLING
VACQUEYRAS "ORA"

CABERNET VALUE

AMAZING ALBARIĐO

CAB DRIVER'S CARmenere

SOULFUL RED RHďNE

SURPRISINGLY GOOD TEN BUCK MERLOT

BIGFOOT CABERNET

COOL PORTUGUESE WHITE WINE

2007 VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE 

CIRO' BIANCO!

CHAMPAGNE DE
MERFY

A FIESTA OF A TEMPRANILLO

OBSCURE ITALIAN RED

CI┘ CI┘
PECORINO

COOL VERDEJO

FLASHY RED BORDEAUX

NEW STONY SANCERRE

MAN, OH MAN, WHAT A WINE!

ELEVEN BUCK
AMADOR ZIN

STYLISH WASHINGTON MERLOT

SLEEPER of A CHARDONNAY

SUSSUDIO ???

SARDINIAN WHITE

REMARKABLE PINOT

LAKE COUNTY ZIN

STELLAR NEW ARTISAN RIOJA

NICE LITTLE PINOT $9.99

STONY RIESLING

MARSELAN...A HYBRID OF CABERNET & GRENACHE

BEST BUYS
Good Wines for $5-$15

CASTEL├O BARGAIN

STELLAR BLAUFR─NKISCH ESTATE

CAMPANIAN DELIGHTS

COLORFUL ZIN

DOURO DYNAMITE

PORTUGUESE RED BARGAIN

GRAND SYRAH FROM AN UNUSUAL PLACE

WHITE BURGUNDIES OF NOTE

MARSANNE BARGAIN

CHERRYISH TUSCAN RED SALE $12.99

PROSECCO FOR ADULTS

BILLIONAIRE'S WINES UNDER $30!

BARGAIN WHITE BORDEAUX

PIERCINGLY GOOD
WHITE

TOP OF THE LINE
CREMANT

ANOTHER RULLY GOOD WHITE

RESERVE QUALITY RIOJA

BARBERA OF NOTE

SUPER VERONESE SALE $12.99

PIEMONTE'S GRAND VIN BIANCO?

DELICIOUS, FRESH ROS╔S

GREAT GRUNER VELTLINER

GOOD ELEVEN-BUCK CHIANTI

FLOWERY, CURIOUS RED

OLD FAVORITE KIWI SAUVIGNON IS BACK

OLD PATCH RED
ZIN BLEND

MONCUIT'S GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE

HONEYED MUSCAT

SPICY 
GEW▄RZTRAMINER

Napa Valley Grape Info
2002

2010

Amazing FRENCH CIDERS

FIZZY LAMBRUSCO

 

 

HOME PAGE

AMERICAN WINES

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

RHONE WANNABEES

ZINFANDELS

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

MERLOTS

OREGON WINES

CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS

CALIFORNIA CABERNETS

RIESLING & GEWURZ

WASHINGTON STATE

CANADIAN WINES

Adventuresome  Wines

ROS╔S !!

FRENCH WINES
ALSACE
BEAUJOLAIS
RED BORDEAUX
WHITE BORDEAUX
RED BURGUNDY
WHITE BURGUNDY
RHďNE VALLEY
THE FRENCH ALPS
SOUTH OF FRANCE

LOIRE


CHAMPAGNE

 

ITALIAN WINES
PIEMONTE

VALLE D'AOSTA

NORTHERN ITALY

CENTRAL ITALIA

TUSCANY

SOUTHERN ITALIA


SPANISH WINES
Spanish Sherry
& Other Delights


PORTUGUESE WINES

SWISS WINES

GERMAN WINES

AUSTRIAN WINES

ARGENTINA

CHILE

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AFRICA

OBSCURE WINES

DESSERT WINES

CHAMPAGNES

HALF-BOTTLES

SPIRITS

CIDERS

BEER
Even Real "Bud"!

OTHER STUFF

WINE TASTING

WHAT'S OPEN


UPCOMING TASTINGS

TASTING RESULTS
  
NEWSLETTER

SHIPPING INFO

ETC.

 

TASTING REPORTS

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BLIND-TASTING

BLIND TASTING ARCHIVE

MY 2013 EURO WINE ADVENTURE BOOK

CHATEAU MONTELENA
VERTICAL


ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2007

ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2008

SCHRAMSBERG vs THE FAMOUS FRENCH

German Wine "Master Class" Tasting

UNIQUE VERTICAL TASTING OF VOLLRADS RIESLINGS
1945-2015


S & M FOR WINETASTING GEEKS

TEAR-WAH
TASTING

2017 SF
INTERNATIONAL
WINE 
COMPETITION

2016 SF
INTERNATIONAL
WINE COMPETITON

2015 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2014 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2013 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2012 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2011 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2010 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2009 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2008 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Periodically Amazing

2007 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
The Nose Knows!

2006 SF INTERNATIONAL  WINE COMPETITION.
SPIT HAPPENS

2005 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION.

2004 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING

The 2003 SF WINE COMPETITION

2002 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING 

A Vertical Tasting of Nalle Zinfandels

 

 

ETC.

RANTINGS & RAVINGS

WINE ROADS of EUROPE

Food/Wine/Friends
A Photo Gallery

MASTER OF WINE ESSAY TOPICS

Old Bottles: A TASTE OF HISTORY

Bob's Venetian Diary

Bob's Paris Notes Updated Spring 2007

Wine Writer's Confession

NEW "CULT" WINERY

Some Restaurant Reviews

HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and
Wine Distributors.

HOW TO HOLD A TRADE TASTING

$100,000 WORTH OF WINE MARKETING ADVICE:  FREE!
Mainly for Foreign Vintners

MOLDY CORKS

Study Reveals Experts Taste More Than What's In the Glass!

OKANAGAN VALLEY WINE TOUR-2010

BRIAN'S 2005 SUMMER VACATION WITH UNCLE

Gerald's Tour de France 2006

GERALD'S TOUR DE FRANCE 2008

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL-2009

HOW TO SPEAK BETTER ITALIAN

PEDRONCELLI
90th ANNIVERSARY

PONZI'S 40th
ANNIVERSARY

ROOSEVELT'S 2005 CHILI COOK-OFF

ROOSEVELT'S 2007 CHILI COOK-OFF

Grape Goddess

Ross Bruce Birthday

ALESSIA DALL'U

FRANCESCA & CAROLA
CALLIGARO


CCIV

FAQs

BURLINGAME

Links

PORT (and Madeira), etc.

Port, as we know it today, has been around for less than two hundred years.   It's largely a British creation.  The British had a preference for the wines of France, but since they were often at odds with the French, the British government apparently had an allergy towards doing business with the French.



British traders traveled to Portugal in search of alternatives to "claret" (Bordeaux).  It's difficult to imagine how they ended up in such a remote and difficult region as the Douro Valley. 

From what I've read, the first wines of the region were typical dry reds.   They were probably a bit coarse and sharp.  The wines did not find an appreciative audience in Britain.  In an effort to "upgrade," shippers "fortified" the wines with brandy, making them (the wines) stronger.   Apparently some were fortified before they had finished fermenting and these sweet and fruity wines started to gain in favor with the wine-drinking public. 

Winemaking in Portugal has improved dramatically over the past decade.   While the idea of treading the grapes by foot is romantic (to a small degree...they used to play music and serenade those who were thigh-high in grapes), some may argue it's preferable to have mechanical crusher/stemmers and temperature-controlled fermentation tanks to the ancient and, shall we say, perhaps less sanitary, means of yesterday.   

Visiting various estates in the Douro, however, we found numerous producers who adhere to the foot-treaded lagares for their best wines, be these table wines or Port.   We found some wineries equipped with mechanical "treading" machines, while others have several people "dancing" on the grapes for several hours at a time to extract the maximum character and quality.



If you remember what the young Ports of the 1970 or 1977 vintages tasted like and can compare them to what the 1992s, 1994s or 1995s taste like today, you'll undoubtedly notice a significant improvement in vinification.  It is probably not the case that the sun is shining more brightly over the Douro Valley vines these days than a decade or two ago.

I'm not certain that most wine writers, especially The Wine Spectator, have made the same observation.   Their enthusiasm for 1994 Taylor and 1994 Fonseca (as well as these two houses' 1992s) may be due to enhancements in winemaking more than to exceptional vintage conditions.  Not to take anything away from these wines, as they're all "excellent." 

The amazing dynamic is the influence these people have on the price of these wines.  While they were initially released in the $40-$60 neighborhood, the "beatification" of the 1994s caused prices to spiral to $200/bottle within a week or two. 


The Port houses used to release their young, recently "declared" wines at sensible prices.  It was customary for many British buyers to "invest" in Port. People would take a position and have the wines cellared for them.  At a time when the wines were mature (or getting along towards maturity), these would then be put on the market.

I suspect the various Port producers decided that they ought to profit from the fruit of their labors and recent vintages have often be offered at amazingly high prices.  It is, therefore, possible to find good, well-cellared wines with bottle age for the same price as the newly-released wines.

We have little interest in the 2007 vintage, for example.  These were brought to market at  high prices.  The 2003s, as well, are over-priced in general.  If you need to set some bottles aside for an anniversary or birthday, then go ahead and splurge.  If you're merely looking for something good to drink, stop by to see our current offerings.  We tend to have a nice array of immediately-drinkable bottles along with some youngish, cellar-worthy wines.

The head of one famous Port firm stopped by with the U.S. importer.  We tasted their 2003s and I told the fellow we had virtually no interest in wines which will be close to ready in 20 years.  He professed that their "campaign" had gone well and the "2003s have been well-received.  They've sold well." 
I pointed out "If they've sold so well, why has the importer enlisted you to come help them sing & dance to get the inventory out of the warehouse?"

Point made.

 

They had a great campaign for the 2011s...at ever higher prices and these days they're trying to drum up business for the 2015s.



 

 

 

PORT STYLES

RUBY & TAWNY These are the "basic" bottlings offered by most houses.   Ruby Port is typically matured for about 2 years and is made from lighter wines.   Tawny Port might be an aged wine, but also some producers blend young red and white Ports. 
"WOOD PORTS" Known as "wood Ports" because of their maturation in wooden casks or barrels.  Some of these are kept for a very long time, as many firms bottle 10, 20, 30 and 40-year-old Tawny Ports. 
VINTAGE CHARACTER and LATE-BOTTLED VINTAGE PORTS While few people think to cellar a bottle of wine for drinking 20 or 30 years from now, this range allows people to purchase a wine in the direction of the finest Ports, but at a more reasonable price.  Essentially, those labeled "Vintage Character" are finer quality "Ruby Port," usually being kept in cask for about 5 years. Some firms call their wine "Vintage Character" while others have the idea of bottling these as a proprietary wine, such as Graham's "Six Grapes."  

"Late Bottled Vintage" or "LBV" are from a single year's harvest.  Some of these are bottled "unfiltered" like Vintage Port.   As a result, they develop a bit of sediment or "crust."  Other "LBV" wines are filtered and don't develop or change appreciably in the bottle.   Don't make the mistake of thinking an "LBV" is a "Vintage Port."  These usually have noted someplace on the label the year of the harvest and the year of the bottling.

VINTAGE PORT


Some of the Top Vintages
2011 *****
2009 ***
2007 ****
2003 ***-****
2000 ***-****
1997 ****
1994 *****
1992 ****
1985 ****
1983 ****
1982 ***
1980 ** - ***
1977 *****
1970****-*****            1966 *****
1963 *****
1960 ***
1958 ***
1955 *****
1948 ****
1947 *****
1945 *****
1935 *****
1934 ****
1931 *****
1927 *****
1912 *****
1904 ****
1900 *****

The Port firms usually will "declare" a vintage 3 or 4 times a decade.  This declaration is not made immediately after the harvest.  They tend to wait and evaluate the product of the following vintage and declare the superior of the two.  It is rare to see vintages declared "back-to-back." It is also rare for the Port firms to unanimously declare a vintage.
Vintage Ports will always have the words "Vintage Port" or "Vintage Porto" on the label with the vintage and the year of bottling, typically 2 years after the vintage.  The minimum aging period is 22 months, while 31 is the maximum for Vintage Porto.  Due to its relatively short maturation in wood, most of the evolution and development takes place in bottle.  As the wine matures, the tannin and coloring material form a sediment or "crust."  More recent vintages seem to show better at a very young state...many 1994s are delicious today.  This was not the case when 1970s or 1977s were first on the market.  It used to take many years for the fiery spirit of Vintage Porto to mellow and for the wine to become approachable.   This change is due, likely, to better vinification and better distillation of the brandy used to fortify Porto. 

Many firms now bottle Ports which came close to being "Vintage Porto" by giving the wine a proprietary name of some sort.  Graham's, for example, used to label its "near Vintage" wine as "Quinta dos Malvedos," though today it's labeled simply as "Malvedos" as not all the wine comes from that particular "farm" or "quinta."  Taylor calls its wine "Quinta de Vargellas."  Some vintages of these are outstanding and very hard to distinguish from the "heavy hitter" vintage Ports.  Other years it's easier to see why they were not worthy of a vintage declaration.

COLHEITAS or "Vintaged Tawny" Port Some houses have extensive stocks of old tawny Ports.  This is confusing to the neophyte, who sees a year on the label and assumes, incorrectly, this is a "vintage Port."  These are aged in wood and/or glass for many years.   They must be at least seven years of age.  We have a bunch of these.
WHITE PORT This beverage has been tarred and feathered by the efforts of some California vintners who, for years, sold wine as "White Port."  Those same winemakers also bottled "white port" flavored with lemon.  The target market was those who bought the products for their "kick," not their "quality." 
Though probably not as "fine" as a good Fino Sherry, White Port is a lovely aperitif.  Virtually nobody buys them (and we carry three!) unless they've been to Portugal and had this served to them there.  These are not meant for "aging" and are best kept refrigerated once opened. 

MADEIRA

Though once popular in the United States, especially in the South, Madeira is a rather unknown product to most wine drinkers.

It comes from some volcanic islands under Portuguese rule, even though they're closer to Africa than to Portugal.  These islands are steep and the vines grown on terraces.  

Madeira used to be subject to ocean transport which would, miraculously, turn this rough-and-tumble fortified wine into something smooth and drinkable.  Today, however, Madeira is subjected to tropical heat by being "aged" or "matured" in estufas, rooms heated to about 120F (or more!) for four or five months. 

Madeira is typically aged in some sort of "solera" system as is employed in Spain's Jerez region for Sherry.  The notation on the label of a "Solera" and a year does not mean the wine in your bottle is of that birth year.  Instead, it is a notation of when that solera (or stack of barrels) was initiated.  It is unlikely there's more than a drop or two of something particularly ancient in a "Solera 1870" (for example). 

However, there ARE vintage-dated Madeiras.  The declaration of a vintage-dated Madeira typically takes place some two decades after the harvest!  The wines are kept in cask for 20 years before it sees another two years in demijohn prior to bottling.   Some will tell you the wine is still not ready, requiring a decade or two in bottle to develop!  I have tasted old Madeiras and sometimes they are great and sometimes they are more a curiosity.

Types of MADEIRA

MALMSEY This Madeira is said to be made of a grape called Malvasia (and probably of Greek origin).  Malmseys tend to be the richest and sweetest.   We usually have some 5-year-old Malmsey, which is nice, but the 10 & 15-year-old wines are exceptional.
BUAL Almost as fragrant as Malmsey, but lighter in body and usually a bit more refined.  This variety probably came from France's Bordeaux region.  Sometimes labeled "Boal."
VERDELHO Probably coming from Portugal, this used to be widely planted.  It fell out of favor, for some reason, and there is a concerted effort to revive Verdelho.   The wine labeled Verdelho is soft, dry and slightly bitter on its finish.
SERCIAL The grape is said to be related to Germany's Riesling.  In Portugal it had been used to make a wine which was finally known as "Esgana Co."  Sounds exotic, but the translation might keep it from achieving widespread popularity as it means something like : bitter-enough-to-choke-a-dog.   This is due to the wine's high level of acidity.   It's said the volcanic soils of Madeira tame this acidity and make a more palatable wine.  Sercial tends to be the driest Madeira of all.
TINTA NEGRA MOLE This variety has been on Madeira for, perhaps, 200 years.  It is said to be a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Grenache.  It has accounted for more than half the production of Madeira wine.  This has caused a slight problem as the European Union feels that wines labeled with varietal designations ought to be made of the grape variety stated on the label.  And since few are "Tinta Negra Mole," this has created a bit of a stir.
TERRANTEZ & BASTARDO Both are late-ripening varieties.  Bastardo is nearly extinct, while Terrantez was, for some reason, replanted, making its reappearance with a 1954 vintage.    One can periodically find these names on bottles of Madeira.  I purchased a "Ten Year Old Terrantez" and while it was nice, didn't find it a wine which I'd spend $40 on a second time.   A 1977 Terrantez of D'Oliveira was amazingly fine, with brandied notes and hints of toffee.
RAINWATER This designation came about in a curious fashion.  Some barrels had been left on the beach, awaiting a ship's arrival for transport to the U.S.  It had rained considerably and this is said to have changed the character of the wine inside these barrels.  Whether this "legend" carries any validity, one can, certainly, find "Rainwater" Madeira.  It is usually light and dry.   It's often used in cooking.

MUSCAT

There's a world famous Muscat coming from Portugal, a wine which is apparently the creation of the firm of JosÚ-Maria da Fonseca of AzeitŃo.  It comes from an area across the river from Lisbon and goes by the name of Set˙bal. 

The Muscat wine made here differs from others in several respects.  The wine is fortified with alcohol, which stops the fermentation and kills the yeast.  The skins, however, remain in contact with the wine.  It is said this extended maceration period accounts for some of the intensity of perfume of Set˙bal. 

A number of versions of Set˙bal are produced, the basic bottling being aged just two years in cask.    These get really interesting when you get to their 20 Year Old bottling.   A small amount of vintaged Set˙bal is also produced. 

 

SOME PORTUGUESE DESSERT WINE SELECTIONS

 

 
PHOTOS TAKEN IN OPORTO

PORTUGUESE TABLE WINES

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL

 

 

 

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)Wine Tasting Today

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A WINE:  ,
 
Copyright ę 1999 WEIMAX  November 18, 2017