Tag Archive for wine

Port Versus Fortified Wines

Once upon a time (okay, two nights ago), four brave ladies came together with a mission: we wanted to understand what the difference was between a proper Port and a Fortified Wine. We had five bottles, some amazing snacks, and we got down to it. We take our jobs very seriously.

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First of all, what the heck even is Port? Port is a red wine, and it is usually served as a dessert wine, or aperitif. It’s sweeter than regular wine, due to the fortification process. It is fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content (thanks, Wikipedia)Its name, Port, comes from the name of the city in which it was first produced: Porto, at the mouth of the Douro River in Portugal. Similarly to Champagne, there are many kinds of fortified wines out there (and many kinds of sparkling white wines), but not all of them are Ports (or Champagne).

The result is a wine that is higher in alcohol content (usually nearly 20%) and higher in sugar content. When you swirl the glass, you’ll often find the wine has legs for days–this is an indication of the higher sugar content. There are two different kinds of ports: Tawny (a tobacco colour) and Ruby (which is the colour of red wine). They’re the same wines–Tawny is just left to age longer, resulting the paler colour.

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We did a side-by-side tasting with five different Ports: three fortified BC Wines, and two actual Ports from Europe. 

St. John Commandaria: this was a tawny port from Cypress, not available in Canada. Our hostess had gotten it from family who’d come back from Europe, and had been saving it for a special occasion. It was spicy on the nose, and had notes of honey and plum. It’s worthwhile noting that this particular wine has been being made for 5,000 years.

Warre’s Warrior: This was a true Ruby Port from Portugal, and is the oldest brand of port in the world. It was sophisticated, and it had a wonderful depth of flavour. I could taste cherries and warm spices, like cloves, and not too sweet.

Therapy Freudified: The first of our port-style, fortified wines from BC’s Okanagan, Therapy’s Freudified has a strong cigar/tobacco scent on the nose, and tasting notes of Cassis.

Burrowing Owl Coruja: A peppery nose, with blackberry tasting notes, this wine was the least sweet of all the ports we tasted. It was more stringent, and quite bold. It’s made from Syrah grapes, and packs an intense, rich flavour.

Kraze Legz Rogue (under the Skaha Label): This wine was the only one of the three BC port fortified wines to be a Tawny colour. It reminded us a lot of the Comandaria–just younger.

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So, who won? Maybe we were all just purists, but at the end of the night, when all the wines had been tasted, we unanimously voted for Warres Warrior as our favourite. I might add, it’s a smoking deal, as you can get a demi bottle of it for under $15. Of the BC Wines, our favourites were the Burrowing Owl (in the Ruby category) and the Kraze Legz (in the Tawny). We didn’t taste Langley’s Vista D’oro’s Walnut Fortified Wine at this tasting, but I want to give it a shoutout, because I’ve had it before, and loved it.

By the way, if you want to host your own Port Party, port pairs really well with strong cheeses, like Blues and Cambrizolas (we especially enjoyed that one with ours). It also does well with dark chocolate, and spicy almonds. I also made a chicken liver pate that went over quite well.

What a great way to spend an evening with friends! I highly recommend you host your own side-by-side tasting night, and let me know the results!

A big shout out to Michelle for hosting and to Francis and Peggy for helping to taste-test. 

How to Make the Perfect Sangria

I have been on the road almost constantly over the last few weeks. Destinations included Seattle, Kelowna and Penticton, and Whistler. On my travels, I ate at a lot of great places, and picked up tons of fresh ingredients, which I am now frantically turning into recipes for y’all. So, over the next couple of weeks, look for a deluge of summer bounty posts–and some travel ones, too.

Let’s start in wine country. I got to spend five days in the Okanagan, and during that time, I visited a ton of wineries, and a cidery, too! I came home with *ahem* several bottles of wine.

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Now, I tend to be a red wine drinker, but in the summer, I often switch to white, as it works better cool (although there are some varietals of red, like beaujolais, that are meant to be drunk cold). Sangria is the perfect way to drink white wine the summer. Infused with the flavours of the fruit, and topped off with sparkling water and tinkly ice, it’s awesome for sipping outside as you watch the sunset.

Some people like to use a cheaper wine to make sangria, and I’m fine with that, but the “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink” rule applies here, as well. You can’t go wrong with any of these white blends I tasted and loved while in the Okanagan.

How to Make Perfect Sangria

The perfect sangria consists of six ingredients: 

Wine (one bottle), red or white.

Fruit 1-2 cups, washed and cut up. Let whatever’s seasonal guide you here. Also, let the colour of the wine help to choose what fruit you use; lighter fruits in white wine, darker fruits in red. In white sangria, for example, I’d use slices of peaches, apricots, apples, and fresh berries like raspberries or strawberries. For citrus, lime adds a little spank. In red wine sangria, I’d use slices of oranges, red plums, pitted and halved cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. At the end of the day, however, it’s about what you like, and what you have on hand.

Liqueur (1/4 cup). Again, let your choice of wine influence what kind of spirit you add to the sangria. If you are using a white wine, choose a clear or light-coloured spirit like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, Brandy, or Peach Schnapps. If you are using a red, any of those will also do, but you could also add a tich of Port or Sherry.

Simple syrup (1/4 cup). Simple syrup helps to infuse your sangria with extra sweetness. I like to infuse mine with herbs and spices for an extra layer of flavour.

Sparkling water. Choose something neutral here, not something with flavour, so it won’t counteract the flavours of the sangria. Sparkling water adds fun and bubbles, but shouldn’t add flavour.

Ice. To keep ‘er cold.

Method: 

1. You’ll need a large vessel for this. I have a ginormous glass snap-top mason jar that I make my sangria in, but basically anything non-reactive and big will work. You can always transfer it to something pretty later on to serve it.

2. Make the simple syrup. Place 1 part sugar and two parts water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil, until all the sugar’s dissolved. If you want to infuse your sangria with extra flavours, add them to the simple syrup ingredients (here, I used basil, a peach, and a touch of vanilla bean), and allow it to simmer longer–5-10 minutes. Strain into a jar or bottle, and place in the fridge to cool.

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3. Wash, cut up and place the fruit in the bottom of your large vessel. Pour the bottle of wine over. Add the simple syrup and the liqueur. Ideally, you want for all of your fruit to be submerged. Stir well, then place in the fridge overnight. Good sangria needs about 24 hours to really do its thing.

4. To serve: you can do this in a large jug or serving pitcher, or in individual glasses. Fill container 1/4-1/2 way with ice. Scoop up some of the fruit and place it in the container with the ice. Fill up about 1/2-2/3 way with sangria. Top with sparkling water, stir, and serve.

Voila! Perfect sangria!

 

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