Port from California?

I had a question the other day whether or not bottles of California fortified wine could be labeled as “Port.”  According to my indispensable wine reference book, The Wine Bible, written by Karen MacNeil:  “Port-style wines are made by a hand-full of producers with traditional Portugese grape varieties, such as touriga nacional, tinta cao, and tinta roriz.  There are also, however, some excellent examples make from zinfandel and petite sirah.  (The United States government allows vintners to use the word Port, even though most other countries refrain from the designation out of respect for Portugese law which stipulates that true Port can only come from the geographically delimited region of the Douro Valley in Portugal.)” (MacNeil p 656-657)  This California Zinfandel Port from Charles Krug has great body with rich raisin and prune with flavors of seasonally ripe, red cherries that have been dried and seamlessly integrated into the wine.   Spice and jammy notes add to the finish.  A little more ruby than tawny, this wine certainly has time to age and mellow into other realms of sublime deliciousness. We sipped this with Italian cheeses and my new favorite chocolate bar, Green and Black’s Spiced Chilli.  Great balance between the complexity of the flavorful cheeses and the spicy notes of the chocolate.  A nice way to warm up from the inside out on a rainy fall night.

In port making, neutral grape spirits (clear brandy) are added to the fermentation tanks, about one part spirit to four parts wine.  Stopping the fermentation process causes the residual sugar to remain intact, and brings the level of alcohol up to about 20%.  This Krug port has 18.8% alcohol, without the heat or sting of high alcohol.  Krug is a little mysterious with their port-making processes, but this is true:  only 540 cases were made.  This port was bottled in April 2010, and aged on French and American Oak.  You can only order this online or at the vineyard.  Cheers!



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