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Port’s Popularity in the UK

Pairing Port and the UK

Editor’s Note: As November is port wine month at Catavino, we’ve asked a handful of bloggers specific questions about port wine depending on their field of expertise. Andrew Barrow, the voice behind the UK wine blog, Spittoon, editor of Wine Sediments and wine distributor for UK Wines Online, was brave enough to be our first guinea pig of the month asked to field 3 questions provided by Catavino: Considering that port owes its existence to England, what is the British current attitude towards port wine? Is it popular, or is it a wine geek treat? Is there some kind of British pride based on its history with port wine? Here is what he has to say:

It was the last of Ryan’s questions that got to me – “Is there some kind of British pride based on it’s history with Port wine?”

I had never even considered that us, in the UK, would have ‘pride’ in Port, despite its history. In fact, I doubt that many drinkers of port are even aware of the history or even that it originates from Portugal.

It is a drink for Christmas first and foremost. It does still have this traditional image. I am sure there are figures available somewhere that state that 90% (or whatever) port sales are made during December. How many of those are for gifts I wonder? A vast number. The majority of sales will be for basic tawny and ruby styles – Warres Warrior, Cockburns, and the like. Taylors LBV is a huge seller too, but only in the run up to Christmas. And I’m just like everyone else. Despite my love of the stuff – in all its array of styles – I doubt I get through more than 2 bottles a year. For the average punter all the differing styles are confusing – all they want to know is if they have to decant it before drinking.

There have been attempts to get people to drink port outside the ‘traditional’ period. A spring/summer cocktail of white port and tonic, the Optima brand to loose the fusty ‘old mans’ image and attempts to get us to drink port chilled during hot weather. I doubt they have much influence on sales or consumption.

Oh, and I hate Stilton with port.

Andrew Barrow

Thanks Andrew for giving us the head’s up that we may have a little work ahead of us if we want to persuade people in savoring the various styles of port wine both throughout the holiday season and during the rest of the year. Like sherry wine, typecasted as a blue haired drink to be sipped during a good bridge game, port wine has obviously received a similar fate as pairing well with Bing Crosby and Christmas pudding. As we tried to point out yesterday, port wine has a much bigger part to play in our everyday wine experience; but sometimes, it takes a little courage and commitment to buy that bottle on the ‘off season’ to appreciate its full potential.

Oh, and Andy, because you detest Stilton and port wine together, I thought you might enjoy a recipe I recently stumbled across that not only calls for port in its creation, but could marry well with the 2003 Quinta do Infantado Vintage Port you recently tasted!

Strawberries with Port Wine Dip
Gourmet Magazine

Strawberries with Port Wine Dip

Active time: 10 min Start to finish: 1 hr

Servings: Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Ingredients
1 (750-ml) bottle Tawny Port
1 cup sugar
2 to 3 lb whole medium strawberries, stems left intact and berries rinsed and patted dry

Preparation
Bring Port and sugar to a boil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and boil, uncovered, until slightly syrupy and reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes (sauce will thicken as it cools). Transfer to a small bowl and serve with berries for dipping.

Cooks’ note:
Port-wine dip can be made 1 day ahead and cooled to room temperature, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

  • Bill

    It was Spring of 1990. I was on assignment in the UK, with sumptuous accommodations on Windsor's High Street. One could still walk the courtyard and ramparts of the castle, free of charge. It was during that trip that an avowed Port wine hater was converted. It happened one night when I was invited into Charlie and Pam's home for Saturday night dinner. The first of many dinners shared with this wonderful couple over the years. They served a lovely leg of lamb with all the trimmings. After the main course passed, out came the Port. I honestly can't remember what kind of port it was. What I do remember are the nice port glasses that were used and that the perfectly aged Stilton married with the port wine in a moment I shall always remember. I share this memory because I can't imagine my first true port experience without thinking about the creamy texture of that Stilton, which was also a new cheese to me. Therefore, I need to ask Andrew to qualify his hatred of Port and Stilton. Have you always hated them together? Do you just hate Stilton, full stop? Or have you gradually moved to your correct position over the years?

  • Bill

    It was Spring of 1990. I was on assignment in the UK, with sumptuous accommodations on Windsor’s High Street. One could still walk the courtyard and ramparts of the castle, free of charge. It was during that trip that an avowed Port wine hater was converted.

    It happened one night when I was invited into Charlie and Pam’s home for Saturday night dinner. The first of many dinners shared with this wonderful couple over the years. They served a lovely leg of lamb with all the trimmings. After the main course passed, out came the Port. I honestly can’t remember what kind of port it was. What I do remember are the nice port glasses that were used and that the perfectly aged Stilton married with the port wine in a moment I shall always remember.

    I share this memory because I can’t imagine my first true port experience without thinking about the creamy texture of that Stilton, which was also a new cheese to me. Therefore, I need to ask Andrew to qualify his hatred of Port and Stilton. Have you always hated them together? Do you just hate Stilton, full stop? Or have you gradually moved to your correct position over the years?

  • Andrew

    I'm a great cheese lover actually – of all types. I have a nice hunk of blue in the fridge as we speak that is going into a winter salad dish. I think the hatred partially stems from the fact that it is all anyone ever serves with port. And there is this stupid tradition of pouring the stuff into the cheese… why do that?

  • Gabriella

    One of my favorite combinations is an Asturian tradition of mixing Cabrales cheese with Sidra, and ohhhh, how tasty that is! Personally, I think the combination of Stilton and port sounds delicious, although I've never tried it. Does it matter which style of port you try with the Stilton, or is it all around sketchy combination?

  • Bill

    I agree with you Andrew, that pouring Port into Stilton sounds absolutely barbaric. What a waste of port. Gabriella, I think any type of port would be ok, although it's tough to beat an older vintage port. My second choice would be a ruby port. Starts to make one wonder how port might taste with a Bleu d'Auvergne or Roquefort, eh?

  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    I’m a great cheese lover actually – of all types. I have a nice hunk of blue in the fridge as we speak that is going into a winter salad dish. I think the hatred partially stems from the fact that it is all anyone ever serves with port. And there is this stupid tradition of pouring the stuff into the cheese… why do that?

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    One of my favorite combinations is an Asturian tradition of mixing Cabrales cheese with Sidra, and ohhhh, how tasty that is! Personally, I think the combination of Stilton and port sounds delicious, although I’ve never tried it. Does it matter which style of port you try with the Stilton, or is it all around sketchy combination?

  • Bill

    I agree with you Andrew, that pouring Port into Stilton sounds absolutely barbaric. What a waste of port.

    Gabriella, I think any type of port would be ok, although it’s tough to beat an older vintage port. My second choice would be a ruby port.

    Starts to make one wonder how port might taste with a Bleu d’Auvergne or Roquefort, eh?