Travel Guide to Portugal

Apple Pie and Tawny Port

By Gabriella Opaz

One of my favorite parts of growing up was visiting my grandmother’s house in Northern Minnesota. At some point during my stay, she would serve up a freshly baked cookie, bar or slice of homemade pie made from homegrown fruits and berries directly from their garden.

In the USA, we have a saying, “as American as apple pie” which basically applies to anything that we want to claim as our own. Apple pie is baked, pardon the pun, into the idea of the American dream. Any road trip (another very American activity) would not be complete without a stop at a roadside diner for apple pie a la mode.

“Pie is…the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” — The New York Times, 1902

So why am I going on about Apple pie?

One word: Port Wine, specifically tawny port wine.

In the USA, Port wine is not a common drink. Only 5% of all port wine sales go to the USA, which makes it the 6th biggest market just behind Belgium. When guests come on a tour to the Douro Valley they are often surprised by the quality of port wines they taste. Quite often, I’ll embarrassingly hear them parrot the phrase, “That’s not port wine, it’s good!”

Too many years of poorly made, ‘false’ port wines coming out of California definitely played a role in this. However, I also think that the culture of dining out in American, where public transport options are few and far between, leave little room for a high alcohol night cap at the end of the meal before driving home.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With quarantine and social distance as the trend, many of us have returned to baking. Grandma’s apple pies paired with a nice glass of Tawny Port just might be the comfort meal we’re all craving.

Tawny port conveys a medley of flavors you might find in a homemade pie, such as: baked apple notes, dark spices, cinnamon, clove, and of course, caramel. Add the aroma wafting through the house of caramelized apple, brown sugar and spices from a freshly baked pie and you can’t help but feel a sense of calm and warmth take over.

In America, there are rich Zinfandel’s from California for a backyard bbq and Napa Cabernet’s for your steaks. There are Chianti’s for that slice of pizza and zippy Rieslings for fusion sushi experimentation. Wine shelves are a bounty of options for the great melting pot of flavors that is America, from Asia, to French, Italian and beyond.

That said, summer is soon to end and fall is right around the corner with an ample array of apples to choose from. Be it a crumble, or full on lattice work pie, give it a try! Just be sure to pick up a bottle of Tawny port. 10yr? 20yr? Maybe a fine Colheita? It doesn’t really matter, just make sure you share it with your quarantine buddies and let us know what you think. I honestly don’t believe there’s a better pairing out there.

Off to peel some apples!

Ryan Opaz

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Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula
looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Catavino is the best place to learn about travel, food
and wine in Portugal and Spain.