by Fred McMillin
for March 20, 1997

There's No Storm in This Port

Prologue: "The French, by firft mixing their Wines with thofe of Spain, [caused] their Wines to lofe their reputation. It is no wonder that Port Wines are now univerfally preferred to the French claret." Written in 1775 by Sir Edward Barry, London physician, in his tome "Observations on the Wines of the Ancients and Modern Wines."

"About the addition of brandy to Port.. English merchants wish [Port] to feel like liquid fire... like inflamed gunpowder in the stomach." Written in 1824 by Dr. Alexander Henderson, London physician, in his 408-page "History of Ancient and Modern Wines."

The Rest of the Story: So, the London physicians can tell us a lot about the development of Port.. Sir Barry points to Portugal's gain over France as the supplier of choice.. influenced also by frequent English-French clashes and the marriage of England's Charles II to a Portuguese Princess, Catherine of Braganca in the 17th century.

As to Dr. Henderson's concern about "liquid fire," port producers learned how to put it out.. .with age. The mellowing effects are particularly apparent in TAWNY Port, the name referring to the brown hues the wine acquires with age.

Now, back to Dr. Henderson. Eight years after publication of his book, one James Dow married the granddaughter of a major London wine merchant. Ultimately, James took over the business that was to bear his name and that made today's wine.

Serving Port: Like Ginger and Fred, Port and cheese are a perfect pair.

In the London port houses, it was served with blue-veined Stilton cheese and plain crackers. At Oporto I sipped Tawny with thin slices of solid quince marmalade and sharp white cheese on semi-sweet crackers. Serve them both with this rich Dow's Tawny. There may be a better way to end a meal, but I've yet to meet it.

Dow's Boardroom Finest Tawny Port
Produced and Bottled in Oporto, Portugal
Imported by Premium Port Wines, Sausalito, CA
Contact: Caddie Grenier, (415)331-7656
$17

Category: Highly Recommended

Postscript: Who was the first person to use the term TAWNY in literature? The year was 1844 and the person was Charles Dickens!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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