It’s Valentine’s Day on Friday! What ever your thoughts, beliefs, conflicting holidays (Happy Birthdays, Jodi and Walter!) it’s a reason to celebrate and take a little extra time to enjoy.
Of course, when it comes to wine the classic choice is to opt for sparkling. We were in a wine shop recently that specializes in California wines specifically those hard-to-find amazing wines from around the state. In their sparkling section, however, the options were more international, because, well, you have to have Champagne. Legally, sparkling wine can be called champagne only if it was made in the Champagne region of France.
Our vote for this year is to go a little sweet and linger and savor your dessert with port or a dessert wine. These wines are often sold in half bottles, which are perfect for two and an evening, one with a sweet tooth, or a unique gift. There are two general categories of port style wines – tawny and ruby. Unless you really prefer the taste of hard liquor and the earthiness of something aged for years and years and years, we suggest trying a ruby this year. Ruby ports are often made from just one vintage, only aged a couple years (like a traditional red wine), and have a more fruity flavor (not dried fruit flavor). Ports are fortified wines, with alcohol contents ranging from 17 – 24%.
Ports traditionally come from Portugal. Like the French with Champagne, they’ve now trademarked the name, so to speak. So unless it’s made in Portugal or the winery was somehow grandfathered in, the wines will be labeled Dessert Wine or port-style. It’s always good to ask and talk to your local wine shop when making a selection. Ruby ports pair wonderfully with your favorite chocolate or a nice cheese plate with intense cheeses (blue cheese for example) and nuts.
In Portugal, port is generally made from a blend of red wines. Here in California we’ve found and enjoyed more varietal specific ports made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, or Syrah. For those of you who don’t enjoy reds, white port is not as common, but available and often made from Chardonnay. Also, you could opt for a late-harvest dessert wine; for these, the grapes are picked at the end of harvest and have more sugar content, which then translates to a sweeter end product.