8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Monday, February 18, 2013

While good company can always enhance a wine, wine spurs conviviality. And Port, with all of its charms, can be very convivial. On a chilly January evening, the desire to drink some good Port spurred me to host a Portuguese-themed dinner party. On the table were two Colheitas from Niepoort, a 1986 and 2001. Colheita, which means ‘harvest,’ is a style of Port — specifically, a tawny Port from a single year. Tawny is commonly a blend of vintages, but when conditions are exceptional, a producer might choose to mature the wine separately, bottling that vintage as distinct from blended Port.
Leading up to the Port was a Portuguese dinner for whose menu I turned to David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table. When I prepare food at home, I use the best and freshest ingredients possible. After all, I’m cooking for people I care about, and food choices can have an impact beyond the table. For the main course, I prepared Spicy Azorean Garlic-Roasted Pork from a Red Wattle Boston pork butt (pork butt is actually the shoulder, and Red Wattle is a flavorful breed that originated in the South Pacific; it’s available, Animal Welfare Approved, from Heritage Foods USA). Marinated overnight in puréed poblano peppers, garlic, sweet paprika, salt, black pepper, and red and white wines, the cut took well to the spices and slow cooking; after four hours in the oven, the meat was succulent and tender. The second dish was Leite’s Black Olive Risotto, which paired well with a slew of Douro wines: Niepoort Charmes (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca) was shockingly silky for a Douro, almost Burgundian; a Niepoort Twisted (a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz , Tinta Amarela, and Tinto Cão) that was dark and fruity; and a 2009 Quinta Do Popa Preffácio, masculine, fresh and full of Douro character, and a vintage made with Luis Pato as consultant.  
Since Port was the centerpiece of the evening, I served desserts designed to compliment the Colheitas. We disagreed over which Port was better. The 2001 was nicely red-fruited, creamy and had mellow tannins, but for me, the 1986 was more worth savoring — tawny-brown in color with sweet, dried fig flavors and an endless, dry finish that brought out hazelnut and coffee flavors. Circling between Port and dessert (blue cheeses, salted nuts, apricot tart, and eventually, cigars), there were some unforgettable flavor moments. The Ports carried us into the evening along with recordings of Fado music, where saudade (soulful longing) provided yet more context for what was in our glasses.
-Sadie Flateman


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