Porto Travel Blog› entry 20 of 23 › view all entries
September 13th, 2008 – by: Adrian_Liston
The origin for Port lies in a French-English war more than 300 years ago, when the French embargoed French wine from the English. The desperate English, seaking wine, sailed to the port of Porto, near the Douro wine valley, and bought Portugese wine to fuel their habit. Unfortunately the wine would turn to vinegar during the transit, so some bright spark decided to spike the wine with 20% brandy to preserve it. This is why port is so alcoholic, and also why it is sweet (the brandy is added on the second day of fermentation, stopping the fermentation process while there are still lots of grape sugars in the wine).
We visited Grahams winery, which was established in 1820. Our guide was endearingly enthuasiastic, but unfortunately didn't really shut up and just kept on talking about Port and Port making. Finally we got to taste four different Port wines (I prefered the white Port, which I didn't even know existed before). This was strong enough for Michelle to unexpectedly say "In the US they don't even pay lobsters". A comment which, while true, is mystifying, especially as they call lobsters crayfish in New Zealand.
After the Port tasting we slowly worked our way from the Gaia side of the river back to Porto, stopping off at cafes to have beers, especially one nice one which overlooked the river and was set up with deckchairs facing Porto. They put red cordial in my beer.
According to wikipedia, the British naval tradition for drinking Port is that it should always be passed to the left (Port to port), and if someone forgets to pass it one should never ask for it directly. Instead, one should ask "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" Anyway in the know will recognise they have forgotten to pass the port and will do so. Anyone not in the know will reply in the negative, at which you can remark "He's an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the port."
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