Thursday, October 20, 2016

Port and Food Pairing

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Port has long been a great closer for a meal. It is also often paired with chocolate, which I hardly think is its most flattering match. As it is both sweet and fairly high alcohol choosing the right dishes with which to pair it can be challenging. So I consulted two experts on the matter.

“Port wine is a complex drink,” says Francisca van Zeller, wine director at the Douro Valley-based Six Senses Hotel. “Ruby Ports have tannin, they are fruit forward and generally wines with great structure and power. Tawny Ports have a persistent dried fruit and a slightly more marked acidity when they are younger.”

Each type of Port, she notes, is best matched with different foods. “Ideally, Port wine is enjoyed with snack, due to its complexity and array of flavors and aromas.” Roasted almonds are a typical treat that Portuguese enjoy with their Port in the Douro. In an American twist pretzels might also be nice with Ruby Ports as well.

“Ports are intensifiers of the taste spectrum, as their sweetness and complexity easily match the caramelized and nutty sweetness and contrast with salty cheese or citrus and berry acidity,” adds Beatriz Machado, the wine director of The Yeatman Hotel in the city of Porto. “This Fall spoil yourself with a full bodied fruit port served a bit chilled and a game and mushroom risotto!”

A Pairing Premier
When matching Port to food you will want to use it in the dish’s preparation as much as you can. Van Zeller says she had an amazing meal of veal slow cooked in Reserve Ruby Port that was paired with the same Port.

“If a Ruby Port is used as a reduction to be poured over a dish, or as a sauce to marinate a meat or fruit, then it should be the same Port wine that is paired with it,” she notes. One traditional Portuguese dish is called Drunken Pears, in which the peeled pears are soaked in Ruby Port before they are cooked until they are crunchy and sweet. Another way to incorporate Port into dessert is by making a reduction of Ruby Port and pouring it, when cool, over vanilla ice cream.

White Ports, which are generally sweeter than their red siblings, need to be chilled down to around 60 degrees before they are served. Van Zeller enjoys both them, and aged Tawny Ports, with foie gras and paté. Machado enjoys them with tonic water and a twist of orange and so do I. She also suggests pairing them with Parmigiano and Manchego cheeses, apple crumble, crème brûlée, tarte tartin and nut-driven desserts.

Ruby Ports, both Reserve and Late Bottled Vintage, work well with mild cheeses or a rich, bitter chocolate dessert, suggests van Zeller. While Vintage Port, as it is fuller-bodied and more complex, needs a slightly stronger contrast, such as slightly stronger cheese like Roquefort and Gorgonzola or the opulent soft and intensely perfumed Portuguese Queijo da Serra.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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