Wine Time: Otima 10 Port, Portugal

COST: $25-27

 

WHAT: Most people either love port, or they hate it. Some think they will hate it, so they never even try it.

Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port is perfect for the modern port drinker who thinks he or she would not like the traditional heavy port. The style is lighter than traditional port, but it still has the luscious fruit taste.

You would not mistake this for anything but port, but the light, delicate palate makes it a drink for all seasons and occasions. I have tried it many times in different settings, and it always seems to be just the right wine at the right time.

The wine is a beautiful tawny color in the glass with nuts and hints of ripe fruit in the aroma. There is a rounded, balanced taste that is light and delicate, loaded with ripe, dried fruit. The finish is long and pleasant.

I like traditional port, with its rich, heavy tastes, but I understand how a good port, especially a vintage port, can overwhelm some people. So I see the Otima 10 as a great alternative. It can be served as an aperitif, with dessert, or when you are sitting around a crackling fire in the fireplace or in a campground.

It can be served neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a cocktail.

Port is surrounded by tradition, but the Otima 10 breaks out of that sometimes stodgy mold. Instead of a heavy, dark green glass bottle, it is packaged in a clear glass bottle that showcases the amber color of the wine. It is sold in a 500 ml bottle instead of the usual 750 ml, with a clean, modern label. I suspect the company is going after the younger market, which has responded with new interest in port.

“Fifteen years ago one in every 10 bottles of port sold in the U.S. was Aged Tawny,” said Rupert Symington, joint managing director of the Symington Family Estates that developed Otima 10. “Today it’s one in four.”

Like most ports, Otima 10 is made from a blend of traditional Portuguese grapes from the Douro Valley, such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão. Fermentation with natural yeast usually takes about 48 hours after which grape brandy is added to fortify the wine.

The finished wine is 20 percent alcohol by volume, compared to 12-14 percent for most wines. Port generally has 19-23 percent alcohol.

The wine is ready to drink when you buy it and doesn’t need to be decanted.

WINERY: Otima 10 is made by Warre’s, a company owned by the Symington family that has been in the port business for five generations, with family roots in the business going back 13 generations.

The business began with Andrew James Symington, an English citizen who arrived in Portugal in 1882. He married a Portuguese woman whose family was in the port business dating back to the 17th century at the beginning of the port industry.

Symington was an independent port shipper and earned the respect of farmers in the Douro Valley and port producers. In 1905, he became a partner in Warre & Co., the oldest British port house in Portugal, founded in 1670. He became sole owner in 1908 and later acquired shares in another port producer that operated under the Dow’s name.

Three of his sons followed him into the company and then his grandsons. To insure a supply of grapes, family members bought vineyards. Eventually they became the owners of Warre, Dow’s and Graham’s, and about 220 acres of vineyards. The extent of vineyard ownership is unique to the Symingtons in the port trade.

The Symingtons were part of the Portuguese expansion into non-Port wines, offering their first DOC wines in 2000. Port continues to be a big part of the business. In 2009, Wine Spectator, the industry bible, scored Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port a perfect 100 points and two years ago the magazine picked Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port the wine of the year.

The business continues to be family-run today.

GOES WITH: We had this with fruit crepes, one of my favorite desserts. They’re easy to make and they really finish a meal in style. Adding the Otima 10 puts the meal over the top.

Port is essentially a dessert wine, though not exclusively so. The Otima 10 is perfect with lighter desserts such as the crepes. The wine complements the fruit and whipped cream and doesn’t overpower the light crepes.

Crepes are fun and easy to make. You make the batter with flour, eggs, sugar, milk and water. Pour about a quarter cup into a heated frying pan, swirling the pan to get a thin coating of batter all over the pan. Cook until the crepe starts to brown on one side, then flip to brown the other side.

Once you make the crepes you can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. When you’re ready to use them, you can fill them with a variety of foods, including meat and vegetables, but my favorite are fruit-filled for dessert.

Place a line of fruit down the middle of the crepe and fold the sides over. Then you can add ice cream, whipped cream or powdered sugar. I like strawberries and peaches, but you can use any fruit.

I served the Otima 10 slightly chilled with this dessert, but you also can serve it at room temperature. Once you open the bottle it will keep for a couple of weeks.

The Otima 10 also would pair well with cheese, nuts, dried fruit, or all by itself.

 WINE EVENTS

FRIDAY, MARCH 4

Wine tasting, 5-7 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; five wines with snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5 with rebate on a featured wine; (803) 279-9522

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Lock Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

SATURDAY, MARCH 5

Beer tasting, 5-7 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; five beers with snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260

Wine and beer tasting, 2-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

 

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