NV Sandeman White Porto, Oporto, Portugal
Wine of the Week with Annette Tomei
Founded in 1790, the Sandeman story is a long and fascinating one that you can learn more about here. It may be the most recognized Porto in the world. The caped silhouette of “The Don” is an iconic image in fortified wines.
The fortified wine known as Port is named for the city of Oporto, the place where the Duoro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. This has been a thriving seaport serving all of Europe for centuries. The style of Port we know now began as a means of preserving wine for long sea voyages in the 17th century.
The term “fortified” means strengthened. Brandy was added to the wines to protect them from microbial spoilage on their long journey. Since sweet wines were the preferred style of the time, the brandy was also used to stop fermentation before all the sugar was converted. Little more than technology has changed over the centuries.
White Porto is a non-traditional style, nonetheless it is made by most of the big producers. The base wine is composed mostly of lower quality red grapes that are blended with some white grape varieties. They lack red color because the fruit is not macerated prior to fermentation. White Porto is often sweeter than red styles and is lower in alcohol. If barrel-aged at all, it will rarely be longer than 18-months. Most white Ports these days are sipped chilled as an aperitif or incorporated into cocktails.
About this Wine
Golden apricot in color with aromas of butterscotch and candied orange slices, this White Porto made me think of a warm kitchen in winter with a buttery cake in the oven. On the palate, a burst of acidity followed by flavors of caramelized oranges, toasted hazelnuts, caramel sauce, finishing with savory aromas of a good cigar.
Other than the focussed sweetness, I was reminded of Fino sherry. I was craving Marcona almonds and briny olives. I tried it at room temperature and slightly chilled. I preferred the latter – the acidity was more focussed and the savory, herbaceous aromas were enhanced. I recommend enjoying this with a variety of cheeses, salumi, olives, and crusty bread. I also plan to play with it in cocktails – when I create a good one, I will be sure to share it here!
I am a big fan of fortified wines of all sorts. They can be enjoyed for weeks after opening with little or no loss of quality. I prefer the lighter styles, such as this white Porto, most because of their adaptability. At under $12/bottle this particular wine is well worth having on hand. Try it with a splash of seltzer and a dash of orange or spice bitters for a low-alcohol after-work treat!
My new mission… to taste things I’ve never tasted before – either because I’m a snob, I can’t afford it, or it’s just a little too weird. I’ll let you know what I thought, and then you can decide for yourself if you will make the splurge, or take the leap into the strange but potentially delicious unknown!
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