Port is not just for Christmas, as too many people in the UK and Ireland seem to believe.
Whether it is served on its own, chilled, as an apéritif, sipped by the fire with some nuts, eaten with a rich chocolate dessert or with coffee after a good meal, there is always an opportunity to enjoy a glass of this delicious fortified wine. There are several styles of Port, fruity and youthful Rubies; carefully oak-aged Tawnies; Vintage Ports seen by many as “the King of Wines”. White Ports range from dry apéritif styles to very sweet.
Shipping wine in quantity from northern Portugal to Britain began in the late seventeenth century, when the British were almost constantly at war with France. Due to close diplomatic and trade relations with Portugal, the English imported their wine to replace Claret. The wine was originally thinner and more astringent than the British market demanded, and often suffered during the long sea voyage. Merchants came up with the idea of fortifying it with aguardente or wine spirit to preserve it.
But only by the middle of the nineteenth century had Port become the fortified wine we know today. The “Port wine” much favoured by Samuel Pepys and his friends in the coffee houses of seventeenth century London would in fact have been what we now call Douro Wine.