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A ROSE IN EVERY PORT.

CROFT PINK PORT.. (£14.99 at www.selfridges.com) &                                                                      

OFFLEY ROSE PORT. (£11.99 at www.waitrosecellar.com)

‘Was asked this week for a wine to match a special dessert, “we have some exotic friends for dinner on Saturday so my wife’s making an exotic dessert”, my friend smiled. An exotic dessert demands an exotic wine. Sorted! Pink Port. You can’t get much more exotic than that!

Ask a wine lover to name the Port styles and he’ll confidently reel off Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage, Tawny and Ruby but bet your bottom dollar he won’t mention Pink. Come to think of it, chances are I’d miss it out too! So it’s Port and it’s pink, what else do we need to know about this colourful, flavoursome, bighearted wine that will match the exotic dessert blow for blow. Firstly, it’s made from  blend of ‘Port grapes’; the usual suspects are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Cao, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz……. a question coming to a pub quiz near you!

It’s probably too obscure for a pub quiz but why is Croft Rose Port called ‘Pink’ whilst Offley is called ‘Rose’? Answer; because Croft registered the trademark ‘Pink Port’ which is why other Port releases have to use ‘Rose’. Croft and Offley are famous Port Houses by the way; now that is a possible question in Friday night’s pub quiz!

Port is made in the steep, baking vineyards of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal and is a ‘fortified’ wine which means that it’s strengthened with grape spirit. Part way through the fermentation (when the wine reaches about 7 or 8 degrees of alcohol by volume) high strength grape spirit is added. This stops the fermentation stone dead; thus retaining lots of the grapes’ natural sugar and boosting the alcohol to about 20%. For the record, both the Croft and the Offley Pink sweeties weigh in at 19.5% Alcohol by volume.

After resting in the Douro cellars through the Valley’s brass monkey winter temperatures, the following spring the wines are taken down for ageing in the cool ‘lodges’ in the town of Vila Nova da Gaia, just across the river from Porto on the Atlantic coast. It’s here the different Port styles are created, based on the quality of the wines.

To understand Rose Port, Ruby Port is a good place to start! When Ruby arrives at Vila Nova da Gaia the wine is stored in large concrete or stainless steel vats to prevent oxidation and keep the lively young wine fresh and fruity. Rose undergoes the same ageing as Ruby. The main difference in the two styles is that, unlike Ruby, which ferments on the skins for an extended period to give the wine its ‘ruby’ colour, for Rose, the red grape skins are left on the fermenting juice for only a short period of time to give just a touch of colour, the rose bit.

Whereas Vintage Port is made to age for decades, Rose Port like Ruby, is made for getting down your neck immediately. The attractive pink hue draws you into a wine which combines the delicacy of rose with the power of Port; the result is an exotic glass (oh, and please use a fine large one, not one of those silly little ‘Port glasses’) with aromas and favours of mango, raspberry and cherry. I think you’ll agree it’s pretty exotic. ‘Think you’ll love it!