Recently, I caught myself not taking my own advice, which is to keep an open mind about wine and wine-food pairings. My task was to match a wine with creamy blue cheese. In my mind, I jumped to the intensely flavored blue cheese. Thinking that a strongly flavored cheese should be matched with an intensely flavored red wine, my guess was Cabernet Sauvignon. Then I read that port wine is a good match, particularly Tawny Port. At first, I was skeptical, but upon tasting it, my taste buds were delighted with this match. Friends tasted this pairing and confirmed it was delicious.
Blue cheeses vary in flavor, texture, and intensity from mild to tangy. The soft creamy blue cheese is not intense and more subtle than traditional varieties. It had a creamy texture, an earthy aroma, and a bit of a peppery flavor with a soft, clean finish.
Just as there is a variety of blue cheese types, there are also a variety of port wines. Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine, often served with dessert. However, it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Port is classified as a fortified wine, meaning a clear grape spirit (brandy) is added during fermentation. This stops fermentation and preserves most of the grapes’ natural sugars, giving Port its signature sweet flavor profile. But be aware it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Other than Tawny, the most common types of port wine include; Ruby, Crusted, White, Pink, Late Bottled Vintage, Vintage, and Colheita.
For Tawny Port, the aging process is essential. While a Ruby Port will mature for a short time in large wooden vats and then in bottles, Tawny Ports will age for much longer in small casks before bottling. The wines undergo a steady, controlled oxidation process as the color fades from deep, hazy ruby to orange-amber-tawny. Tasting and blending an aged tawny is a continual process resulting in a wine with nutty, caramel, cinnamon, clove, fig, and raspberry flavors.
Let this match be your first Port of call for your next voyage of flavor discovery. Cheers!