Our recent winter of “Snowpocalypse” often brought to mind the allure of relaxing in an easy chair with a warm throw and the quintessential fireside wine: Port. This category can be a bit tricky with a variety of styles and categories, so our Mondiale group decided a lesson was in order, courtesy of the first and oldest proprietor, Kopke. Founded in 1638, Kopke predated the Portuguese appellation in 1756 by over a century. Although ownership has changed lately, the philosophy of independent operations and vineyards has endured.
Our reception began with a welcome glass of Vinho Verde while Chef Michael “Funky” Forgus prepared some appetizers to savor. Then we sat before a sampling of four different styles to compare and later enjoy with a luscious buffet.
We started with a white Port which is relatively unknown compared to the reds. This dry example had a nutty Fino Sherry quality with a hint of Maraschino liqueur. Next we compared a 10 year and 20 year Tawny, where the wine is aged in oak cask and blended from vintages with an average age of the designation. These were fully developed with light body, spicy notes, and cinnamon flavors that felt like an embrace from a comfortable companion. The 20 year added more aromatics, smoothness, subtle sweetness, and complexity over the younger wine.
A 1978 Colheita was a special treat as this category is a single vintage Tawny and so benefits from further aging in oak cask. Kopke is known for producing more Colheitas, going back to the 1930’s, than any other producer. Sherry notes, leather, and a light ethereal profile made for a fascinating trip across the palate. We finally reached the most respected vintage Ports which after two years in cask require decades of bottle aging to achieve full potential. Vintage bottlings are declared only in exceptional years and generally are done no more than three per decade. We had the opportunity to try a new 2007 release and compare it with a 1983 vintage from Cockburn’s, another well known Port house. The new Kopke lacked aroma while showing massive raspberry and chocolate flavors that just hinted at its potential. With 27 years of cellar time, the Cockburn’s displayed the rich depth, graceful spicy nose, and wonderful melding of black cherry with chocolate that rewards the patient soul.
Our buffet included delicate asparagus and smoked tomato risotto, imaginative molasses cured sirloin in a fig, leek, and cashew demiglace, and oatmeal crusted salmon in beurre blanc. Chicken stuffed with andouille, wild rice, and porcini was an exceptional combination for the wines while a dessert of chili spiced chocolate torte with black cherry mascarpone was destined to be a perfect match. Lesson learned, we applauded our chef and the fabulous house of Kopke. Viver o Porto!
J.T. Mayer, Chargé de Presse Provincial Midwest