Your Port is Calling: Canadian sommeliers from coast to coast offering up unexpected pairings
Often recommendations for Port pairings are limited to blue cheese, nuts and chocolate. While these continue to be great matches, a modern generation of sommeliers is seeing Port in a new light, bringing it to the table to match dishes to start, the middle and to finish a meal and even before the meals starts via Port-based cocktails. Erin Beazley, a Nova Scotian sommelier and Master of Port Canada 2022 qualifier goes so far to say “I believe a unique way to present Port styles is through a tasting dinner. Imagine having five courses and each course is paired with a different style of Port to show how versatile it is as a wine. Starting with a lighter, “dry” style of white Port, moving into Tawnies, LBV’s and then Vintage Port to finish.”.
CAPS asked some of the qualifiers for next year’s Master of Port Canada contest to offer some new approaches to Port pairings. A stellar lineup of sommeliers from coast to coast have inspired us to rethink Port pairings.
Dare to Mix It
79th Street Cocktail: A Port-based Manhattan
by Alexandre Fortin, Quebec, Qualifier Master of Port 2022
When I think of Port , I think of a drink that has a wide range of styles as much as a lot of versatility. From white to rosé and red, off-dry to sweet, fresh and simple to complex and structured, it can be drunk as an apéro as much as it can accompany a sophisticated meat dish or a sweet dessert. An original way of drinking Port wine is to use it as a cocktail ingredient. Tawny Port is among the styles that give me the most pleasure while crafting cocktails since the oxidative perfume and the fruit character offer a pungent aromatic. The sweetness level of a Tawny can be compared to sweet vermouth, which means that you can easily switch one for the other as much as combining both in a classic cocktail. That being said, Tawny Port is a nice ingredient to add deepness and complexity to any cocktail. A classic that I find delicious with Port is a reverse Manhattan that calls for a 10 years Tawny Port with a dash of maple syrup instead of sweet vermouth. This classic becomes driven by the flavours and perfume of the Port wine while staying serious, elegant and boozy. While the classic pairings are as good as they have ever been, it is consumer creativity and the audacity of restaurant workers that will expand Port’s versatility. You can make an opinion on your own by pairing this cocktail with blue cheese. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed
79th Street Cocktail (Port Reserve Manhattan)
2 fl oz 10 Year Old Tawny Port
1 fl oz rye whisky
1 barspoon (1/6 oz) maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Bokers bitters
Brandy marinated cherry or orange zest, for garnish
Directions: Place ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until chilled and to desired dilution. Strain into a chilled Martini glass or a Marie Antoinette coupe. Garnish with a brandy marinated cherry or orange zest. While the classic pairings are as good as always, it is the consumer creativity and the audacity of restaurant workers that will expand Port wine versatility.
A Sun Inspired Port Cocktail
by Paul Aquino, Ontario, Master of Port 2022 Qualifier
Heading to colder weather, we dream of warm sunnier places we wish we could be, but with a holiday twist. Hence the name of this drink. Aaron Van Hoffen (I can’t take credit for this.) our bar manager came up with this drink for the Fall into Winter season. The “Porto Vallarta”. The rosemary syrup accompanied with red wine wine vinegar and LBV port helps to refresh the palette and add some acidity and fall flavours along with a light smoky finish from the Tequila. Great way to start out an evening at Victoria’s here in Hamilton, Ontario.
The “Porto Vallarta”.
1 ½ oz Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Port
1 ½ oz Reposado Tequila (such as Cazadores)
1 ½ oz unfiltered alcohol-free apple cider
½ oz red wine vinegar
½ oz rosemary syrup
Dash all-spice bitters
2-3 oz Prosecco
Spear rosemary, torched, for garnish
Direction: Place Port, tequila, cider, vinegar and syrup in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake for 10 to 12 seconds and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with a dash of bitters and Prosecco. Garnish with rosemary.
*Place 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 3 sprigs of rosemary in a pot. Place over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. After 20 minutes, strain to remove rosemary.
Embrace Port’s Spicy Side
Vinho do Porto Branco and Vindaloo
by Justin Isidro, British Columbia, Master of Port 2022 Qualifier
Vinho do Porto Branco is one of the most versatile styles of Port produced in the Douro Valley. Its expansive range in sweetness gives Porto Branco the ability to be savored in a variety of ways. With five levels of sweetness differentiating each bottle that ranges from Extra Dry, Dry, Semi-Dry, Sweet, and Lagrima. This helps to give a very fresh and bright expression that you find with the Extra Dry to Dry styles, as well as more nuanced interpretations with the Semi-Dry to Lagrima Vinhos do Porto.
The dry style of Porto Branco is the most adaptable and they are served best chilled as an aperitivo or the perfect pairing for dinner. These bottlings offer a style of wine that has racy acidity with an off-dry finish, fused with aromas and flavours of orange zest, lemon, apple and honeysuckle. Usually a traditional collection of native varieties Rabigato, Gouvieo, Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Códega do Larinho, and Moscatel Galego Branco that are blended together to give these complex characteristics.
I prefer to pair the Dry Porto Branco with spicy foods, one of my favourite dishes is a Goan variation of a Portuguese classic that they call Vindaloo. A spicy curry variation using local palm wine that is blended with tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom. The key addition to this dish is the chilli peppers that were transplanted to India across the Atlantic from the Americas by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The hot spiciness is tempered down by the sweet fruit notes, while the racy acidity cuts through the richness and lets the flavours of the wine fuse with the dish.
6 cloves garlic
½-inch piece garlic, sliced
7 red chilies, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp cracked pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon
2 oz vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
1 lb firm white fish, such as halibut, cubed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled, finely sliced
1 small can tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
Directions: Place large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil, garlic and ginger, When the begin to brown add five of the chilies and other spices (mustard coriander, cumin, pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon) and toast. Pour spices into a bowl and top vinegar, salt and turmeric. Let cool. Then blend into a paste. Mix halibut with paste and let marinade for at least 6 hours and up to a day. Heat oil in pan set over medium-low, then add onion. When onion begins to brown, add remaining chilies, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Add the halibut along with any marinade. Bring to quick boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Test to ensure the fish is fully cooked. Cook longer if necessary.
Turkish Karniyarik and Late Bottle Vintage Port
An Unlikely Pairings
By Lesley Quinn, Prince Edward Island, Master of Port 2022 Qualifier
While living in Turkey my favourite dish I learned to make was Karniyarik (stuffed eggplant). Being a country where access to wines was not always easy either! Luckily, I got my hands on a Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Port and that night experienced a magic pairing. The eggplant and ground beef in the dish are spiced with cumin, cinnamon and paprika and really make the wine sing. It’s proved unquestionably that Port is not just for dessert!
2 medium eggplants
1 lb ground beef
3 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp paprika
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
Salt & pepper, to taste
Directions: Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, very generously season flesh with salt. Place in colander flesh side down for 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, place beef in skillet set over medium heat. Brown the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while cooking. When beef is browned drain excess fat, and set beef aside. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, lower heat to medium-low. Add the shallots and sweat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, paprika and cinnamon and sauté for 30 seconds. Return beef to pan along with tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Rinse eggplants and dry on paper towels. Set a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add remaining olive oil. Sear eggplant flesh side down until brown. Remove, scoop out flesh, leaving ½-inch of flesh beside the skin. Roughly chop eggplant flesh and mix with beef mixture. Fill eggplants shells with the beef and eggplant mixture. Place in a baking dish and set in oven preheated to 400 F. Roast for 20 minutes.
Italian Flavours, Port Wine
A Cross Cultural Coming Together
by Leagh Barkley, British Columbia, Master of Port 2022 Qualifier
The complex flavours of Port are a constant source of inspiration for pairings with the dishes we serve at Acquafarina, which highlight the characteristic flavours of Italian cuisine in a modern form. For those who seek a savoury pairing, I suggest our Crostini di Fegato (toasted brioche, foie gras mousse, Guinettes cherries) with the fresh, fruit-forward flavours of Ruby Reserve. Another would be the rich and bold flavours of a Vintage Port, such as something from the legendary 1994 vintage, to accompany our seared A5 Wagyu beef tenderloin (served with foie gras, in a green peppercorn Port sauce). For those looking to indulge their sweet tooth, Late Bottle Vintage Port perfectly complements our Manuka Honey Walnut cake (with a Gorgonzola Dolce espuma). Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the stunning pairing of 20 Year-Old Tawny Port with our Cannolo Siciliano (goat cheese mascarpone, candied orange zest, dark chocolate and crushed pistachio).
Maple Syrup Pie and 20 Year Old Tawny Port
A Marriage of Quebec and Port
by François Côté, Quebec, Viniviti, Master of Port 2022 Qualifier
Serve 20 Year-Old Tawny 20 Port with a warm maple syrup pie and vanilla ice cream. Being a Quebecer, maple syrup practically runs through my veins. 20-Year-Old Tawny offers notes of caramel and nuts that go perfectly with maple syrup. Serving the hot pie enhances the aromas of caramelized maple syrup. To restore balance, vanilla ice cream lowers temperature and sugar levels! It’s a simple, but simply delicious pairing!