Port Wine and Boxing Day – Perfect Holiday Duo
In Britain, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day, which gives Anglophiles in Wilmington NC – anywhere, actually – a reason to extend the holiday for an extra day. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off given to the servants following a busy Christmas of cleaning, cooking, serving and entertaining. The day was named for the “boxes” handed out by employers to the household help, filled with gifts, food, and perhaps a holiday bonus.
Boxing Day is the perfect occasion to invite friends over for a relaxing chat and a glass of Port. Don’t be shy about sharing some leftovers, passing along your excess holiday cheer, and thanking your besties for their friendship and loyalty during the year.
We think it’s more than appropriate to let the Boxing Day spirit carry all the way through the week running up to New Year’s Eve – a frantic event which demands bubbly, noisemakers and gregarious company. You will feel well taken care of, and ready to revel under the countdown clock.
Back to the Port Wine.
Although many Brits would suggest serving Sherry, which is a lightly fortified white wine, we suggest that Port has more presence. Port is also a fortified wine – a sweet red from Portugal. Port is usually enjoyed as a dessert wine, and does very nicely at “tea time,” which is how it fits into your Boxing Day program.
Port is available in several styles: white, red, rose and an aged Tawny Port. A trip to a wine store for a bottle of Port will produce a selection that outshines any of the special wines available at the grocery store.
What should you look for in a Port wine meant for company? Think about the flavors of chocolate, caramel, blackberry, cinnamon, and raspberry, and go with the combination that is most appealing. If you like the flavors of berries and chocolate, try a red Port. If caramel and nutty notes call your name, taste a Tawny Port. A red Port will be slightly less sweet than a Tawny Port, and as you move into vintage Ports – those aged 30 or more years – you will discover a wider range of subtleties, including graham cracker, butterscotch, and peppercorn notes.
Port is produced by adding a brandy – aguardente – to red wine. This increases the alcohol content, hence the “fortified” status of Port wine. The ABV of Port is around 20%, where table wines have an ABV of 14% or less. Port is sweeter than table wine, too. True Port is produced only in the Douro Valley in Portugal, heavily regulated and bearing the white seal, or Selo de Garantia, that says “Vinho do Porto Garantia.”
Serving Port Wine. Boxing Day. Any day.
If you are intrigued, you need to know how to serve a Port. The best temperature is slightly lower than room temperature, so keep your Port in the basement or a cool cupboard. Serve Port in a small, 3-ounce dessert wine glass. This is a wonderful time to bring out those diminutive antique wine glasses. Port is a sipping wine, so pour with a light hand. An opened bottle will keep for a few weeks, so you can repeat this ritual all the way to New Year’s, and beyond. In the summer, you might even try a slightly chilled port with a small wedge of lime before dinner.
But we are flipping seasons, here. Back to Boxing Day.
Deciding what edibles to offer with your Port is where this special wine works so wonderfully with the casual tenor of your Boxing Day efforts. Pull together a serving plate of rich cheeses (that leftover blue would be perfect), add a bowl of salted nuts, slice the balance of your holiday chocolate dessert into tempting little wedges… even assembling small sandwiches of cold roasted turkey or prime rib and a cranberry relish garnish is just enough effort.
Port wines pictured courtesy of Wilmington Wine. Visit them at 605 Castle Street, where Proprietor John Wilse will be happy to help you select the right Port for your fortified wine adventure.