In advance of Sunday’s World Cup matchup, I thought Wine Wednesday should touch on something from Portugal. The obvious choice would be vinho verde. But just like Portugal’s performance against Germany, we can do better than that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love vinho verde. When the humidity is suffocating, I’ll be the first person to throw back an entire bottle of Gazela or Famega and then ask if the second one is cold yet. Instead, let’s drink a more storied Portuguese import and mix their popular summertime cocktail – white port and tonic.
First, a primer on port. It’s a fortified wine, meaning that a neutral grape spirit is added to stop the fermentation process midway through. As a result, it retains some natural sweetness from the grapes and clocks in around 20% alcohol.
A vast majority of port is made from red grapes (and there’s even rosé port). But some is made from white grapes, the names of which you might not recognize. Some of them – sercial, verdelho, malvasia – are famous for making Madeira on the Portuguese island of the same name. Others – folgasão, donzelinho branco – are hard enough to spell, much less remember.
Portugal is unique among wine producing countries, in that they’ve passionately resisted international grape varieties. They’ve eschewed cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay to focus instead on their native grapes. Their white wines are wonderfully unique and white port tastes like nothing else in the wine world – a rustic tug-of-war between boozy and sweet.
The cocktail couldn’t be simpler. Add 2 ounces of white port to a pint glass, squeeze in a couple lemon slices, add ice and fill with tonic water. The only problem is that not every liquor store will stock a white port, so be sure to call ahead and ask. I found the Ramos Pinto at Zipp’s for about $15, though I feel like I’ve seen white port from Dow, Warre, and Ferreira around town at various points.
But don’t fret the label. Any type will do when you drown it with tonic water. And at half the alcohol content of a gin and tonic, feel free to have twice as many.