French port wine
[lead]Port wine information[/lead]
Port has traditionally been associated with the English, and many of the leading port houses are still in English or Anglo-Portuguese hands.
Port wines came to the international forefront in the early 18th Century, when the English and the French were engaged in one of their periodic political feuds.
Favorable tariffs in Portugal meant that port was cheaper to export than Bordeaux, and the English began to favor these wines, leaving the French to find markets for Bordeaux in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
So it’s a bit of historical irony that the port house of Rozes was founded by a Bordeaux-based wine trader, Ostende Rozes, in 1855. His son Edmond cemented the firm’s reputation and created the brand image, associated with the short Portuguese-style bottle that Rozes ports are still shipped in today.
Since 1978 the company has been owned by the French company LVMH, a luxury goods conglomerate.
Rozes ports fall midway between the powerful, tannic style favored by the English-owned houses and the more mature and sedate ports made by Portuguese-owned houses.
Manuel Louzado, the 29-year-old winemaker at Rozes, recently poured his current releases for me over dinner. The Rozes concept is that port should be accessible, balanced and food-friendly. Port doesn’t have to be an after-dinner drink but can accompany a wide variety of dishes. ac facilisis in, egestas eget quam.
- Infanta Isabel 10 Year Old Tawny ($25): Bright and fresh with lots of fruit; clean, smooth and spicy on the finish. (score: 88)
- 20 Year Old Tawny ($40): Toasty and elegant with racy flavors of orange and figs and a lovely, luscious finish. (90)
- 1992 Late Bottled Vintage ($25): Plummy and rich with lovely ripe fruit and long, seductive finish. (87)
- 1987 Vintage ($50): Spicy, balanced and complex, with good structure and a layered, complex and balanced finish. (90)
- 1994 Vintage ($55): Elegant with great structure, complexity and length; lush yet racy with a soft, silky texture. (92)
- Over 40 Years Old Tawny ($180): Elegant and spicy with lean, long flavors of mandarin orange peel; complex and bright on the finish. (93)
The buddy system
- The joint venture bug has definitely taken hold. It all began with the legendary partnership of Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, which brought forth the now legendary and appropriately pricey Opus One.Later on, the Mondavis entered into a relationship with the Frescobaldi family of Tuscany and created Luce and Lucente, two lovely Italianate reds. Then the Mondavis partnered with Erazzuriz in Chile to craft Sena.
This wine buddy system is not limited to Robert Mondavi and mates; the concept is spreading throughout the wine world. There is an impressive effort made under the auspices of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Conch y Toro in Chile. Wente Vineyards has teamed with a Mexican winery.
The latest (and one of the best) is a stunning blend made in Washington’s Columbia Valley by the partnership of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Antinori, the 600-year-old Tuscan family winery. This new consortium is about to release two vintages of its stylish wine, Col Solare.
- The 1995 Col Solare ($70) is mostly cabernet sauvignon with merlot and syrah added. It is lush and plummy with lovely fruit and lots of that tangy acid structure typical of the best Tuscan wines. The finish is long and smooth with lovely oak and spice. (90)
- The 1996 Col Solare ($70) is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It is tangy and bright with mouth-filling plum, cherry and berry fruit. This one is even more Italian in style with lively acidity and great structure. This is a wine that will be smashing with food. (92)