The 101 of Port style wines | Where , When How
When you think of Calitzdorp and the Swartland, there aren’t many close links apart from the fact that they’re both farming communities, producing excellent quality wines with a very similar dry and sunny climate. However, only a few know that the start of the port industry in Calitzdorp (now the port-style capital in South Africa), is actually thanks to the Swartland and a fortunate accident.
After a visit to the Swartland in 1973 by the Nel family of De Krans, they decided to plant Shiraz grapes in Calitzdorp. It took a few years for them to discover that the vineyard that they planted, was actually a Tinta Barocca vineyard! It became the first Portuguese cultivar planted in the Klein Karoo and because of the unique terroir of Calitzdorp (similar in climate to the Duoro Valley in Portugal), these grapes flourished with the wine being a testament of this. Similarly, approximately 20 years later, Tinta Amarela was mistakenly planted after buying certified Tinta Roriz vines and so the port industry in South Africa became synonymous with Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo. What a wonderful twist of fate (also the name of one of De Krans’s Portuguese blends, to pay tribute to this piece of history)!
Regardless of the success of the port-style wines of De Krans and Calitzdorp, you won’t find the word “port” on any label of a South African produced port-style wine since the end of 2011, as was agreed between the European Union and the South African government. The Cape Port Producers Association (CAPPA) had already decided to use the word “Cape”, paired with the specific style (eg Cape Ruby, Cape Vintage etc) in the late 1980’s, so this did not have much of an effect on the sales of port-style wines in South Africa and abroad.
For many wine drinkers the idea of a port style wine is quite daunting – be it the (possibly overwhelming) different styles, the dark bottles, the higher alcohol, or the fact that it is something your grandpa and his buddies used to drink after dinner, but that does not have to be the case anymore.
Not only is it important to realize that port style wines are not only no longer only a winter drink, but they are also definitely not only a dessert wine.
Port style wines such as the De Krans Original Cape Pink makes for a refreshing cocktail mixer with ginger ale, crushed ice and mint. Even the De Krans Cape Tawny Limited Release and the Espresso are both wonderful served chilled in Summer (visit the De Krans website for a list of fun cocktail recipes including the chilled Espresso Martini).
Treat your guests to a special Platter 5-star glass of De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve (our flagship) with well-aged cheeses, or our Espresso, a dessert wine with subtle grounded coffee flavours on the aftertaste.
But why wait until after dinner? Why not surprise your guests with an entire menu paired with different port-style wines from De Krans? While the De Krans Cape Pink is delicious in a cocktail, with some desserts it pairs perfectly – these include a white peppercorn pannacotta and a rosewater ice cream. The De Krans Cape Tawny is great for a starter, paired with onion soup, or with a cheese, nut and honey platter for dessert. Our Cape Vintage is the ultimate compliment to any baked dessert like chocolate fondant or crème bruleé.
In addition, a port-style wine like the De Krans Premium Cape Ruby is wonderful for cooking (yes, go ahead and add generously to your “potjie” or any meat dish in a slow cooker, while having a glass on its own. The wine is fruity and soft and will take your meat dish to that next level.
Now that you know a “port” should be treated as a wine, attention should be paid to how ports should be stored. Just like a red wine, a port style wine shouldn’t be kept open for more than two weeks once opened, with the exception of a Cape Tawny (maximum four weeks due to its oxidative nature). Be sure to watch out for those half-empty bottles next to the refrigerator in your favourite restaurant – they may be there since last winter! If kept closed, the port style wines can be kept much longer. While the Tawny is at its best after bottling and will not improve much over time. Port-style wines such as our De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve can be stored for 25 years and longer (in favourable cool conditions, with the bottles lying down). And on a final very important note, please chuck away those small sherry and liqueur glasses and serve all port-style wines in a normal red or white wine glass – allowing it swirl and twirl and show off. Are the small glasses cute? Yes. Are they practical and allowing you to taste the port to properly? Not really.
Needless to say, when it comes to where, when and how to drink port style wines, there really is no correct answer. As long as you drink them, experiment, enjoy and embrace the versatility these wines have to offer (in a big glass, of course).