Port is often thought of as an old man’s winter sipper, and has somewhat lost ground in the market over the last few years. These rich, warming drinks may seem more appropriate to cold European evenings, but South Africa has long been famous for its ports and producers such as De Krans, Boplaas, JP Bredell and Axe Hill have become almost as renowned as their Portuguese counterparts.
Unfortunately, this success hasn’t been so appreciated overseas with the EU now restricting usage of the word ‘port’ to wines made in the Oporto region. So from now on, all South African ‘port’ made for export will be labelled ‘Cape Ruby’, Cape Vintage’ and ‘Cape Tawny’ instead.
For a quick guide to how Port is made, click here
Different styles of Port
Cape Ruby – this is an entry-level wine. It is a blend of different vintages and the aim is to make a consistent, easy-drinking product.
Cape Tawny – a tawny port has been aged in barrels for several years and during that time, the wine has been allowed to oxidise slightly and has turned brown. Nutty, savoury and delicious, these wines can be served chilled or warm.
Cape White Port – made from a variety of different grapes (Chenin is popular) and delicious served chilled as an aperitif.
Cape Vintage/Vintage Reserve – these are only made in the best years with grapes from that year alone. Rich, intense and concentrated, they can last up to 20 years.
At a tasting with one of SA’s best port producers last week, we found a wide range of styles guaranteed to suit everyone’s taste. Our host was Boets Nel, Cape Wine Master and owner of De Krans whose ports have regularly garnered 5 stars in the Platter Guide for many years. He also showed some of the varietals made as normal still wines – a practice increasingly used in both Portugal and SA as a means of utilising young grapes before they reach maturity and complexity. In addition to delicious food provided by Winchester Mansions, he also brought along some truffles specifically made to match his ports from ‘La Chocolatiere Rococo’ in Oudtshoorn (www.ilovechocolate.co.za). Check out my notes below for one of the most bizarre food and wine matches I have ever put in my mouth!!
De Krans Touriga Nacional 2008
Lovely spicy nose with some nail polish and violets. Exceptionally soft and juicy with lots of spice and prunes. Stunning combo with the Lamb and Basil Samoosa with Minted Crème Fraiche.
De Krans Cape Ruby Port NV
A toffee apple tipple with soft ripe fruit, integrated alcohol and a spicy fruitcake finish. Good partner for the Calamari with Tamarind Sauce.
De Krans Tawny Port NV
Five star stunner and you can easily see why. Tasted of savoury French onion soup on a winter’s day with nuts and marmite but Boets says you can chill it and serve it with almonds and olives too.
De Krans Vintage Reserve 2006
This is the current release and the 2008 will be out shortly. Get this one if you can – it was exploding with spice and cigar box flavours with an intense dark chocolate hint, endless length and complexity. This was paired with Rococo’s Blue Cheese Truffle. Dark intense chocolate encasing a chocolate/blue cheese filling. How was it? Truthfully, it was a total mindf**k and I apologise for the term, but cannot think what else to say! It looked like chocolate, it tasted like chocolate – and then it tasted of Stilton!! Completely weird, but a stunning match for the port. Please, please try and get hold of some and give them a go!!