Wednesday, February 8, 2012

KWV Paarl Cape Tawny, Crème Brûlée in a Glass

Real Port is a fortified red wine made in Portugal and produced in the port of Oporto. Now you know why its called, "Port". And you know why this South African fortified wine does not and cannot have the word Port on the label. But it is made by the Port Method and tastes very much like a real tawny port except its price is about one-third of the genuine article. Do I now have your attention?

Tawny refers to the wine's amber-orange colour as it ages for years in oak, developing the colour of the wood casks. Fortified refers to the addition of brandy half way through the fermentation. The high alcohol of the brandy kills the yeasts so that there is a mixture of sweet unfermented grape juice, with dry fermented wine, plus a good measure of extra 40% alchool to boost or fortify the strength of the final 'port'. It is made by the huge wine cooperative KWV in the beautfiul Paarl district in the Cape Province where they've been making wine since the 17th Century.

I often describe the Paarl Tawny as Crème Brûlée in a glass because it has the bouquet and flavours of sweet butterscotch and caramel. But there is more! Much more, in fact. Its like Christmas cake as well: rich smells and flavours of roasted nuts, raisins, dried citrus, figs, dates....I could go on and on with other delicous descriptions but I am sure you get the idea.

One misconception about fortified or dessert wines: the good ones are never ever sickly sweet. That's because they are balanced with the right amount of acidity coming from the wine, so its sweet but not cloyingly sweet. At my tastings, people who have never tasted port before are amazed how good it is. And this Cape Tawny is good.

Serve it after dinner with the classic match: Stilton cheese from England, some crackers, mixed nuts, and a grape or two. Churchill would have called this "Wine's finest hour" and he would have wanted his Montecristo Cuban cigar as well. If you're enjoying this in the summer, put the Cape Tawny in the fridge for an hour before serving. Cooling a sweet wine reduces the perception of sweetness and makes it more refreshing. And use a large red wine glass with a good sized bowl. Swirl it around and savour the complexity of it all.

Is it real Port? No! Its not from Portugal and not made from the same type of grapes. But its made in the Port method and for anyone except wine experts and snobs, it looks like, smells like, and tastes like the real McCoy. And its very affordable.

KWV Paarl Cape Tawny, South Africa, $12.99, 19.5% Crème Brûlée in a Glass

Fortified & Highly Recommended! $12.99

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