The style of Port we know and love today can truly be called a “spoil of war” so to speak. As early as the 1500s, wines from Portugal were shipped north to England and Europe. Their long oceanic journey however, often caused the wine to spoil. To help stabilize the wine during the trip, buckets of Brandy were added. This reduced spoilage and kept the wines light, fruity and dry.
In the 1678, Britain declared war on France, thus closing off their supply of French wine the British had grown to love. Through political pacts and treaties between Britain and Portugal, the wine industry in Portugal was spurred into tremendous growth. During this time, it was discovered that the Douro Valley proved to be ideal for growing high quality and intensely flavored grapes, although the high tannins and astringency were not always desired. To soften the wine, Brandy was added to the wine before fermentation was complete, thus leaving high levels of residual sugar and a level of alcohol somewhat higher than that of still wines, and thus Port, as we know it, was born.
Port from the Douro Valley is the only true Port, and anything grown outside of this region is made in the “Port style”. Being that we do not use European designations, we have given our Port style wine the strong and fitting name of Forté.
PORT GRAPE VARIETIES
There are 82 permitted grape varieties in Port production, although only 30 of them are recommended. The quality and characteristics of each grape varies with the classification of grape varieties, making a distinction between “Very Good”, “Good”, “Average”, “Mediocre” and “Bad”. The six most common varieties used when making Port or a Port style wine are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão and Tinta Amarela.
Our 2006 Forté is made up of 60% Touriga Nacional, 14% Tinta Cão, 13% Sousão and 13% Alvarelhão, all grown in the Sisney Vineyards of Amador County, California.
STYLING & BOTTLING
Our Forté is produced in the Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) style, meaning that the wine was left in the barrel anywhere from four to six years before bottling. This style provides an experience similar to that of a Vintage Port style without the need for lengthy bottle aging. Late Bottled Vintage styles are a single-vintage of a higher quality. Our 2006 Forté was aged for 63 months in neutral French Oak barrels.
Although the technique of hand blowing glass has been around for thousands of centuries, it was not until the Roman Empire that the technique was implemented for the storage of wine. In the beginning, the easiest and most consistent shape produced was a short, fat bottle with a tapering neck. In keeping with the European tradition, we bottle our Forté in 500ml bottles that are short and squat with a large punt and a narrow neck.
The shape of our bottles makes it difficult to bottle our Forté mechanically; therefore, all bottling is done by hand. This includes filling, corking, sealing and labeling. For our 2006 vintage, we bottled just under 2000 bottles, or 330 cases. The 2006 Forté can be aged for upwards of 30 years, but is delightful now.
The 2006 vintage Forté sits at 20% alcohol by volume and just slightly over 7% Residual Sugar, which balances nicely with the 3.41 pH. This is a wonderful wine to serve after dinner or sitting by the fire. This wine pairs nicely with a variety of foods including dark chocolate desserts or salty blue cheese and toasted nuts.