On a recent visit to Napa Valley Wine and Cigar, I purchased a bottle of Dow White Port. Most people when they hear mention of Port, will think of a sweet red wine for sipping after dinner. There is, however, another side to Port; a white aperitif drink that can vary from bone dry, through off-dry, to sweet. Like its more famous red sibling, White Port is a fortified wine made in the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal.
Portuguese wine regulations list fifty different grape varieties that can be used in making White Port. Nothing on the bottle nor on Dow’s website lists which of these fifty varieties is used in making this particular White Port. The website does mention that the wine is made primarily at Quinta do Sol winery. Quinta do Sol makes wine from grapes purchased from 1,200 vineyards across the Douro Valley. In other words this wine’s creative process is about as far away from Napa single varietal estate wines as it is possible to be. White Port is generally sold as a non-vintage and is ready to drink without any aging. The Dow White Port is aged for three years before bottling.
I have long enjoyed White Port as a pre-dinner sip, but had not seen it since moving to the US ten years ago. Thus, I was excited to see it for sale at a very reasonable $15 a bottle. Prager Portworks, about whom we have previously written, make a wine in the style of a White Port, although I did not try it on my visit.
White Port should be served chilled. In the past I have drunk it neat in small 2oz pours. Whilst I was doing some research for this post, I came across an article that suggested drinking it with tonic water.
The Dow White Port has flavours of orange and vanilla, with a hint of nut. It is sweet, but not cloying so. It is markedly less sweet than a Sauternes. The sweetness is held at bay by a crisp acidity and the richness of the flavours. The finish is long and emphasizes the wood and citrus elements.
To make the Port-Tonic cocktail you fill an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. Pour in 1.5oz of White Port and 3oz of Tonic Water. Squeeze a wedge of lemon and drop into glass. This is a refreshing alternative to a Gin and Tonic and one in which the flavours of the tonic water are to the fore.