Quinta do Crasto, Vintage Porto
Quinta do Crasto, Vintage Porto

Quinta do Crasto, Vintage Porto

Douro, Portugal 2003 (750mL)
Regular price$59.00

Quinta do Crasto, Vintage Porto

The winter solstice, and the myriad holidays surrounding it, are upon us. So it seems like the perfect time to talk about Port. Arguably the most famous fortified wine in the world, Port or Porto has held steadfast in its traditions for centuries, and though it is not prominent in the current wine zeitgeist, our library discovery today is proof positive that it should be! To be very clear, this is not some basic concoction of fruit and alcohol that was always sitting on your Grandparents’ kitchen shelf, and it is not even a solid bottle of Ruby or Tawny; this is Vintage Port, the very pinnacle of what this ancient region produces. But Vintage Port needs to age, right? Yup, which is why this offer features a 2003, a cool 20 years old. And is it crazy expensive? Nope, in fact it is one of most affordable world-class wines we know of, clocking in at less than $60! Shocked? We were too, but it’s the truth, so stop staring and start stocking up.

Though the exact origins of Port are not entirely clear, the region has been growing grapes for thousands of years, and they have been making fortified wines since at least the 1600s. Two traveling British merchants “discovered” Porto in 1678 and, unsurprisingly, loved it. Thirty years later it was all the rage in London. As such, many of the most famous Port “houses,” or merchant-producers, were founded by the British. The Dutch got in on the action too, which means that names like Taylor, Osborne, Graham, and Niepoort tend to dominate the market even today. But there are a tiny handful of historic producers that are native to Portugal, and of those, the most storied, and we think the best, is Quinta do Crasto. This beautiful property traces its roots back to at least 1615, and in 1758, the Marquis de Pombal placed one of his 335 “marker stones” in the vineyards to delineate the Porto appellation. It’s the third oldest demarcated wine zone in the world after Chianti and Tokaj.

Now it is time for a quick refresher on what Port, and all fortified wine, is and how it is made. First up is grapes, and in the case of Quinta do Crasto that means a field blend of dozens of varieties, grown on steep, often terraced slopes, from vines as old as 100 years. Then the fermentation process begins as it would with any dry red wine: in this case, it is in state-of-the-art steel tanks. But before the wine is fermented fully dry, a spirit known as aguardente, which is distilled from grapes and often incorrectly referred to as brandy, is added to the unfinished wine. This kills the yeast, stops fermentation, and leaves a healthy amount of residual sugar while boosting the alcohol level. Then you age the wine, and at Crasto that means an industry-leading two years in giant, 9,000-liter barrels of Portuguese oak. 

Serving vintage Port was made into a bit of an art form by the British aristocracy—think Mr. Carson in “Downton Abbey”—but it doesn’t need to be overly fussy. The important thing is to stand the bottle upright for a few hours, or overnight, allowing the sediment to fall, and then decant it off the sediment. Once decanted, the 2003 Quinta do Crasto will evolve beautifully over several evenings, and can easily be enjoyed for over a week (from Christmas to New Year’s Eve!), but it is not like basic Ruby or Tawny which can last for months after being opened. Serve this powerful, brooding wine at around 60-65 degrees in Bordeaux or Port stems and the full array of aromas and flavors will astound: Black cherry liqueur, ripe plums, dates, dried apricot, leather, cigar box, cinnamon, espresso bean, cocoa powder, and hints of smoked meat lead to a hedonistically rich texture that is lifted by a surprisingly fresh acidity, and a long, mineral finish. I like top tier Port like this with a simple platter of cheeses—Stilton, long-aged cheddar, gouda, etc.—but it is also perfect for a show-stopping dessert. And although this beauty is singing at 20 years old, it has many decades of life ahead of it, so take advantage of our incredibly great price and stock up!

Quinta do Crasto, Vintage Porto

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