The House of Croft, founded in 1678, was one of the earliest shippers of Port wines and since the seventeenth century, has been renowned for the excellence of its production.The family first became involved in wine shipping through their connection with a distinguished family of merchants, the Thompsons of York. The Thompsons had been trading with Portugal since 1660 and when Thomas Croft married Frances, daughter of Sir Stephen Thompson, it was only natural that the two families should combine their business interests in the wine trade.
Near river, rail and road transport and lying against a backdrop of rugged mountainous scenery, Roêda is considered to be the finest Port estate in Portugal. And today, it is from its own famous Quinta da Roêda, in the centre of the Douro valley, that Croft annually sends down to its lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia the fine wines that constitute the best of Croft's production.The twentieth century directors and managers of Croft & Co. have assiduously pursued the fine quality and reputation they inherited. The House of Croft has continued to play a dominant role in the development of the Port trade, both in Portugal and internationally.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Duoro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
Blended from the most important red grapes of the Douro Valley, Port is based on Touriga Nacional with over 80 other varieties approved for use. However, typically only four other varieties play a major role: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca. Other wine regions of the world can produce fortified wine of a similar style from the same grapes or other grapes.
Tasting Notes for Port
Port is a sweet, fortified wine with numerous styles: Ruby, Tawny, Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), White, Colheita, and a few unusual others. Ruby Ports usually pack the most value and are ready to drink once bottled. Typical characteristics are ripe cherry and blackberry flavors with stewed plums, cocoa and dates. Tawny ports are “tawny” in color and have flavors of toffee, caramel, toasted pecans, vanilla, dried apricot, citrus peel, green figs and roasted espresso. The age designation on a Tawny indicates the average age of the grapes in the bottle. These are not intended for age once bottled. When Port is made with high quality grapes selected from a single notable vintage, it is called Vintage Port. Some of the best recent vintages are 2016, 2011, 2007, 2003, 2000, 1997 and 1994. Vintage Port is complex full-bodied with many flavors possible: concentrated blackberry, black cherry, raspberry and spice, smoke, coffee and chocolate. Vintage ports tend to improve in the bottle up to approximately 30 years from the vintage. LBV Port comes from a single-vintage Ruby Port and may spend six years in the barrel before being bottled. These are ready to drink 3-6 years after release. Serve most Ports slightly chilled at around 55-65°F.
Perfect Food Pairings for Port
Pecan pie, biscotti and crème brûlée are perfect food pairings for Tawny Port. Molten chocolate cake, dark chocolate covered cherries and chocolate trifle work well with Ruby Port. An assortment of nuts and cheese will pair with almost any sort of Port.
Sommelier Secrets for Port
Colheita is best explained as a Tawny port from a single vintage. These must be aged in wood for at least seven years before release, though most are aged longer.