Is wine seasonal? In the age of air-conditioning, when we can sip a strong Tawny Port in midsummer or crank up the thermostat and enjoy a light, cooling white in January, I’m going to say no.
Summer is getting longer and winter shorter. October arrives this Sunday, but it’s still mild here. There are still tomatoes on the vine, and the leaves remain green. Nevertheless, thoughts of autumn aren’t far away: wood fires, leaves changing colors, a chilly feel in the morning air. Those hearty seasonal dinners that don’t seem quite right on summer days will be back on our tables soon.
And so will rich, strong dessert wines, like Port.
Port is a fortified wine, a genre that also includes Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala. Fortified wines gain warmth of flavor and alcoholic strength from the addition of a little brandy toward the end of the wine-making process. This fortification treatment adds alcoholic strength to the wine – Port typically comes in at 20% alcohol, significantly more than the 12% to %14 percent of most table wines. It also contributes to the wine’s flavor; yields a wine that’s strong yet also sweet thanks to unfermented sugars; imparts ageworthiness through the preservative effect of alcohol; and for that reason also ensures that the wine will last for a long time in barrel or in bottle.