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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m from B.C., Canada, and would like to make a white Port wine. Can you tell me what grapes in B.C. I can use for a white Port? We grow Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Riesling.
—Heather K., British Columbia, Canada
That sound you’re hearing is the sound of Port lovers everywhere cringing at your question. Genuine Port comes from the Douro Valley in Portugal, and the term “Port” properly refers to nothing but the real stuff.
But let’s set that aside for a moment. Let’s just say you want to make a Port-like wine. Keep in mind that Port is a fortified wine. That means it starts like most wines, with the grape sugars converting to alcohol. But in the case of Port, before fermentation is finished, a distilled spirit—typically grape brandy—is added, stopping the fermentation while the wine is still sweet. The end result is a wine with higher alcohol content and residual sweetness.
People may be most familiar with Port made from red wine grapes, but there are white versions made as well. The grapes typically used for those wines—Gouveio and Malvasia Fina, for example—don’t line up with what’s available to you. So, time to experiment!
But before I go, I should point out that there are some fine dessert wines made from Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Riesling that aren’t fortified. You might want to look into late-harvest wines. These are made from grapes that are left on the vine longer than usual, allowing them to get riper. Eventually, the grapes naturally dehydrate, concentrating their flavors and taking on sweet, raisin-like qualities.
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