Winter Optimism

Having worked in all facets of hospitality, it was only a matter of time before I began writing about it. It all started with me working on the floor looking into the kitchen, feeling that I would be better placed there. Always loving food, and learning more about it then led to me wanting to pair this with wine. So it was a natural progression for me to learn about wines in order to improve my understanding and obsession with flavours. This process got me back to the restaurant floor, so it is safe to say that my bases are well and truly covered in the wonderful world of food and wine.

I am not sure if it’s because I don’t know what I am in for, but I am excited for my first Tassie winter. There are a group of mothers that are highly amused by my choice of outfits picking up the girls from school. I am already donning scarves, boots and beanies, when there are still many mums and dads swanning around in shorts and t-shirts. When I mentioned with glee to a Tassie friend that we got our first ever delivery of firewood, and how excited I was to have a real live fireplace, she placed her hand on my shoulder with a knowing expression on her face and said “let’s see how excited you still are in August”.

I am determined. I WILL still be excited. I have a fire place. I have a velvet chair. I have port. What’s not to like? Hubby and I had our first fireside port a few nights ago. A little goes a long way I find, so we only need a wee dram each. At the moment, we are drinking Penfolds Club Reserve Classic Tawny. You can snap this up for around $15. I find this to be maraschino cherry on the nose and a little medicinal. The flavour is intensely sweet and raisony, but there is little depth. No matter, that is what the blue cheese is for!

For those of you who don’t know, port is a sweet fortified wine. There are several different types. Ruby port is inexpensive and has a pleasant, quaffable, fruity flavour. Reserve ruby port costs a little more as better quality fruit is used and it is aged in oak a little longer. As such, there is a little more complexity found. Going up again in quality is Late Bottled Vintage Port which, unlike the other two styles, comes from a single harvest. These are ready to drink straight off the bat and display rich, dark berry notes. They differ from more highly priced Vintage Ports, as these, like champagne, are only made in very good years. They are aged and this is where really intense fruit flavours and tannins come to the fore. Unlike the cheaper style of ports, these aged ports need to be decanted.

Now, was somebody mentioning blue cheese? This is a match made in heaven for port. Perhaps if you were drinking a more expensive port like a Vintage, I would try it with dark Valrhona chocolate. Yummy. Now, back to trying to light that fire.

This article first appeared in the Australia Times Gourmet Magazine.

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