When you think of drinking port, does your mind go to a) a sessionable and sparkly aperitif (the refreshing porto tonico, or white port and tonic) that’s enjoyed before dinner all over Portugal, or b) a pink spirit that’s perfect for rose-tinted cocktails? Or do you think of c) cigars and smoking jackets and autumnal colors — those traditional ruby and tawny hues — sipped neat before a glowing fireplace?
The correct answer is now d) all of the above. Siroco, a dry white port, and Croft Pink, a rosé style recently released in the U.S., in particular are delicious served solo over ice as you would vermouth. We talked to Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership in Portugal, about the newer apertivo-style ports, already popular in Europe, that are coming across the ocean to satisfy Americans’ deep thirst for spritz-style cocktails. (The conversation has been edited for length.)
Q. What about how Americans are drinking led you to believe they would be ready for apertivo-style ports?
A: We used to sell Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry and Fonseca Siroco in the U.S. and decided in the late 1990s to focus only on Chip Dry. Because of cocktails, the demand has increased and it is now clear that we need to expand our offer, so we are re-introducing Siroco and Chip Dry. Croft Pink is different. We introduced this in 2008 in order to stimulate the apertivo market and give the mixologists something to work with in the bar — thus taking port out of being just in the hands of the sommelier. Its growth has demonstrated that people not only love the flavor, but also that there is a strong market for port as an aperitivo.
Q. Can you compare the Siroco to Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry? Are they similar or is one drier?
A. Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry is more dry, structured and rich. Fonseca is a more rounded, plumper, generous style and this shows itself well with Siroco. There is a greater fullness in the mouth.
Q. Please talk about how Croft Pink is made.
A. We use a bladder press to pass the grapes to a tank where they will be on the skins for 12 hours before the juice is decanted off to a temperature controlled tank for a 10-day fermentation at 15 degrees centigrade. This fermentation is about three times longer than normal port and it is designed to bring out the more delicate flavors. We also fortify with the same high quality neutral grape spirit that we use for our vintage ports. This is expensive but it is very neutral and hence does not obstruct the delicate, nuanced soft fruit flavors of Croft Pink.
Q. How do people drink the aperitivo ports? We love a porto tonico but can you really make frosé out of pink port?
A. We innovated but then our customers innovated further — (a restaurant) in Houston put it in their slushy machines and were selling three bottles a day by the glass — that is very high volume for a port.