A long time ago, what English wine drinkers wanted from their favorite Portuguese wines was consistent quality. The wines making the trip to England were always changed by the ocean voyage.

A couple of English lads located in the Oporto region of Portugal in the late 1600s, decided to meet the demands of their fellow countrymen for a reliable quality. They stopped the wine’s fermentation with the addition of a neutral spirit, resulting in a rise of the level of alcohol and leaving a bit of sugar unresolved in the mix.

That did the trick. Port, as a wine spirit, was born.

Lately this most enchanting beverage has shown its stamina by being one of the few beverages to withstand the ravages of the recession, actually enjoying an increase in sales worldwide.

Pontchartrain Vineyards across the lake – and far from the river – has created a wonderful American version of the European classic. 

Pontchartrain’s “The Port of New Orleans” begins with old-vine zinfandel grapes serving as the wine’s base. Heady aromas and delightfully clean flavors make this the perfect drink for cooler nights and heavier cuisine.

This cooler season of the year seems perfect for warmer drinks. Port makes for a festive beverage – quite easy to prepare – with the addition of spices, a bit more sugar, some citrus and cinnamon.

MULLED PORT
(Scale ingredients to servings)
750 milliliter bottle port
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 oranges
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Peel and slice the oranges, and place the peel in a large nonreactive saucepan. Add cloves, mace, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon stick, sugar and 2 cups of water. Set over a medium-high heat and stir frequently to dissolve the sugar.

Allow to reach an early boil and then turn heat down to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and return to the pan. Add port and heat, but do not boil. Serve in Irish coffee glasses with a slice of peeled orange in each.  Makes 6.