Port fans barely recognize it as a drink. But if you allow white Port to stand on its own as a simple, enjoyable summer apéritif instead of measuring it against its complex, nuanced red cousin, you might be pleasantly surprised. Made in Portugal from indigenous white grapes, white Port is a fortified wine around 18 to 20 percent alcohol. Sweet, or lagriama, whites are fermented in tanks and sometimes wood, and flavors range from honey nectar to caramel and hazelnut. Dry white Ports are fermented longer in tanks and usually wood, and have a hint of sweetness and a nutty finish.
Versions of white Port are made with different grapes in California, Australia and elsewhere, though as with red Port, authentic white Port is only made in the Douro Valley in Portugal.
· To drink: Drink white Port chilled straight up in a white wine glass, or pour equal parts white Port and tonic or soda water in a cocktail glass and garnish with lime. Sweet white Port is ideal for sangria—macerate the fruit in white Port before mixing with a bottle of white wine, or substitute white Port for the wine altogether. Unopened white Port will keep a few years, or opened and refrigerated up to a month.
· Accompaniments: Serve dry white Port with almonds, hard cheese, stone fruits, pâté or sushi, and sweet white Port with a light dessert such as sponge cake or a meringue shell filled with fresh fruit.
· Cook: Add dry white Port to potato or seafood chowder or in place of white wine in any recipe to add depth and a nutty flavor. Use sweet white Port in desserts and sauces.
· Try: Ramos Pinto, Niepoort and Sandeman make good dry versions for drinking; Churchill’s dry is aged longer and is darker, nuttier and a good addition to soup. Prager’s Aria, a Californian off-dry, nutty sweet white, complements an assortment of appetizers, and Sobon Estate’s Rezerve, a light, fragrant, sweet California white Port, is excellent in sangria or as an after-dinner drink.