Monday, September 10, 2018
Celebrate Port Wine Day!
--Francisca Van Zeller
Today is Port Wine Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of the wonders of Port. This is the fifth such celebration and September 10 was chosen as the annual date as it is the day when Port's designation of origin was created back in 1756. Today is a day to enjoy a glass of Port (or several), to learn more about this delightful fortified wine, and to spread the word to others.
As a Cavaleiro in the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, a Knight in the Brotherhood of Port Wine, it is my responsibility to promote Port consumption, to be a passionate advocate and help educate others about the fascinating history and details of Port. For some background information on Port, you can check out my five-part Origins of Port, my article on the Diversity of Port, or some of my Port reviews. Next month, I'll be traveling to Porto and the Douro region, so you can expect to see much more coverage of Port in the coming months.
How much Port is consumed in the U.S.? Let's first look back to 2010 so we can gain some sense of the past and assess how consumption has changed during the last decade. Portugal produced about 6.7 million cases of Port, which was a reduction of over 10% since 2007. What might surprise many people is that the largest importer of Port was France, buying about 28.5% of all Port production, and it has actually occupied the top spot since 1963. Who would have though the French were such big fans of Port wine?
Holland, in second place, purchased about 14.2% while Portugal itself, in a close third place, purchased about 14%. Great Britain, which once was the primary consumer of Port, now occupied fourth place while the U.S. occupied sixth place, buying only 3.9%, broken down roughly into 374,000 cases of Port, comprised of 107,000 Reserve Ports, 77,000 Ruby and 70,000 Tawny Ports. U.S. purchases of Port had been generally declining from a high of 4.6% in 2006, except for a slight boost in 2010, up from 3.8% in 2009.
We can now look at current Port wine sales, from January to June 2018, including comparing them to the similar period in 2017. Portugal produced about 3.3 million cases of Port, down 1.2% from 2017. That total was divided into 2.7 million cases of standard Port and 560,000 cases of premium Port. Once again, the largest importer of Port was France, buying about 30.9%, an increase since 2010. Second place is now occupied by Portugal, at 16.3% and Holland falls back to third place at 13.6%. Belgium now occupies fourth place at 11.6%, and Great Britain has dropped to fifth place at 5.9%.
The U.S. remains at the sixth position though it now purchases 4.8%, an increase since 2010 and a new high, above the 4.6% in 2006. This percentage translated into about 160,000 cases. The percentage increase is primarily due to an increase in the purchase of premium Ports. Despite this increase, Port in the U.S. remains a niche beverage. 160,000 cases is still a relatively small amount when compared to all of the other wine available in the U.S.
There are plenty of California wineries which produce more than that in a single year. The U.S. also imports far larger amounts of wines from other countries, such as approximately 243 million cases of Italian wine. The amount of Port that comes into the U.S. is a small drop compared to so many other domestic and imported wines. As such, not enough Americans are enjoying the pleasures of Port and they need to be introduced to this compelling wine. It is promising to see that more Americans are drinking Port, but we need a significantly larger percentage to become Port fans.
If you already enjoy Port, then continue to explore its diversity and try types of Port you might not be familiar. In addition, share Port with your family and friends, showing them the pleasures of Port, trying to persuade them to drink more Port. If you don't know much about Port, then make an effort to learn more about it. Buy some Port and drink it, both alone and paired with food. Check out Port from various producers and see how their styles differ. Try pairing Port with food, such as Port and Blue Cheese, or Port and chocolate. Slowly savor a Vintage Port with good friends, reveling in its complexity and diverse flavors.
How will you celebrate Port Day today?
"Port is the oil of good conversation."