Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Return of Chicken Cock Whiskey

“The G.G. White Co. has shipped 180 barrels of eighteen year old Chicken Cock whiskey to Boston parties.”
--The Bourbon News (KY), April 1, 1898

Chicken Cock Whiskey was obviously extremely popular in Boston in the 19th century. Now that the brand has returned, how will it be received in Boston, and elsewhere? 

In 1856, James A. Miller built a distillery in Paris, Kentucky, starting the Chicken Cock Whiskey brand. Unfortunately, only a few year laters, Miller passed away, and George G. White, his former distillery clerk, purchased the distillery, continuing the brand. In 1880, he renamed the distillery to G.G. White Distillery, but also renamed the whiskey as the Old J.A. Miller Chicken Cock.

The earliest mention I found to Chicken Cock Whiskey in the newspapers was in an advertisement in The Times-Picayune (LA), November 20, 1862. The earliest mentions, for a number of years, were nearly all in Louisiana newspapers. One interesting mention was in The Louisiana Democrat (LA), January 20, 1869, in an ad which stated, “just received a fresh supply of the genuine Miller Chicken Cock Whiskey, an article that every body knows is good, when genuine, as this is.” It appears at this time there might have been counterfeit whiskey being passed off as the real thing. 

The Arizona Daily Star (AZ), June 1, 1880, printed an ad by the agents for J.A. Miller’s Chicken Cock Whiskey in Arizona and New Mexico. 

The Lowell Sun (MA), December 2, 1893, published an ad for the, “celebrated Chicken Cock Whiskey, 4 years old, for 75 cents, for a 1/5th." And the The Bourbon News (KY), March 21, 1899, mentioned, “…John Henry Trigg was sentenced to ten years for stealing a barrel of Chicken Cock whiskey,..” 

During the 20th century, Chicken Cock Whiskey was very popular, and even during Prohibition it was still sought after. For example, it was said to have been popular in the Cotton Club, where it was smuggled into the club in tin cans. Unfortunately, the original distillery burned down in the 1950s, so the whiskey wasn't available for a time. 

The Chicken Cock brand began its resurrection in 2011, when Matti Anttila, the CEO of Grain and Barrel Spirits, learned about the old brand from his research and decided it deserved to return. In 2018, Grain and Barrel, with master distiller Gregg Snyder, joined with the Bardstown Bourbon Company to create Chicken Cock Whiskey. They now produce a Straight Bourbon, a Straight Rye, and a number of limited releases. 

At the recent WhiskyX event held in Boston, where I was a media guest, I had the opportunity to taste both the Chicken Cock Straight Bourbon and Straight Rye. I was most impressed with their Straight Bourbon although I enjoyed the Straight Rye as well. I can see how these whiskies could become very popular in the Boston area, maybe as much as it had been popular in 1898. 

The Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (about $60) is produced from a Mashbill of 70% Corn, 21% Rye, and 9% Malted Barley. It doesn't have an age statement, is bottled at 90 proof, and the bottle itself is a replica of the Prohibition-era bottle. With a pleasing golden-brown color, it has an appealing and complex nose, with notes of caramel, vanilla, spice and more. It's smooth on the palate, with only a touch of heat, and isn't as sweet as many bourbons due to its high rye percentage. The taste possesses a complex melange of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, dried fruit, and more with a lengthy, spicy finish. It's an excellent sipping Bourbon, and each sip will bring something new and delicious to your mouth. Highly recommended!

The Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (about $70) is produced from a Mashbill of 95% Rye and 5% malted barley. It doesn't have an age statement, is bottled at 90 proof, and the bottle itself is also a replica of the Prohibition-era bottle. It too has a pleasing golden-brown color, and its nose presents more spice notes, with underlying caramel. On the palate, the spice dominates, especially baking spices, with touches of vanilla and caramel, and a hint of chocolate. The finish is long, spicy and satisfying. 

Have you tried the new Chicken Cock Whiskey yet?

Monday, September 25, 2023

Rant: Food/Drink Writers, Challenge Yourself!

"They say the longer a man goes without facing a challenge, the weaker he becomes."
--Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (originally serialized 1935-1939, first English translation 1981)

Musashi is an excellent (and huge!) novel about samurai in 17th century Japan, and as I recently reread it, I was struck by the above quote. As I pondered it, I saw its applicability to many different areas, including food and drink writing, a topic I want to address now. 

Food/drink writers, are you challenging yourself? Or are you simply doing the same writing that you've been doing for years? Do you have five or ten years of writing experience, or just one year of experience that you have repeated five or ten times?

If your writing has become stagnant, if you haven't challenged yourself in years, then maybe now is the time to change it. None of us are perfect so we should take the opportunity to improve, and we do that by challenging ourselves, to become better. It's a never-ending objective, and fortunately there is so much to learn and experience in the food & drinking arena that we will never lack for challenge.  

When the pandemic raged, it was a more difficult time for food and drink writers. Restaurants closed, wine tasting events were canceled, and were much less food & drink opportunities for writers. Some writers simply wrote very little, failing to up their game, failing to create their own opportunities. They didn't challenge themselves, and their writing suffered.

For myself, I took the time to write more historical articles about food and drink, original pieces often looking into the origins of these items. Even with restaurants closed and tasting events canceled, I still found plenty to write about. I just had to be more inventive, and devote my energies in a slightly different vein. I challenged myself to improve my writing, and to expand the scope of my blog, to continue to make it fresh and relevant.

What did you with your writing when the pandemic raged?

Take a look at your writing and consider whether you have been challenging yourself or not. If not, then step up and start challenging yourself. Don't just keep repeating the same old stale writing you've been doing for years. Up your game! Make yourself a better writer. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) On Tuesday, October 17, starting at 6:30pm, Harvest Cambridge will be hosting a special Taste of Harvest Dinner spotlighting Sous Chef Robert Giunta and its main source of culinary inspiration- New England's bountiful harvest.

Chef Giunta's dinner will celebrate the abundant fall harvest of local farms and Harvest's suppliers with an elevated six-course tasting menu. To complement the menu and spirit of the night, each course will be paired with historic vintages and rare cuvées from Harvest's Wine Spectator award-winning wine cellar. 

The pairing menu will feature:
Duck Rillette with fig and balsamic jam, sourdough toast paired with Ayala, Majeur, Brut, Aÿ Champagne NV
Spiced Squash Soup with crème fraîche, pepitas paired with Franz Hirtzberger, Grüner Veltliner, Rotes Tor, Federspiel, Wachau 2020
Chestnut Agnolotti with red wine currants, sweet potato, brown butter chestnuts paired with Hubert Lamy, La Princée, Saint-Aubin Blanc 2019
EVOO Poached Halibut with celery root, salsify, parsnips, squid ink tuile paired with Kosta Browne, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2021
Duck Breast with sunchoke robuchon, hen of the woods, Cornell duck jus paired with Château Pontesac, Médoc 2009
Candy Cap Mushroom: candy cap mousse, black cocoa crumb, pecan, orange cranberry paired with Henriques & Henriques, 10 Year Boal, Madeira, Portugal

Tickets cost $140 per person and can be purchased HERE

2) On Thursday, November 2, Bistro du Midi will be celebrating Chef Robert Sisca’s love of the outdoors with an indulgent, five-course Game & Truffle Dinner, with sommelier chosen wine pairings. The menu will include the following:

Live Scallop Crudo: green apple, cilantro, citrus crumb, fresno pepper emulsion 
Rabbit Farci: castelvetrano olive, piquillo pepper, parsnip purée, smoked rabbit jus 
White Truffle Tagliatelle: cultured butter, parmigiano, chive, fresh alba white truffle 
Milbrook Farms Venison Wellington: foie gras mushroom duxelles, burgundy truffle, venison jus Huckleberry Pie: pate brisee, devonshire mousse, black truffle yogurt  

Tickets cost $250 per person and can be purchased HERE.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rant: Where's The Love For Fortified Wines?

Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, and Vermouth are some of my favorite wines, yet they receive far less attention than they deserve. These wines are "Fortified" wines, meaning that a distilled spirit, often brandy or a neutral spirit, is added to the wine. As such, their alcohol content is commonly 15-20%, higher than the average wine, but at least half as much as the typical spirit. Other types of fortified wines exist as well, although the five I mentioned are the most common. 

Why don't these fortified wines receive more love?

Even many ardent wine lovers don't give much attention to these wines. Vermouth is often relegated to being a mere cocktail ingredient. Marsala is often seen as merely a cooking wine. Sherry is too often seen as something only one's grandparents would drink. Port might receive the most attention of any fortified wine, yet the diversity of Port is still largely ignored. For example, many people are unaware of white port, especially the aged versions. 

A number of wine drinkers enjoy sweeter wines, but even though some of these fortified wines are sweet, these wine drinkers still don't pay much attention to them. Sherry may be the king of wines for food pairings, yet it's rare a wine drinker seeks out Sherry for their dinner.  When's the last time you had a sommelier recommend a Sherry for your dinner? In fact, when's the last time a sommelier recommended any type of fortified wine to you for dinner? At best, they might recommend one for dessert, but not for your savory courses. 

One benefit to these wines not receiving much attention is that you can find some special values, far less expensive than similar wines of similar age and quality. For example, over the summer I enjoyed a 60 year old Port, which cost less than $200. If you tried to purchase a still wine, of similar age, you would likely pay at least double, if not triple that price or more. 

Wine lovers, you should expand your palates and experience the marvels of fortified wine. There is so much diversity in these wines, from bone-dry Sherry to sweet Port, from herbal Vermouth to dry Madeira. These are also wines with rich histories, and once were much more popular around the world. It's time for a comeback for these wines, and I strongly encourage you to explore this fascinating wine category. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) On Wednesday, September 20, at 6:30pm, Coach Grill, in Wayland, will welcome Chris Ireland, founder of Ireland Family Wines, for a night of cuisine and wine. Located in Russian River Valley in the heart of Sonoma County, Ireland Family Wines was founded with a vision to produce wine that embodies the flavor of a place in time. Ireland was inspired to open the winery after a 1989 trip to explore Napa Valley and Sonoma, spending years studying and honing his viticulture craft before Ireland Family Wine’s first harvesting of a pinot noir, a process that began in 2020.

Ireland will be joined by Coach Grill’s executive chef, Carlos Martinez, to guide gourmands through a culinary adventure of Ireland wines curated to complement each course. During the reception, guests will be presented with a chef’s selection of hors d’oeuvres with the Works & Days Sonoma chardonnay. For the first course, alternate sips of the Russian River pinot noir with Chef Martinez’s lobster bisque. The entrée is a seared sirloin with smashed fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus paired with the Coursey Graves syrah hailing from Bennett Valley. To end the evening on a sweet note, there is a chocolate mousse cake with fresh berries and crème anglaise alongside the Napa Coursey Graves cabernet sauvignon.

Tickets cost $125 per person (does not include tax or gratuity). This event is reserved for ages 21+ with proper ID. Reservations required in advance via Tock.

2) In honor of the late, great Jimmy Buffet, Loretta's Last Call will be hosting a special Jimmy Buffet Tribute Brunch on Saturday, September 16th. Taking place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Loretta's will transport guests to Margartivaille with drink specials, live music covering Jimmy Buffet's greatest hits, and its full brunch menu available for a la carte purchase. For more information, or to make reservations, please visit www.lorettaslastcall.com.

3) Thursday, September 21 is International Plavac Mali Day! The Croatian Wine Alliance, a group of global teams promoting Croatian wines, created the first International Plavac Mali Day in 2020. This collaboration is a public and private partnership among organizations from the US, Canada, Australia, Europe and Croatia – all dedicated to telling the many stories of this indigenous and predominant Croatian red variety. 

Plavac Mali is a descendant of Zinfandel (aka Tribidrag or Crljenak kaštelanski) creating a natural hybrid with another indigenous variety, Dobričić. Plavac Mali produces several styles of wines, from medium-bodied and easy-drinking, to elegant and robust wines. The aromas in Plavac mali are predominantly dark berries and Mediterranean herbs with expressive tannins, and mineral on the palate. Plavac Mali means ‘little blue’, referring to its appearance, small and dark blue berries. I've tasted many delicious Plavac Mali wines, and it's definitely a grape you should know more about.

You can celebrate International Plavac Mali Day in many different wines, such as:  
  • Create your own party, wine pairings, or educational events – in person or virtually
  • Follow and Share posts about Plavac Mali’s adventures on https://www.facebook.com/internationalplavacmaliday
  • Post your own content, tag @internationalplavacmaliday and hashtag #plavacmali and #internationalplavacmaliday
  • Write and share articles about #plavacmali
  • Follow @croatianpremiumwine on IG for the live event on September 21 and get a glass of Plavac Mali to join them live for a virtual Plavac Mali tasting. 
Croatian Premium Wine Imports is providing a 20% discount off their Top Ten Plavac Mali wines so you can get some wine to celebrate this holiday. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Ailaa: New Nepali Restaurant in Stoneham--First Impressions

A newcomer to the culinary scene in Stoneham is Ailaa Himalayan Bar and Grill, owned by Ujjwal Dhaubadel and located on Montvale Avenue, which offers traditional Nepali cuisine, as well as some modern twists. The word "Ailaa" refers to a homemade traditional alcohol, distilled from fermented grains, and which also has religious significance. According  to their website, "Our goal with “Ailaa” is to introduce traditional recipes from all parts of Nepal, to showcase the rich culture passed on through generations & to add more unique flavors to the growing Boston food scene."

I've dined there twice so far, and have been impressed with the delicious taste and depths of flavor found in their dishes. I've only started scratching the surface of the diverse offerings on their menu, and eagerly look forward to returning there to try more dishes. It earns a hearty recommendation, and I strongly urge my readers to dine there, and learn more about Nepali cuisine. 

It's a medium-sized restaurant, with lots of dark wood colors, and Nepali decorations. There's a small bar and in one corner is space for a music performer. And there are two large-scale televisions, where sport events are often shown. 

Nepali cuisine includes dishes and ingredients that have some similarities to what can be found in Tibetan, Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisines. Commonly used ingredients include lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, coriander, cumin seeds, garlic, mustard oil, and peppers. Although the names of many of the dishes will be unfamiliar to you, the food itself may look more familiar. However, because of the Nepali spices and ingredients, the food often has a different flavor profile than what you might expect, but one which is very pleasant and delicious. For example, their Fried Rice may look somewhat like the usual Chinese fried rice, but it has a different taste and texture.  

The Food Menu has many diverse choices, including dishes such as Choila, Sekuwa, Thali, Bara, and Samay Baji. You'll also find more familiar dishes like Chowmein, Fried Rice and Wings. And for the very adventurous, you can try dishes such as Tauko Fry (whole goat head boiled & pan fried) or Sampumhichha (beef tripe stuffed with bone marrow boiled & pan fried). As for their Wing dishes, two are at a Spicy level of 5/5, including the Timur Rub and Akbare Mango. They also offer three Desserts.

Most of the dishes are under $20, and considering the quality and quantity of the dishes, you will find very good value here. For groups, you can also order a couple large, appetizer platters, such as the Ailaa Nanglo Set, which consists of 10 different appetizers, priced at $55-$60.   

The Chips & Chutney ($8) are home-made potato chips with a side of Himalayan salsa. Crisp, flavorful potato chips (without any salt), with a mild salsa. A great bar snack, and you receive an ample quantity of chips. They also have a dish called Bar Fries, which are home-made chips with Himalayan spices and Sichuan peppercorn. 

The Chicken Lollipop ($15), isn't listed under their Wings section, and that might be because these are not spicy. These were deep fried chicken wings, battered with Himalayan spices, and they were very meaty and tender, with a fine crunchy exterior. The spices provided an intriguing taste to the chicken, elevating the dish. 

The Pork Fried Rice ($13) is Basmati rice, stir fried with butter, with seasonal veggies and a choice of meat. This dish though came without vegetables, except a little topping of green onions. I loved the taste of this dish, the long-grained Basmati with a slight fried crunch to it and the intriguing spices (including some spicy heat). As for the pork, it was more lean, meaty and crunchy, not like the fatty pork pieces you get at many Chinese restaurants. A familiar dish in some respects, but also different as well. There was so much that I took some home, and it tasted just as good later, reheated. 

The Chicken Fried Rice ($13), also without vegetables, was delicious as well, with plenty of pieces of tender and slightly crunchy chicken pieces. 

The Chicken Chilli ($15) is prepared with assorted peppers, onions and homemade chilli sauce. The chilli sauce here is not like the typical chili sauce you might know. Yes, it is spicy but the flavor profile is different, and quite tasty. The lightly fried pieces of chicken were tender and meaty, the intriguing chilli sauce enhancing the chicken. Highly recommended! This dish is also available with Buffalo, Pork, Chips, or Sukuti (Jerky). 

Momos, basically dumplings, are indigenous to South Asia, especially Tibet, Nepal, parts of India, and Bhutan, though the word itself seems to have Chinese origin, and simply means "steamed bun." At Ailaa, you can order Momos ($12-$17) made with Vegetables, Chicken, Pork, or Buffalo. They can also be prepared in several different ways, including Steamed, Pan Fried, Jhol or Chilli. 

Above are Pan Fried Pork Momos ($13), with a thin dumpling wrapper and a hearty pork filling, almost like a small meatball. It was very flavorful, and the spices used in the pork were different and intriguing. There was a slightly spicy sauce for dipping as well. Who doesn't like dumplings? And these Momos are sure to please. 

The Buffalo Jhol ($15) are in a cold broth, which is commonly made with ingredients such as sesame, garlic, tomato, onion, lemons and achar (an Indian condiment of pickled fruits and vegetables with spices). In Nepal, especially its capital Kathmandu, jhol momos are an extremely popular street food. "Jhol" roughly translates as "liquid" or a "liquid-like consistency." The broth is tasty and interesting, with a nice depth of flavor. They add a new level of taste to the momos. Definitely worth trying.

The Chicken Chatamari ($13) is a rice flour crepe topped with chicken and a few vegetables, served with a side of vegetable curry. You can also order this dish with Vegetables or Buffalo, and also get it topped with an egg if you so desire (as I did). This almost resembles a type of pizza, and the crepe is crunchy, not soft. There was plenty of tasty chicken atop the crepe, and the egg was a nice addition. Again, the dish seems familiar but with its own unique flavor profile.

The Menu has three Desserts, and on my visit, I opted for the Yomari ($6), a rice flour dumpling stuffed with dark chocolate and sesame seeds. This was a bit of a disappointment for me, as I found the dumpling to be too thick and chewy. As I'm not familiar with this Nepali dish, that might be the way they are usually prepared. It's just not my preference. However, the interior of sweet, melted dark chocolate and sesame seeds was delicious.  

Overall, the food at Ailaa was impressive, and it was great to learn more about Nepali cuisine. It's reasonably priced, the dishes provide ample food, and the depth of flavor is excellent. I look forward to exploring more of the menu and heartily recommend that my readers dine there as well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A History of Vinho Verde in the U.S.

For many people, Vinho Verde is a slightly effervescent, light, fruity, low alcohol, and sometimes mildly sweet, Portuguese white wine. It's a great summer wine, and also pairs well with seafood and plenty of other dishes. However, not all Vinho Verde is the same and it's worthy to explore what else this region has to offer. We need to get over the misconception that Vinho Verde is a singular type of wine and seek out the diversity that exists.

The Vinho Verde DOC region was demarcated in 1908 and there currently are nine subregions, including Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado, Lima, Monção e Melgaço, Paiva, and Sousa. Each subregion has it own specific terroir, and some regions are better known for specific grapes. The entire region encompasses approximately 21,000 hectares of vineyards (with 47 grape varieties), 18,000 winegrowers, and 600 bottlers. White Vinho Verde is primarily made from grapes including Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro, and Trajadura. Red Vinho Verde is primarily made from Alvarelhao, Amaral, Baker, Borraçal, Espadeiro, Pedral, Rabo de Anho and Vinhão.

Annually, the region produces over 80 million liters of wine, composed of 87% White wine, 7% Red and 6% Rosé wine. These percentages were drastically different in the past, as I'll later explore in this article.  In 2021, production of Vinho Verde grew by more than 3 million liters, an increase of 3.7%, up to 84.9 million liters. The region also includes Sparkling Wine (designated Espumante de Vinho Verde), Vinous Spirit and Grape Marc Spirit (designated Aguardente Vínica de Vinho Verde and Aguardente Bagaceira de Vinho Verde), and even Wine Vinegar (designated Vinagre de Vinho Verde). 

Of the white wines, not all fit into the common perception of Vinho Verde, some lacking effervescence and being produced to be more serious and complex wines. The Vinho Verde DOC possesses much more diversity than many realize. However, it's difficult to experience this diversity in the U.S. as the more unique wines are hard to find in local wine stores. Hopefully that will change as more producers in the Vinho Verde DOC highlight their diversity and export their unique wines to the U.S. 

Vinho Verde is currently exported to over 100 markets. The top market is the United States (importing over 10 million liters) and second place is taken by Germany, although most of their Vinho Verde sales are in supermarkets, meaning they import mostly very inexpensive Vinho Verde. Poland and Russia are growing markets, while Japan imports some of the most expensive wines from Vinho Verde. 

As for the U.S., these Vinho Verde imports have grown nearly sixfold since 2000, although most still are inexpensive, lightly sparkling wines. It's only during the last decade that some of the more premium Vinho Verde wines have started being imported into the U.S. Those are the Vinho Verde wines you should seek out.

As for Portuguese wines in general, their exports reached a record high in 2022, a value of 941 Million Euros, a 5.75% growth. Their overall main wine export market was France while the U.S. was in second place, with a value of over 99 Million Euros. Port wine was still the largest category, consisting of about 296 Million Euros, while Vinho Verde took second place, with a value of about 78 Million Euros, a growth of 6.8%. As the numbers show, the value of Port wine exports is nearly 4 times are large as the second place export, Vinho Verde. 


What's the history of Vinho Verde in the U.S.? When was it first introduced into this country? How was it initially perceived? Let's explore these and other related questions.

One of the first mentions of Vinho Verde in the U.S. was in The Flag of Our Union (MA), July 30, 1853. The newspaper presented a serialized, fictional tale of Portugal, and one chapter briefly mentioned, “By the way, this vintage is good, but a little too strong; give us some of the vinho verde, (green wine).” It's likely that with this only mention of Vinho Verde during the 19th century, most Americans were unfamiliar with the term, especially as it apparently was not exported to the U.S. during the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a few books began mentioning and describing Vinho Vinho, although not always positively. For example, The Story of the Vine by Edward R. Emerson (NY & London, 1902), wrote, “One peculiar wine that is made in Portugal is the Vinho Verde or ‘green wine,’ so called from the fact that it is made from unripe black grapes, a variety which can almost be called indigenous to the soil. The wine resembles in taste a strong acid vinegar in which a goodly amount of alum has been dissolved. It is said to be very pleasant when one gets used to it, but it is seldom that any one but a native takes the second taste. It is never exported.” 

First, it's interesting to note that this Vinho Verde was a red wine, made from black grapes. Was red Vinho Verde more common then? As I mentioned above, currently, about 87% of Vinho Verde is white wine, made from white grapes. Could that percentage have been different 100 or so years ago? I'll raise this issue again later in this article as more evidence arises. Second, the wine isn't said to have a good taste, unless you somehow get used to it over time. Third, it was also noted that Vinho Verde wasn't exported at that time. 

In another book, by the same author, Beverages, Past and Present by Edward R. Emerson (NY & London, 1908), he continued his rant against Vinho Verde. First, he noted, “In the northern part of Portugal and especially in the province of Minho the farmers make for themselves and their labourers a wine which they call vinho verde—or green wine. This wine never leaves the confines of the country,….” So again, he mentions that this wine weren't exported. 

The book continued, “Any one therefore who has tasted the famous vinho verde of northern Portugal—the thick, red, sour and astringent wine which the Minhotes delight in—may satisfy himself that he has drunk a liquid identical in every way with that wherewith the Latian farmer quenched his thirst two thousand years ago.” So, it's now clear that this Vinho Verde was red. In addition, the writer seems to believe the wines were similar to those that were produced a couple thousand years ago.

In addition, the book added, “Vinho verde is not made to keep more than a few months over a year, and by April that which was made some eighteen months ago has reached the dregs and is hard and poor, but that which was made in the previous September has, during the winter, become clear and with the opening of spring is ready to use.” Thus, Vinho Verde was allegedly not a wine made to last, although nowadays, there are definitely Vinho Verdes that are intended to age very well.

In the Spain and Portugal: Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker (1908, Third Edition), there was a brief mention of Vinho Verde. “The Vinho Verde is very light and contains almost no sugar.” The previous two editions didn't mention this wine at all. And in the 4th edition (1913), it was mentioned, “The Vinho Verde, an acid red wine, is considered a good thirst-quencher.” Again, the wine was described as red, although now it was viewed more positively. Where were the white Vinho Verdes?

Vinho Verde exports! The Rutland Daily Herald (VT), August 22, 1913, discussed the status of the agriculture of Portugal in the prior year. “The vineyards produced a low quality wine, and the exportation of vinho verde (green wine) fell off considerably as compared with 1911.” So, it seems that Vinho Verde was now being exported, and exports might have only began within the prior five years or so. However, there was no indication where the wine was exported to, and it doesn't mention the U.S. received any Vinho Verde.  

The Commerce Reports (D.C.), February 26, 1916, noted that in Brazil, 80% of their wine consumption was Portuguese wines, including Vinho Verde. So, Brazil was clearly one of the export markets however, there still weren't any mentions that Vinho Verde was yet being exported to the U.S. 

It wouldn't be until 1940, that I found the first advertisement for Vinho Verde in the U.S. The Albuquerque Journal (NM), December 25, 1940, ran a wine ad, which included, “Vinho Verde Tamegao, a light red, dry, Portuguese wine, in beautiful stone jug. Fifth $1.85.” Again, we see that Vinho Verde was a red wine. It's possible, and maybe even likely, that at this time, and earlier, red Vinho Verde was produced much more than white versions. And that would be supported by later references. I'll also note that this Vinho Verde import seemed to be a rarity, as there weren't any other such imports mentioned in the newspapers until the 1960s. Its fascinating that the first known Vinho Verde export to the U.S. might have been a red wine. 

A Portuguese pairing menu. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX), March 19, 1950, noted that, “The national wine board of Portugal has issued directions as to what the well-bred, well-fed and properly drinking man will consume as beverages all day long. Portuguese products will get a monopoly if the ‘fastidious and discriminating American gentleman’ (and his spouse) follows the curriculum.” The article continued, “Here is the chronological list: Appetizers, Madeira and port, dry or sweet; hors d’ouvres, sparkling wines, brut or dry; soup, Madeira or tawny port; fish, white wines-Vinhos Verdes, Alenque, Agueda or Bucelas; entrée, light red wines—Alcobaca, Agueda, Lafoes, Bairrada, Pinhel; roasts and game, full bodied red wines—Colares, Cartaxo, Alenqer, Torres Vedras; cheese, port, full and ruby.” So, Vinho Verde was recommended for fish, an excellent pairing. 

The Modesto Bee (CA), November 30, 1950, mentioned, “Vinho Verde—pronounced veen-yo Vair-dee—is a wine from Minho, Portugal. It is consumed when young and is rarely bottled.” Another brief mention was in the Detroit Free Press (MI), November 16, 1952, discussing a dinner in Lisbon. “Vinho Verde wines that effervesced like champagne.” This is the first reference I found mentioning that Vinho Verde was fizzy.

Discussing a dinner in Cascais, Portugal, the San Francisco Examiner (CA), April 27, 1955, stated, “And we had a bottle of Vinho Verde, a light, greenish Portuguese wine with a slight effervescence that, as far as we’re concerned, is even more palatable than Portugal’s famed Lancer’s Crackling Rose.” So, this is the maybe the first mention that the Vinho Verde was not a red wine. And again, it's noted that the wine has an effervescence.

The Pittsburgh Press (PA), September 30, 1957, in an article on Portugal and wine, stated, “In the Vinho Verde country, the grapes are trained to grow up tall trees and the traveler drives through endless avenues draped on each side with high swags of green vines heavy with the autumn harvest of fat purple or pale, translucent green grapes.”

More positive comments! The Winston-Salem Journal, October 23, 1957, briefly mentioned, “the delicious Portuguese specialty, ‘vinho verde’ (green wine) which was served ice-cold from a porcelain crock—a ‘must’ if there ever was one!” And the Cincinnati Post (OH), December 26, 1959, in an article on Portugal, noted, “Wine works out at about 14 cents a bottle and is very good, particularly the vinhos verdes—young wines with a slight sparkle, marvelously refreshing in hot weather.”

Continuing the positivity, the News-Press (FL), July 2, 1962, printed, “In Portugal I found a vinho verde tinto, a fine example. Its taste was somewhat reminiscent of velvet, yet it had a bouquet as fresh as gingham. But that is exactly the only way I can describe this lovely wine. I also found a vinho verde blanco that was Montrachet or Wehlener Sonnenuhr but speaking Portuguese. This was a truly Portuguese wine, yet reminiscent of those two.” We now see references to both a red and white Vinho Verde. And comparing the white Vinho Verde to a Montrachet is quite a compliment! 

Another newspaper advertisement offering Vinho Verde for sale appeared in the Modesto Bee (CA), August 16, 1962. The ad stated, “Tres Marias Vinho Verde (White Table Wine). $1.89/5th." During the rest of the 1960s, advertisements for Vinho Verde started to become more widely seen in the newspapers, and it was nearly always for white wines.  

The Fort Lauderdale News (FL), March 7, 1963, answered a reader's question about whether Vinho Verde was also being produced in California. At this time, California was making their own version of Port Wines, as well as other wines, from Sherry to Champagne. The response to the reader was that, “Vinho Verde wines can be either red or white, are low in alcohol content (about 8 per cent), are young, and often still are fermenting in the bottle when sold. Hence they are foamy. Verde means green. But not in color. In age, as in a green fruit.” 

Addressing the reader's specific question, the newspaper responded, “California doesn’t produce such a wine because (1, the state law requires white wines to be at least 10 per cent and red wines 10 ½ per cent in alcohol content to assure stability; (2, a wine as foamy as Vinho Verde would run into the sparkling wine tax in the U.S. ($3.40 a gallon) and the price would bubble out of reason.”

More positivity! The Indianapolis Star (IN), July 12, 1964, briefly stated, “The most attractive are the vinhos verdes from the North, very light and sparkling.” And the Independent Star-News (CA), August 2, 1964, noted, “The slightly acidulous green wine or vinho verde is an attractive dinner wine.

The Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1964, ran an ad, mentioning an exhibition and sale of more than 50 varieties of Portuguese wines, including Vinho Verde. The above is a drawing of a bottle of Vinho Verde in that ad. It's interesting to note the bottle is a red Vinho Verde. 

The arrival of Casal Garcia Vinho Verde! The Chicago Tribune (IL), October 2, 1964, mentioned, “I think you’ll enjoy a fresh-flavored ‘vinho verde’ (green wine) of Portugal called Casal Garcia, which comes in a cute, squatty bottle with a cluster of green plastic grapes hanging around its neck. It is a very light wine, only 10 per cent alcohol.” It continued, “The name is not significant of color; this wine is almost white, but another vinho verde might be red or pink. Green as related to Portuguese wines carries the implication of young and ‘eager.’ Portuguese wines are classifies as ‘vinhos verdes’ or ‘vinhos maduros,’ the latter being the full-bodies wines that are better when aged.” The article finished, noting that, “One Chicago wine dealer ordered 100 cases of this Portuguese newcomer, the Casal Garcia. He likes it so well that 50 cases are for his own use.” 

Casal Garcia would be the most popular and widely available Vinho Verde in the U.S. from the 1960s to the 1970s. It would often appear in newspaper wine advertisements concerning Vinho Verde. This brand is still available today, although it's bottle has changed, looking more like a common wine bottle. 

The Waukesha Daily Freeman (WI), April 14, 1965, printed a wine ad noting, “Portuguese Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Medium Dry White Wine” which sold for $2.25 4/5 quart, or 2 for $3.98. 

The Chicago Tribune (IL), May 14, 1965, printed this advertisement, although they didn't mention the name of the brand. The bottle is also an interesting shape, with a handle on the neck.  

The San Bernardino County Sun (CA), June 6, 1965, mentioned, “vinho verde, a so-called ‘green wine.’ It is made from grapes grown in fog-topped mountains. They never fully ripen and the wine flavor is usually tangy.” And the Boston Globe (MA), April 24, 1966, noted, “Try the vinho verde, the Portuguese green wine, for something different; especially good with seafood.”

Pink Vinho Verde! The San Antonio Express (TX), July 28, 1967, ran a wine ad for “Fonte Bela, Vinho Verde, Rose 1964 vintage” for only 99 cents.  

The Newsday (NY), March 14, 1968, briefly stated, “For instance, the vinho verdes, or ‘green’ wines, are actually young wines only a year or so in the bottle. Both red and white, they have a low alcoholic content (8 to 11 per cent), are semisparkling and come from the north of Portugal.”

The Galveston Daily News (TX), April 28, 1968, printed a large ad for a gourmet shop, with a concentration on Casal Garcia Vinho Verde. “The name of this month’s wine means, ‘green wine,’ and refers not to its color, but to the fact that it is young and fresh. Vinho Verde may be red, white or rose, but the best is white. It is produced in the most northern province of Portugal, the Minho. The principal grape varieties are the Azal Branco and Dourado. The vines do not grow in orderly rows, but are trained on trellises and arbots around the edges of fields where other crops are grown. Vinho Verde is a well balanced medium dry wine, and is an excellent summer wine. Serve it chilled with all light summer foods and seafood.” This is the first mention of specific grapes found in Vinho Verde. 

The Hartford Courant (CT), May 15, 1968, mentioned, “The vinho verdes, fairly new in the American market, are ‘green wines’ which may be red, white or pink; the ‘green’ refers to the youthful quality of the wines, and their light, refreshing flavor.” So, it seems that Vinho Verde was a recent export, maybe within the last five years or so. 

The Sacramento Bee (CA), July 2, 1969, printed an article by a writer who went to a Portuguese wine tasting. He stated, “I found the ‘Vinho Verde’ white table wines the most pleasant. The translation of vinho verde literally is ‘green wine’ but it really means ‘young wine.’ It is not green, but can be either red or white. The two I liked best both were water white—one was Casal Garcia and the other Tres Marias. In Portugal the vinho verdes are light in alcohol—about 9 to 10 ½ per cent—but those imported to the U.S. come in at about 12. They are refreshing, fragrant and somewhat dry.”

The Chicago Tribune (IL), October 10, 1969, in a long article on Portuguese wines mentioned that sales of their red and white table wines have increased by over 64% from the previous year. The article also stated, “Portuguese vinhos verdes are the new thing. They are ‘green wines’ only in the sense of being youthful, and having been made of somewhat underripe grapes; their alcoholic content is low, 8-11 per cent. In color, they are both red and white. They come from one of the eight legally defined districts of the Romans and later people.” It continued, “Vinhos Verdes are light, fruity wines, bright red or yellowish, and some are pink; they have a tendency to sparkle naturally.”

The Orlando Sentinel (FL), May 24, 1970, printed a large wine advertisement, with a feature on Vinho Verde. “Thousands of rugged, independent small farmers grow these vinhos verdes—which are rapidly becoming popular and fashionable summer coolers in Florida, as they have been in South American for many years!” It continued, “Vinhos verdes are light and bracing, with a sprightly, prickly tartness which is their special trademark; they range from greenish-straw to pale golden in color.” It also stated, “These are outdoor wines—for swallowing, not sipping! Try a well chilled bottle for the most sensational summer drink you can imagine.” Finally, the ad mentioned three brands, including Casal Garcia, Balboa and Scampi.

There was a lengthy article on Vinho Verde in the San Francisco Examiner (CA), July 7, 1971. It stated, “Vinho verde is strange stuff. It is red or white, but never green. When it is out of reach, the best substitutes are not other wines, but rather well-made cider or light beer. It is, in short, a refreshment.” The article then noted, “It has an extremely light body and taste—so pale in both regards that it does not interfere with appetite, even if drunk in gulps.” And it continued with, “The alcohol is almost always less than 10 percent and dips down to 8 percent or so on the wine’s home grounds. This is another encouragement to gross consumption.”

The article also mentioned, “Vinho verde prickles a bit on the tongue because it has a natural sparkle….the people who make vinho verde say that the sparkle…is due to minerals in the local soils, proof of which is that melons from the area also sparkle in the same way.” Next, it noted, “Finally, vinho verde finishes so dry that the only comparable flavor I think of is bicarbonate of soda. The wine makes you feel like you are preventing heartburn from the first bite onwards, so you shovel down an enormous meal in spite of its being 90 degrees.”

And as for red Vinho Verde, the article mentioned, “Conventionally, the white goes with shellfish and chicken, the red with pork. It is a rule most Portuguese would just as soon break as keep.” And then it was stated, “Nobody exports red vinho verde. Senhor Fernando Guedes, whose firm makes Casal Garcia, was aghast at the mere thought of it. So, although the earliest mentions of Vinho Verde mentioned the red version, it appears the white version became the most common export from Portugal.

In two issues, the Daily News also presented some interesting information about Vinho Verde. First, the Daily News (NY), July 11, 1974, began, “Tourists don’t find the Porto right away, being busy discovering Vinho Verde, the wine that can cost $1 on a seaside fish restaurant, although there are some special bottlings like Alvarhino from Moncao that run as high as $10.” This is the first mention of more premium Vinho Verde, showing that it was being produced at this time. It wasn't just the cheap, fizzy version that most were familiar. And Alvarhino from Moncao is still well known as high quality Vinho Verde.

The article also noted, “Vinho Verde is meant to be fresh and young, light and inexpensive, sometimes only 9% alcohol, just the thing to drink while lolling in the sands. Most of it is white and each vintage is meant to be drink up before the next is made,…” Finally, it mentioned, “…it has just begun to be imported into the U.S.”

Second, the Daily News (NY), July 18, 1974, added, “The perfect wine for the American market would be one that is young and fresh, low in alcohol and low in price….Vinho Verde, the perfect wine, is made here in northern Portugal, but the catch is that scarcely any of it is sent to the States.” This seems to indicate that only small amounts of Vinho Verde were yet being exported to the U.S., and Casal Garcia was probably the most dominant. 

The article continued, “It’s pronounced veen-yo vaired and it comes in the usual three colors—red, white and pink. The phrase means green wines in Portuguese, sure enough, but that refers to age, suggesting wines that should be drunk before the following vintage,…” It then noted, “The wines lose their freshness quickly, and importers have used that as an excuse for not bringing them in. The excuse was that the wines would not last a year or longer on the shelves and would go bad before they were sold.” In response, the article made the point that, “Now that wines disappear from the shelves in a matter of days, there should be a lot of Vinho Verde on the market, all of it young, from last year’s vintage or the year before.” Finally, the article mentioned, “The whites are best. They are sharp and acid, just what some people thirst for after years of drinking soft, bland wines from California or the Mediterranean countries.”

The dominance of Red Vinho Verde! The Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN), March 24, 1980, wrote about Vinho Verde, stating, “They comprise about 25 percent of all the wines made in the country. The Portuguese favor them—consuming about 90 percent of the production. About 60 percent of the wines made are red. Both the reds and whites are light and fresh—made to be drunk young. They are low in alcohol, about 10 percent, and have an attractive sparkle that leaves a tingle on the tongue.” 60% of Vinho Verde was red? Today, only 7% of the production in the Vinho Verde region is red. When and why did this percentage change so drastically? 

The Daily Register (NJ), September 11, 1985, also noted "Red Vino Verdes might be somewhat of a surprise to many people in the United States because they rarely find their way here, but red wines constitute about 70 percent of the production in the region." So, the drastic percentage difference between red and white Vinho Verde remained until at least 1985. 

The Asbury Park Press (NJ), September 20, 1987, mentioned that in the Vinho Verde region, "Although far more red is produced than white, it is the white that has become known in this country."

The dominance of Red Vinho Verde starts to wane. The Miami Herald (FL), August 29, 1999, wrote, "Unknown even to many rabid wine fans, nearly half of Portugal's vinho verdes are red--made from the traditional port grapes of touriga nacional, touriga francesca, and tinta barroca. Why are they little known? According to wine author Jancis Robinson, in her Oxford Companion to Wine, it's because the reds are 'fizzy, acidic, dry and raspy' and thus 'anathema to foreign palates." We see that the percentage of red Vinho Verde had dropped from 60%-70% to less than 50%. A relatively small decrease, but still significant.

The Kitsap Sun (WA), June 1, 2005, printed, "Vinho Verde is Portugal's most famous wine and is usually red. Half of all the Vinho Verde produced is not the exported white wine but a fizzy, acidic dry red wine. This wine is not a favorite with foreign wine drinkers but is one of the most popular for everyday drinking among the local populace. Red Vinho Verde is a shocking magenta and is as acidic as red wine gets."

For information was provided in The Miami Herald (FL), June 16, 2005, which stated that red Vinho Verde is 40% of all the Vinho Verde made. In addition, it stated, "But they export only about 1 percent of it, and even the portion that arrives in the U.S. is drunk almost entirely by the New York City's Portuguese community." Around 2014, the production of red Vinho Verde was down to 10% of the region's total production, and by 2023, that amount had decreased to 7%. Why did red Vinho Verde, in the course of only about nine years, drop from 40% down to only 10%? 


It appears that Vinho Verde started being imported into the U.S. during the early 1960s, except for maybe one or two outliers prior to that time. Red Vinho Verde may have been the first Vinho Verde to be exported to the U.S. During the 1960s, when Vinho Verde began to be more commonly exported to the U.S., Casal Garcia, a white wine, was the primary brand, although a few others were also exported to the U.S. At this time, Vinho Verde, especially the white, was largely viewed very positively, and often seen as an accompaniment for seafood. 

However, Red Vinho Verde was the most commonly produced Vinho Verde at this time, and it remained so until the 1990s, when it became closer to a 50/50 split. But, even as late as 2005, 40% of the production of Vinho Verde was still red. Yet today, one 7% red Vinho Verde is produced? Why that changed is a mystery to me, and something I want to explore further. Could red Vinho Verde become a major element once again? 

Seek out Vinho Verde, especially the more premium versions, which are more complex and diverse. And even those premium versions can often be found for reasonable prices, some under $20. I'll be visiting the Vinho Verde in October, and hope to find some amazing wines when I visit a few of their wineries. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Rant: Labor Day's Over, Time To Sample Lots Of Wine

Labor Day has passed, and many feel it's the end of summer, although technically that's not the case.  The passing of Labor Day also presages changes in the wine world, beyond the fact it's harvest season, and consumers need to pay attention. There are opportunities now, for the next several months, that they should take advantage of, to learn more about wine, to experience different wines, and to enjoy plenty of delicious wines.

Most importantly, this is the time when wine stores will stock many new wines as their busiest season is about to begin. This will also mean that many of those wine shops will hold large wine tasting events, where you may be able to taste many different wines, sometimes as many as 100 or more wines. Most of these events will be free, providing you a perfect opportunity to experience many wines which you may not have tasted before. 

As I've said before, the best way to learn about wine is to taste it so you should definitely attend these events to expand your horizons, to delve into a wealth of diversity. You might be tempted at these events to taste only those wines which you already know and love, or which are similar to those wines. That would be a mistake. It won't teach you anything and it won't provide you a new experience. 

Instead, experiment and take chances, tasting new wines, new grapes, of which you might never have heard about. Expand your palate and broaden your horizons by tasting lots of different wines, especially considering that these tastings are free and you thus have nothing to lose. You'll learn more about wine and that will probably bring you joy. You might even find a new favorite wine, or even several new favorites. 

Sure, you probably won't like everything new you taste but that shouldn't be an issue. You're only sampling the wines, taking a sip or two, and it's free. If you dislike a wine, you can just try another wine, and that will likely help you understand what wines you will enjoy.  

At these events, with so many wines, you'll want to remember those wines which you most enjoyed. Take notes of those wines so you can recall them later, so you can find them again. If you don't want to take notes, use your cell phone to take a photo of the wine label. You can then take that picture to a wine store and they can see if they carry that wine. If you end up tasting 10 or more wines, it may be difficult to remember your favorites merely by memory. Memorializing your favorites in notes or a picture will be very helpful when you seek your new favorite weeks later. 

Take the opportunities to taste new wines, expanding your palate, and hopefully find new favorites. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Starting September 27th and running throughout October 25th, Bonde Fine Wine Shop will host themed tastings on select Wednesday evenings, from 7pm-8:30pm  Bonde will share expertise, samples, and pairings with specific wine topics including:

· Wednesday, September 13 – Digging for Gold: Treasures from New Mexico
· Wednesday, September 27 - Pairing Wine and Cheese
· Wednesday, October 4 - Guilty Pleasures: Junk Food & Wine
· Wednesday, October 11 - Oktoberfest: German Pretzels and Wine
· Wednesday, October 18 - Chef Series: Vincenzo Le of Cicada Coffee Bar - Pairing Vietnamese Cuisine with Wine
· Wednesday, October 25 - 4 Poutines and 4 Wines For You

2) September is here, and Kane’s Donuts is ringing in the fall with some seasonal favorites, all which are available throughout September at all three Kane’s locations.

The Apple Cider Donut made with a real fresh local cider from Brooksby Farm, is a cake-style donut loaded with spices and apple cider, then rolled in fresh ground cinnamon and sugar. The Pumpkin Glazed Donut is a cake-style donut made with real pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon and drenched in Kane’s Signature Honey Glaze. The Caramel Apple Crunch is a yeast donut filled with apple pie filling, frosted with Kane’s homemade caramel frosting, and topped with a layer of Buttercrunch.

This month, Kane’s will also provide Gluten-free and vegan options featuring the Gluten-free Pumpkin Spice, a blend of pumpkin pie spices and pumpkin fruit, coated in Kane’s signature honey glaze and the Vegan Maple Frosted, a cake-style donut that is moist and tender on the inside and golden crispy on the outside, then frosted with a maple frosting made with real maple syrup.

3) On Wednesday, September 27, at 6pm, Chef Joe Carli of A Tavola, in Winchester, will be hosting a Poggio Maestrino wine dinner, with guest Christian Trotta of Fantasy Fine Wine. This dinner will consist of Five Courses, each paired with wine.

The Menu includes:
1) Apple and Aged Parmesan Bruschetta
Terre di Rai Prosecco di Treviso Millesimato Extra Dry
2) Fluke Carpaccio with collapsed tomato and garden herbs
Poggio Maestrino e Spiaggiole Maremma Toscana Vermentino Torresaline
3) Grape Vine Roasted Poulet Rouge, Cherries and Thyme
Poggio Maestrino e Spiaggiole Morellino
4) Mortadella Rotolo, pistachio butter, & griddled bread
Poggio Maestrino Coasta Toscano Petit Verdot
5) Berry Glazed BBQ
Poggio Maestrino e Spiaggiole Morellino di Scansano Spiaggiole

The dinner costs $115 per person plus tax and gratuity. To make reservations, please call the restaurant at 781-729-1040. I'll be attending this wine dinner as the menu and wines sound quite appealing. And I always have an excellent meal at A Tavola.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Kopke Aged White Ports: A Rare Wine Category You Should Know

As I recently discussed in The Origins & Early History of White Port, only about 10% of all Port is White Port, and aged White Ports are even rarer. When perusing local wine stores, it's very rare to see one that carries an aged White Port. Most of these stores could probably special order an aged White Port for you, but they are generally not part of their regular inventory. The last time I saw an aged White Port for sale was at a wine shop in Portland, Maine. 

Kopke is a highly regarded Port producer which truly embraces the production of aged White Port, making Colheitas and White Ports with an Indication of Age (10, 20, 30, 40 and even 50 year old White Ports!). I received some media samples of three of their aged White Ports, and they were all impressive, showcasing the complexity and quality of aged White Port. 

Kopke is also the oldest Port House, having been established in 1638 by Nicolau Kopkë. Nicolau, a German, came to Portugal in 1636, as the Consul General of the Hanseatic League. Two years later, he started shipping Portuguese wines to other European countries. Almost 150 years later, in 1781, Kopke bought a vineyard in the Douro, and started producing their own wine, eventually making Port wine their primary focus. And in 1841, they changed their name to C. N. Kopke

In 2006, Kopke was purchased by the Spanish-owned Sogevinus, which now owns several other Port producers, including Burmester, Cálem, and Barros. Sogevinus concentrates on Port Wine, and in 2020, about 7.8 Million bottles of their annual production of 8.8 Million were Port. In addition, their Calem Velhotes brand is the top seller in Portugal, accounting for about 25% of all Port sales. 

Kopke is also the only Port House to sell both a 50 Year Old White Port and a 50 Year Old Tawny Port. The 50 Year Old Port category was only instituted in 2022, so Kopke was quick to capitalize on this new Indication of Age. It helped that they have an extensive supply of aged Ports in their vast cellars. For example, they currently sell a 1934 Colheita Tawny and a 1935 Colheita White


When were Kopke Ports first exported to the U.S.? Let's explore some 19th century history, where Kopke received only a small amount of mentions. 

The earliest mention of Kopke that I found was from 1839. The Evening Post (NY), March 5, 1839, printed an advertisement for an upcoming auction of wines. This included, “Port Wines, in pipes and bottles of extra quality, selected by John Wylie, Esq. from the London dock; do Roriz, direct importations: Kopke & Co. Sweet Port.” These Ports were from the famed Quinta de Roriz vineyard, and often sold under the brand of "Kopke Roriz."

The Charleston Mercury (SC), January 3, 1857, discussed a recent sale of old Port, noting 3 bins of the 1820 vintage. The article mentioned, “...each was a rare example—different in style, but all of unexceptionable quality; it is indeed remarkable that among port wines of these ancient dates, so few decayed or even impared wines are found, and this seems to attest their general purity. Of these the Kopke’s Boriz took the lead, containing all the vigor of youth, showing substance, fruit, the highest quality, and remarkable character.” The term "Boriz" was obviously a typo and should instead be "Roriz."

There was a brief mention in the Shipping & Commercial List (NY), January 30, 1861, of, “Port Wines—Kopke Roriz, Cockburn’s and other brands.” The New York Times (NY), June 1, 1864, mentioned an auction sale, including Kopke’s Roriz old brandies of 1838, 1840 and 1848.

The Commercial Advertiser (NY), February 8, 1871, noted that James Reid & Co., located at No.49 Broad Street, New York, was the Sole Agents in the U.S. and Canada for a number of of wine/spirit companies including Kopke & Co.

The Baltimore Sun (MD), January 30 1892, printed an ad where the company had recently received Port wine from C.N. Kopke & Co., from the rare old vintage of 1847. The seller stated that he “..can therefore vouch for its genuineness as a reliable, delicate, dry, high-flavored old Wine, suitable for invalids requiring such a tonic.” 

So, we know that Kopke Ports have been imported into the U.S. for at least over 180 years. In the present day, it's also important to realize that Kopke sells more than 65% of the Colheita Ports, red and white, in the U.S. When's the last time you bought a Kopke Port?


As for Kopke and White Port, I received some information from Carla Tiago (pictured above), part of the Kopke Winemaking Team. Carla grew up in the Douro region, eventually graduating from the University of Porto with a degree in Biochemistry. In 2005, Carla did her first harvest for Sogevinus, and she found her passion in wine making. In 2007, she joined the Kopke team, working under master blender Carlos Alves

Carla stated, “In fact, there are no exact dates of the origin of Port wine, neither white nor red,... It is known, however, that white wine has always been made, in much smaller quantities than red, and that after the phylloxera crisis, vineyards were planted with only white varieties and these wines began to be more common.” She also mentioned that though they don't know exactly when Kopke first started producing White Port, it's believed they have been making it since their beginning in 1638. As for their oldest White Ports now in their cellars, Carla noted their oldest vintages are from 1935 and 1940. 

80+ year old White Ports! That should intrigue any wine lover. However, wine lovers, and others, should also be intrigued with younger, although still aged, White Ports, such as Colheitas from 2002 and 2005. 

The Kopke 20 Years Old White Port is made from a blend of white grapes of different vintages, with an average age of 20 years. The wine was aged in oak for a number of years before being bottled in 2022. With a 20% ABV, the wine presented an amber/golden color and an aroma of dried fruit, salted nuts and a bit of citrus. On the palate, it possessed a rich mouthfeel, with a mild sweetness and a complex blend of dried fruits, citrus, almonds, a touch of ripe plum, and subtle spice notes. It had a pleasing, lengthy finish and good acidity.  

It's recommended that this Port be served chilled, and it went very well with some blue cheese (which is one of my favorite Port pairings). 

The Kopke 2002 Colheita White Port is made from a blend of white grapes from the 2002 harvest, and it remained in oak for about 20 years, being bottled in 2022. The term "colheita" roughly translates as "harvest" or "vintage," however it's also a specific category of Port. It must be aged in the barrel for at least seven years, although it can be aged for much longer. A Vintage Port must be from an excellent "declared" vintage, so Vintage Port cannot be produced every year, but a Colheita Port can be made in any vintage. Vintage Ports seem to get the most publicity, but Colheita Ports definitely are worthy of much more attention.

I was thoroughly enamored with this White Port. With a rich amber/golden color, its aroma was more subdued, but still complex and appealing. On the palate, it was elegant and compelling, reminiscent in some ways to a fine aged Sherry. It possessed an intriguing melange of flavors, including dried fruit, honey, subtle spices, salted almonds, a light sweetness, and much more. Each silky sip brought something new to my palate. It's finish was extremely lengthy and satisfying, and overall, the wine was impressive, my favorite of the three. Everything was in perfect balance, and there seemed to be so much life remaining in the wine. This is a wine to slowly sip over the course of an evening, observing it develop over the course of the night. It's also a wine meant to be shared, to experience with good friends. 

It was also recommended that this Port be served chilled, and it too went very well with some blue cheese. 

The Kopke 2005 Colheita White Port is made from a blend of grapes from the 2005 harvest, including 50% Malvasia Fina, 15% Gouveio, 15% Rabigato, 15% Viosinho and 5% Arinto. This was the only wine where the grapes were specifically mentioned, although it's possible these grapes might also have been the ones in the other two White Ports, although maybe not in these percentages, and other grapes may have been included as well.

This Port  remained in oak for about 17 years, being bottled in 2022. This wine had a stronger aroma than the 2002, and the flavors on the palate were stronger and more intense as well. In addition, it had a richer mouthfeel, with more sweetness to it. It was less Sherry-like, but still had a nutty aspect, as well as complex flavors of dried fruit, citrus, fig, and spice. A lengthy, pleasing finish and excellent acidity. It was also recommended that this Port be served chilled, and it too went very well with some blue cheese. 

I'd highly recommend all three of these aged White Ports. It's a fascinating category of wine, and is sure to impress your palate. In differentiating these three White Ports, the 2002 Colheita is the lightest, least sweet and most complex of the three, and reminds me in some respects of a fine aged Sherry (another of my favorite wine categories). The 2005 Colheita is richer, a bit sweeter, with bolder aromas and flavors. The 20 Year Old has much of the richness of the 2005, but is a touch less sweet, and its aromas and flavors are also a touch less bold, although still more intense than the 2002. 

I'd like to visit Kopke in October when I visit Portugal, and if so, hope to try maybe some of their even older White Ports.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Rant: A Lazy Restaurant Wine List

Last week, I dined at a relatively new local restaurant, and very much enjoyed the food. I'm looking forward to dining there again soon, to try more of their dishes. However, I was dismayed by one aspect of the restaurant: their wine list. 

The restaurant offers some intriguing cocktails, some made with more unusual ingredients, while their beer list has some good craft beers. On the other hand, their wine list is generic, and fails to mention even a single producer. Instead, for red wine options, the menu simply mentions "Merlot Red" and "Malbec Red." For white wine, there's "Chardonnay White" and "Pinot Grigio White." The menu also lists "Rosé" and "Brut." Why don't they list the producer of these wines?

Every one of these wines is priced at $8 a glass, and thus are likely very inexpensive wines, probably costing less than $10 a bottle at retail. They are probably also value brands, which producer millions of bottles of generic plonk. I very much doubt that wine lovers would find any of these wines of interest. And I don't understand why their wine list is so uninspired, when their cocktails and beers show some inspiration. 

It's a lazy wine list, taking the least amount of thought to compose, and it diminishes the restaurant, especially considering how much attention was paid to the other aspects of the restaurant. At the very least, they should have listed the producers of the wine. However, it wouldn't have taken much more effort to choose several interesting, good value wines, rather than the generic plonk they do sell. Even if the restaurant owners knew little of wine, they could have asked the distributor for better options. 

I've seen other restaurants before with similar lazy wine lists, failing to provide even the name of the producer. Sometimes, I have also seen options of "Hot" and "Cold" Sake, which again fail to mention the name of the producer. You know that these mystery wines are cheap, low quality wines. Even when their food and cocktails are tasty and interesting, a lazy wine list adversely affects the overall rating of the restaurant. 

Restaurant owners with lazy wine lists: Take a little time to improve your wine lists, and enhance your restaurant's overall reputation. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely, tips well and are nice to their servers.
1) Bar Vlaha, part of the restaurant group Xenia Greek Hospitality, will launch weekend brunch service this weekend on September 2.

Bar Vlaha debuted in Brookline earlier this year in March and is the first concept dedicated to honoring the Vlach people, who founded and nurtured the roots of Hellenic cooking and hospitality. The experience at Bar Vlaha is a chance to rediscover Greece, and this new brunch service is a way to rediscover brunch.

The new brunch service at Bar Vlaha continues to tell the story of the Vlachs who are a nomadic group of shepherds from the rural mountains, lakes and villages of Central and Northern Greece. The Vlachs bestowed the legendary virtue of philoxenia which is the ancient Greek art of hospitality in its purest form - the custom of offering generosity and shelter despite social class or background, and turning strangers into friends. The Vlachs are known for providing refuge, food and drink to weary travelers passing through their villages. Today Xenia Greek Hospitality lives by these same pillars of hospitality that start with a meal, kindness and conversation

The first part of the Bar Vlaha brunch menu is centered around boukies with smaller bites to share such as the traditional staples of Tahinopita with tahini, phyllo, cinnamon, whipped cream, berries and Saganaki with fried vlahotyri cheese, Metaxa, spoon sweets and pistachio. There is a section of the menu Eggs & Breakfast which showcases traditional dishes of the region such as Sfougato which is a baked egg casserole with zucchini, kefalotyri cheese, parsley, dill and mint and Breakfast Hilopites a housemade pasta with poached egg, Metsovone, brown sugar and olive oil. 

Another section called Dikoi, which translates to trays, offers three different styles of brunch trays that are a symbol of Vlach hospitality as food and drinks were commonly shared on trays when brought to the table. The three trays are Greek Breakfast, Shakshouka and Make Your Own Gyros with chicken or lamb souvla. And it would not be a Vlach experience without Pita. The brunch menu includes the traditional sweet Bougatsa with phyllo, custard and cinnamon and also a savory Kimadopita with minced ground beef, cumin and coriander.

At Bar Vlaha, Beverage Director Lou Charbonneau has amassed a lively celebration of Greek spirits that embody the terroir of the region with playfully named yet seriously crafted combinations. The Bloody Melpo, a traditional Vlach name and take on a Bloody Mary, is made with Tsipouro and a house Greek style mix, and can also be served as a larger format brunch tray with lamb chop garnishes. There is also a Mimosa tray with a bottle of Vlach sparkling wine and selection of Greek juices such as mandarin, blood orange, peach, sour cherry vyssino, kiwi and banana. The Kalambaka Fog uses Stray Dog Greek gin, Italicus, Earl Gray, vanilla bean, nutmeg, oat milk and egg white which makes for a powerful brunch libation after its namesake town. Most of the dishes range from $10-$20

Bar Vlaha weekend brunch will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. To celebrate the launch, Bar Vlaha will also be open on Monday, September 4 for Labor Day. Reservations can be made online at https://barvlaha.com/reservations/.

The Menu looks quite interesting, and I'm eager to visit Bar Vlaha for their new Brunch.

2) Night Shift Brewing is raising a stein to Oktoberfests’s triumphant return! Their celebration dates have dropped so you can eat, drink and yodel at each of their spots. The annual Oktoberfest festivities have exclusive new releases and events at the Night Shift Beer Gardens, Everett taproom and Lovejoy Wharf waterfront restaurant. Night Shift’s Oktoberfest features a Stein holding competition, live music, festive bites and lots of fun for all. The brewery is also rolling out more Oktoberfest inspired releases than ever before with various styles:

Owltoberfest - German-style Helles - our clean and crushable flagship beer of Oktoberfest weekend. Brimming with notes of fresh bread, tangelo, and yellow peach. A hoot with every sip.
Prost Malone - unfiltered Munich-Style Lager that sings a smooth harmony of malty richness, toasted bread, and subtle, earthy hops. Brewed with rockstar flair and chart-topping flavor.
Chill Zwickelson - German-Style Zwickelbier that tees off with a fairway of bready malt flavor, subtle grassy hops, and a hint of citrus. A hole-in-one for your palate.
Kolsch Encounters - German-Style Kolsch that beams down a cosmic blend of crisp, light malts, and otherworldly refreshment. Hints of apple, pear, and a close encounter with deliciously fruity hops.
Dunkel John's Band - Munich-Style Dunkel that honors a legendary band with its name and label artwork. Smooth and delicious, with notes of rye bread, toasted grain, and zesty hops. It pairs best with good friends, warm blankets, and a crackling fire. This is one jam you won’t want to miss. Also, $1 from every 4-pack sold will be donated to the Community Music Center of Boston.

The Night Shift Beer Gardens at the Esplanade and Allston locations kick off the Oktoberfest celebrations on Friday, September 22, from 4-10pm. Enjoy the Oktoberfest inspired beers while you’re in the outdoors. The first 25 people at both locations will receive a free Oktoberfest t-shirt. The Allston location will also be serving One Mighty Mill pretzels.

The Everett Taproom hosts their Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, September 23, from Noon to 11pm. In addition to the exclusive beer releases, the festivities include live music from the Hofbrau Polka Band and Intergalactic Kegger Time. Alongside the new Night Shift Eats food truck, The Sausage Guy, Far Out Ice Cream, and Lobster Proper will also be on site for the party.

Tickets to the Stein Holding Competition are $30 and include a 1 Liter Night Shift Brewing Stein and pour of Owltoberfest. Night Shift Brewing Oktoberfest Steinholding Competition will abide by the Official U.S. Steinholding Association Rules and 1st, 2nd and 3rd places prizes will be awarded for both the Men’s and Women’s Competition. The event is open to the public. Tickets are available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/night-shift-brewing-oktoberfest-stein-holding-competition-2023-tickets-701032134987?aff=oddtdtcreator 

The Lovejoy Wharf Oktoberfest celebration is taking over their namesake patio on Sunday, September 24, from 11:30am-8pm. In addition to the exclusive beer releases, the Hofbrau Polka Band will be playing and The Lovejoy Wharf team will be cranking out a variety of Oktoberfest themed menu items, plentiful with brats and pretzels and more!