A review of the ElviWines InVita 2011and some Port-based cocktail suggestions.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week August 8, 2012
Spain continues to be a source of well-made wines. The country is the world’s third largest wine producer but ranks first in total acres “under vine,” with over 600 grape varietals planted over nearly 3 million acres. The most popular grapes are mostly foreign sounding – Airen, Albarino, Carinena, Garnacha, Macabeo, Monastrell, Parellada, Tempranillo, Xarel-lo – and are utilized to create red, white and sparkling wines as well as the renown fortified port and sherry wines.
Spanish winemaking has prehistoric roots, with archeological evidence of wine production from 4000 to 3000 BCE. Spain exported its wines throughout the Roman Empire and even during Moorish rule wine continued to be produced and consumed. The vagaries of European and Spanish history also affected the country’s wine industry resulting in peaks and valleys of production and popularity. In the mid 20th century there was a renewed interest in Spanish wines, especially the reds from Ribera del Duero, the sparkling cavas and fortified sherries. Joining the E.U. in 1986 led to increased investment for facility modernization and improving viticulture.
The result was a significant improvement in Spanish wines across the price spectrum with many previously unknown regions producing award-winning wines. We remain big fans of the kosher Spanish winery “ElviWines.” Founded by Moises and Anne Cohen in 2002, ElviWines originated in Spain’s Priorat region. The company now produces more than a dozen kosher wines from five locations within the country and has expanded its operations into Chile. The diverse ElviWine portfolio includes single varietals as well as blended offerings, a sweet wine and a sparkling cava from entirely organically maintained vineyards.
The recently released nonmevushal InVita 2011 is co-produced with Castillo De Sajazarra from grapes grown in the Alella region not far from Barcelona. The addition of 60 percent Pansa Blanca (Xarel-lo) to Sauvignon Blanc results in a broader styled wine with more body. It shows expressive apple, pear and apricot aromas that lead into almond, mineral and herbal accented pineapple, tangerine and melon flavors with a lengthy spice-infused finish. Not your typical kosher white wine but, rather, a very interesting and pleasing alternative for summer fare including grilled fish and chicken dishes.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d stick with this part of the world and, while not really a spirit at all, we thought we’d consider Port, the fortified wine par excellence. There are few drinks more warming, soothing, calming and, well, fortifying than a nice glass of port wine.
Of course, port wine is generally out of fashion. As the British novelist Evelyn Waugh once said, “Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher.” But this is partly why most Americans don’t drink the stuff. And it’s too bad – port is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered.
Port wine is made from many varieties of very foreign-sounding grapes grown in the Douro Valley region of Portugal. Also known as “vinho do porto” or “porto,” the name comes from Oporto, the city in northwest Portugal from which the wine was originally shipped.
Port is a typically heavy, rich, sweet, high-alcohol wine not only due to the type of grapes used, but also because it is fortified – the winemakers add some measure of distilled grape spirits (brandy or aguardente) to fortify the wine with an unnaturally higher alcohol content which, in turn, immediately kills the yeast cells, halting the fermentation process before the grapes’ remaining sugar is converted into alcohol.
Port comes in an offputtingly confusing variety of styles – including vintage, tawny, Colheita, ruby, LBV (or late bottle vintage), white – and can also be produced as a semi-dry or even an extra-dry wine, but generally, sweet is what the market and tradition calls for. Whatever the style, port is usually served at the end of a meal, with dessert or as the dessert. These days, however, port has come back into fashion in cocktail form.
There are, in fact, only two actual kosher port wines produced/available:
Porto Cordovero, Fine Ruby Port, n.v. ($45): Dark garnet in color, looking not unlike a deep dark Manischewitz, with overripe, almost stewed though pleasant aromas, fading tannins and some balancing acidity, with notes of prunes, dark fruit compote and lovely vanilla followed by a generous cinnamon- and nutmeg-accented finish.
Porto Cordovero, LBV, 2005 ($60): More of a deep, dark purple in color, this is rich, medium-bodied, and balanced with notes of currants, raisins, and plums against a backdrop of spicy mocha and caramel notes.
Both of these kosher wines are made for the Herzog family’s Royal Wine Corp., in partnership with the esteemed port producer Taylor Fladgate. In case these enjoyable kosher options seem too sweet and heavy, which these styles are prone to, consider the following cocktails:
The Porto Flip
Fill a cocktail shaker at least half full of hard, cracked ice and throw in 1 egg, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 ounces Ruby Port and a 1/2 ounce of cream (optional). Shake the heck out of it, then strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish, if you wish, with a light sprinkling of nutmeg.
Chivas Ruby Royal Martini
This one was made by the folks at Chivas, but is a killer nonetheless. Pour 1 1/2 ounces Chivas Regal Scotch, a 1/2 ounce of Ruby Port and a 1/2 ounce of Blackberry Brandy into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel.
Irish Stout Sangria
This one is from Lucy Brennan, the owner of Mint and 820 in Portland, Ore. Into your serving glass pour 12 ounces Murphy’s or Guinness Irish Stout and a 1/2 ounce of simple syrup; allow this to settle, then add a 1/2 ounce of Ruby Port. Gently stir this a few times, then top with the remaining 4 ounces of Irish Stout (the cans come in 16-ounce servings). Allow to settle for 30 seconds or so, then serve.