II: Flee bad port!
Vintage port, as the saying goes, is what every wine would be if it
could. This has always been a self-evident principle among port devotees,
but for some twenty years now, port has attracted a rather wider following among
casual wine drinkers. Given true port’s minuscule production levels, however,
even this slight upward shift in consumption patterns resulted in wildly
escalating prices. As a result, most quality ports have jumped dreadfully in
cost, and those of us priced out of major vintages are likely to fall for truly
inferior products on the hopes that we have discovered a “sleeper”.
the Borges 1980, I have no one but myself to blame. I had only popped in the
grocery store long enough to buy some summer sausage, and had no intention of
buying wine. This particular store never carries vintage ports, although they
occasionally offer some very nice tawnies. So, it was in a completely unguarded
moment that I spied some two dozen bottles of Borges (not a bad house, but not a
great one either), vintage 1980, under $ 10 per. The bottles were even dusty, a
sure sign that here lie undiscovered treasure, right?
dinner, I set out two glasses and, before children old enough to appreciate but
too young to taste, I opened the bottle. The neck still carried an leaded foil
wrapper, and I took the occasion to explain how a gentle wipe of the opening
obviates any concerns. I poured two glasses, dispensing with a decanting since
this was, after all, only to be sip off the top. The nose was indistinct, a
warning sign that I wrote off to my inexperience with the vintages of the early
1980s. Angela always let’s me lead. Smart girl.
first mouthful was virtually unswallowable and I stopped breathing, trying to
deprive the fire in my cheeks of oxygen. I swished reflexively and began losing
live tissue from the gums. I spit what was left back into the glass, but upon
drawing a desperate breath, residual port fumes raced down the back of my throat
and I coughed as if an over-heated whiskey had mistakenly found its way down the
wrong tube. My juvenile audience, of course, thought the whole affair hilarious.
Angela pushed her glass away and told the kids not to talk to dad for a few
minutes, at least until his color returned to normal. When it did, I weakly
managed what could well have been my last piece of advice to my children:
“Flee bad port.” +++