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Edward Peters

Personal Dessert Wines

Port III: White port

White port has never really caught on in the United States, and that’s a pity, as it really is a charming drink, especially when served moderately chilled on a warm evening. The production process of white port mirrors that of red, except that it starts with, obviously, white wine instead of red. The low tannin levels common to white wines means that white port reaches maturity rather quickly, but does not hold it very long, and hence there is somewhat less following for vintage white ports than for reds.

Mount Pleasant Winery (family-owned, as are most Missouri wineries) rests in the heart of the Augusta appellation high atop a hill overlooking the Missouri River valley. One foggy day last winter, Angela and I visited the winery and bought a bottle of its 1996 white port (375 ml for $ 18). The wine, which scored strongly at the 1998 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, poured beautifully from a tall frosted bottle when we opened it early this summer, and it served ably the goal for which all fermented or brewed drinks were created, namely, the fostering of conversation. White ports being less robust than red, we finished the bottle over the next week, during which time the flavor held up admirably.

            Prior to the debacle of Prohibition, Missouri was thickly planted with family vineyards, and ranked second only to California in total wine production. But it always takes much longer to build than to destroy, and only in the last 20 years have numerous local vineyards, led by family ventures in California’s Napa Valley, put America back on the world’s wine list. It remains to be seen, however, whether these autonomous operations, so special to wine life, can resist the lure of the megadollar. Ah, but now I risk running afoul of the Lord’s advice to let the day’s own troubles be sufficient for the day.

            White port, served chilled, leads one inexorably to talk of sauternes, served cold. The looming presence of Château d’Yquem, however, seems to have frightened many away from experiencing the viniferous masterpiece that sprang from a mistake. We’ll see what can be done to address this problem in our next installment. +++

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