Wed 15 Apr 2009
The port houses represent bastions of tradition in an ever-changing world of wine production, yet innovation is occurring here and there. Fonseca, founded in 1822, just issued its Terra Bella Reserve Porto, a completely organic port in the sense that not only was the base wine made from certified organic grapes but the neutral spirit that stops fermentation and makes the port a sweet fortified wine is also organic. The product is certified by the USDA National Organic Program as well as the European Ecocert.
“Reserve Porto” is the term now employed for what used to be the “Ruby” category, that is, young ports sufficiently aged, in this case in oak vats (not small barrels), so that they’re ready to be consumed when they are released.
The Fonseca Terra Bella is a knock-out, a heady, intense seductive port — colored dark purple tending unto black — that fills the mouth and soothes the soul. Grapey aromas of ripe black currents, blackberries and plums are permeated by dried herbs, fennel and anise, cocoa powder, dust and minerals. The wine is dense and thick, luscious and chewy, deeply rooted in spicy wood, in juicy black fruit flavors tinged with lavender and licorice and a hint of orange rind, all of this given a serious edge by a chastening element of mineral-laced earthiness that turns the port’s initial sweetness into a finish that’s almost formidably dry, while the feral grip of charging acidity enlivens the entire package. What a performance! Excellent. About $20 to $23.
Imported by Kobrand Corporation, Purchase, N.Y.
We sipped the Fonseca Terra Bella Reserve Porto with a new — new to us — chocolate bar from Vosges Haut-Chocolat, the “Black Pearl Bar,” a combination of 55 percent cacao dark chocolate with wasabi, ginger and black sesame seeds, an amazing concoction that replaces out previous favorite Vosges offering, the “Red Fire Bar,” which brings together 55 percent cacao dark chocolate with ancho and chipotle chilies and Ceylonese cinnamon (and hasn’t Ceylon been Sri Lanka since 1972?). I wrote about tasting a range of Vosges chocolate bars with a variety of red wines last April; you can read that report here.
The Black Pearl Bar isn’t startling, as some of the other Vosges “Exotic Bars” are; the wreathing of the wasabi and ginger and black sesame seeds is subtle, robed in the suppleness of the rich, dry, slightly bitter chocolate. The black sesame seeds provide a slight nutty crunch, while the wasabi and ginger emphasize the bar’s touch of green, woody Asian spiciness. Yum, and superb with the Fonseca Terra Bella Reserve Porto, which seemed to bring out the chocolate bar’s dimensions while enriching itself with the chocolate. A great experience. Vosges “Exotic Bars” sell for about $7 for three ounces.
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