Port Varieties, Fortified and Unfortified

As autumn settles in and winter lurks around the corner in the southern hemisphere, wines to complement the cooler weather are called for.

South Africa has a long history of producing quality fortified wines including those styled on Portuguese Ports. As demand for red wine grew in the 20th century, Port went out of favour, until, around mid-1980s, the Calitzdorp Nel families of Boplaas and De Krans revived interest in it.

Calitzdorp became known as the Port capital and has attracted many new producers over the years.

‘We have warm, dry summers and cold, frosty winters, similar to the Douro. Only Portuguese varieties vinified in the traditional way in open concrete fermenters are used, but it’s the dedication and attention to detail that ensures Calitzdorp produces excellent Port-style wines.’ Boets Nel, owner of De Krans summarises the area’s renown for these wines.

Peter Bayly and his wife, Yvonne, relative newcomers to Calitzdorp (Peter Bayly Wines was established in 2002), continue to uphold the area’s reputation. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca and Souzao, joined in 2022 by Tinta Roriz make up the blend in their fortified and dry table wines. There’s Tinta Amarela at De Krans rather than Souzao. Each adds different qualities to the blend: Touriga is the finest of the Port grapes bringing spice and complexity, Tinta Barocca is important for ageing, Tinta Roriz delivers high tannins, Tinta Amarela has fragrance and superb acid and Souzao deep colour.

Blending these produces quality, long-lived wines. Cape Vintage Reserve or Cape Vintage are at the peak of the triangle, though other styles like Cape Late-Bottled Vintage, Cape Tawny, Cape Ruby, Cape White & even Cape Pink add to consumer choice. The word ‘Port’ is no longer used, an agreement with the Portuguese.

It wasn’t long before both Nel families diversified into red and white table wines from Port varieties, with increasing success. At the turn of the century, De Krans started with a Touriga Nacional; now there are four different blends, including flagship Tritonia, a blend of Touriga and the three Tintas. The Baylys describe their Peter Bayly III, a Touriga, Tinta Barocca & Souzao blend, as having wonderful fruit and softness; ‘these table wines deserve to be as popular as our fortifieds,’ they believe.

Calitzdorp isn’t the only home to these wines. In fact, Danie Malan of Allesverloren in the Swartland, reckons Paarl should be the Port capital, ‘as there are many more smaller producers and Allesverloren is the biggest seller of Port; 70 000 litres annually, locally and abroad.’ The area’s suitability for Port-styles is thanks to warm, dry summers with adequate sunlight to ripen the grapes.

Varieties on Allesverloren are the same as in Calitzdorp, plus Pontac for body and colour, Tinta Fransisca and, interestingly white Malvasia Rei, for body and fruit. Just one style is produced; ‘Probably a good mix between Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage,’ reckons Danie, ‘labelled Allesverloren Fine Old Vintage, it represents the best wine each year.’

The farm has followed the trend to red table wines, producing a varietal Touriga and Tinta Barocca, as well as a blend also including Souzao.

Fortified or table wine, these deserve space at your winter table.

- Blog Angela Lloyd