The Pleasure of Port: The Inside Story of a Unique Fortified Wine
By João Paulo Martins
In recent years, there have been scant few new books on Port wine. This ode to the consumer is a charming 182 page soft covered booklet, which encapsulates Port in simple terms and is an easy, casual read. João Paulo Martins, arguably Portugal’s best known wine writer, has updated his earlier work, A Wine Lover’s Guide to Port (originally published in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish) smartly changed the title and modernized the information and photos within.
Graphically, I prefer this new version with most of the photos, ancient and modern, coming from a variety of Port company’s archives. The book itself has the look and feel of a consumer guide, and in reality that’s exactly how it reads. There is the requisite section on the history of Port, of course, but it is filled with amusing anecdotes and important information for those looking to learn more about Port or planning a visit to Oporto, Vila Nova de Gaia’s lodges or the splendor of the Douro and its quintas.
Martins takes a light hearted approach to this fine beverage and it makes the read less cumbersome, and far more enjoyable. Nevertheless, the pleasure of Port is aptly conveyed and whether a new consumer or a serious Port-ophile, there’s no shortage of up-to-date information throughout its pages. The beginner will enjoy learning about the various varietals utilized, along with detailed descriptions of the growing and fortification and vinification of Portugal’s most famous fortified adult beverage. More serious enthusiasts will take solace in the fact that João adds just enough geek speak in his chapter, Soil, Climate and Three Sub-Regions – A Multicoloured Douro, that it will reward their time and effort. And that’s just the beginning, The Pleasure of Port is filled with fascinating factoids, that will captivate the attention of readers at all levels of Port knowledge.
Kudos to João for delivering a clear and concise view of Port’s route from the grape’s inception in the vineyard, to Port’s production, treading in lagares, storage and eventual bottling. Only then does he share the finer nuances of proper aging, when to drink specific types of Port, decanting methodology, a fun look at which type of glass to use and the pomp and circumstance of the traditional, if not ritualistic passing of the Port.
I’ve just scratched the surface of this gem of a book and I highly recommend it to anybody who enjoys reading about or drinking Port -- or is pondering a visit to the region. From engaging details about the Law of Thirds, or a brief and simplified discourse on the allocation of the Beneficio rights; along with the institutions & regulatory sector of the Port trade; you’ll have a hard time putting this down, while sipping several glasses of your favorite drink. João Paulo Martins has delivered an informative and entertaining book on Port that’s a must read!