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Port wine is Portugal’s great gift to the world. Coming from the ancient harbour capital city of Porto and the surrounding Douro Valley region, Port wine has been made by Portuguese vintners for at least four hundred years, although viticulture has been continually happening in the area for well over two thousand years. Port is a fortified wine, meaning it is a wine which has been bolstered by the addition of grape brandy. Originally, this was used as a method of preservation, allowing the delicate Portuguese wines to survive the journey by sea to trading partners in the UK and France. However, the wonderful taste and unique character the fortification process lends to the wine soon became massively popular, and before long, this new wine style was a hit all across Europe.
Unlike some other fortified wines, Port is made by adding brandy before the wine itself has completed its fermentation. The result of this is that plenty of the grapes’ natural sweetness is maintained in the barrel, meaning it is exceptionally smooth and rounded on the palate. Port comes in many different styles - Tawny Port wines are prized for their richness and mellow character, Reserve and Late Bottled Ports are full of fruit flavor. Vintage Port is a complex, wonderful thing - capable of standing up to some of the finest wines in the world when it comes to depth of flavor and fascinating features.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.
Since it began in the 1820s, wine-production in Washington state has gone from strength to strength, with many of the finest United States wines coming out over the past twenty years hailing from this region. Today, the state is the second largest US producer of wines, behind California, with over forty thousand acres under vine. The state itself is split into two distinct wine regions, separated by the Cascade Range, which casts an important rain shadow over much of the area. As such, the vast majority of vines are grown and cultivated in the dry, arid desert-like area in the eastern half of the state, with the western half producing less than one percent of the state's wines where it is considerably wetter. Washington state is famed for producing many of the most accessible wines of the country, with Merlot and Chardonnay varietal grapes leading the way, and much experimentation with other varietals characterizing the state's produce in the twenty-first century.