The Elegance of Churchill’s Dry White Port


The question of what to drink as an aperitif on a winter night, when the thought of something cold, light and crisp sends chills up your spine, is not easily solved. In Portugal, the answer is often white port served lightly chilled. This is a great idea, in theory. It is easy to imagine sitting by a fire sipping a well aged fortified white wine that warms you from the inside as flavors of honey and almonds fill your mouth. Unfortunately, most white ports fall into the category of one-dimensional high alcohol sweet wines that are best when served combined with other ingredients by a talented mixologist.

This backdrop is what makes tasting Churchill’s Dry White Port a bit of a revelation. Though it is labeled “dry aperitif”, Churchill’s drinks like a fine tawny that happens to be made from white grapes. The base wine is a field blend of local white varieties — Malvasia Fina, Códega, Gouveio and Rabigato— harvested from an old high-altitude vineyard in the Douro sub-region of Cima Corgo. This means the grapes are grown and pressed together before being fermented dry. Once it is fortified, the port is aged for ten years in oak casks. The result is a complex dry white port with a golden hue. In the mouth, it is viscous with nutty flavors and mellow fruit. It pairs beautifully with roasted almonds, smoked salmon, paté, gougéres as well as most cheeses, and its consumption need not be limited to the winter season. Once opened, it will keep in the refrigerator for a month.