A Day with Paypal

We have had such a busy start to the year. We are only a few days away from launching a beautiful new site that will be not only more user-friendly, but will give us a chance to easily upload all the products our customers request from time to time. Delicately hand-packed tuna belly tins with extra virgin olive oil? Check. An assortment of hand-cut San Jamón charcuterie in one easy-to-open pack? Check. Would you like to see anything else? Write us at marketing@sanjamon.com.

Just before Christmas we received an interesting call. Something that for a small business like ours, is quite exciting. Paypal wanted to know if we’d like to participate in a global campaign to promote their company. The truth is, we love working with Paypal and they make so many aspects of our operations easier; our bookkeeper can attest to that.

Miguel, founder of SJ gave a great interview. He was somehow cooler on camera than deciding which products to feature in our Christmas campaign. Career change Miguel?! We took them to some hot spots in the region like our modest ham-curing facilities to wineries and tapas bars. “This is the best I’ve eaten in a long time!” the cameraman claimed between roast lamb chops from a wood-fired oven, Iberian bellota ham and handmade sheep’s cheese.

We’ll post video link when it is ready, maybe end of May/June.

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Port wine coming to San Jamón.com in February!

San Jamón is excited to announce that starting mid-February we will be introducing port wine to our online store! Do you have any favorites? Let us know at marketing@sanjamon.com.

A quick primer on Port wine.

Red grapes (mainly touriga nacional, tinta barroca, touriga franca, and tinta roriz):

Below are influenced more by cask ageing:

  • Ruby styles:
    • Ruby port: vinified for immediate consumption after bottling. The youngest port, ruby is a blend of wines between three to five years. Look for primary, red berry fruit-forward aromas and youthful ruby color. Great for poaching pears or a port reduction.
    • Reserva/premium ruby port: a sturdier ruby with more color and depth from the blending of several vintages (average ages five to seven years). Has replaced “vintage character” name as it is a misnomer having no character in common with vintage port. Classic pairing, port and Stilton, is meant for this fresh, fruity red port to accompany a blue-veined stinky cheese.
    • Late Bottled Vintage ports: as the name infers, from a single harvest, bottled within four to six years of harvest. Aged in large oak tonnels that at 40+ years, the barrels do not impart any oak.
      • filtered (and fined) LBV port: to be drunk upon release. Easier to handle as no decanting is necessary, but may lose their luster as wines start to die when their food (sediment) is removed.
      • unfiltered LBV port: can be laid down for five to 20 years or consumed right away. Expect depth like in an authentic vintage port.

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  • Tawny styles:
    • Tawny port: A tawny has a sweet, nutty aroma and an amber or, ah hah, tawny tone from longer oxidation. The French enjoy this style as a before-dinner libation in the afternoon. The Britishs take it in the evening after the meal with dessert or cheese.
    • Aged indicated tawny (10-, 20-, 30-, 40-year-old): Like sticking your head into a bag of great trail mix with toasted almonds, dried figs, exotic spice and caramel. They are light, easy to drink and the high acidity holds under a nice chill in the summertime. The number of years listed on label is the average age so some grapes may be from recent to older vintages. These are wines that would likely have been vintage ports had they been harvested in a declared year; very high quality. Mind the date of bottling as these won’t keep forever. Surprisingly, once opened, should be consumed within a few days as freshness turns to staleness. Best served chilled.
    • Colheitas: a tawny port, made with grapes from a single year (colheita). Expect characteristics of classic tawny with nuances from stated year’s harvest. Label will include date of harvest. Best served chilled.

Below are influenced more by bottle ageing: Don’t be capricious, this beverage can’t start to be appreciated until 20 and 30 years after bottling!

  • Vintage styles:
    • Vintage Port: crème de la crème of port wine. Aged in wood for two or three years and bottled unfiltered so that the solids can percipitate and the taste and aromas can continue to set up in bottle. Only made in years when harvest is declared excellent after a perfect growing season by the IVDP (see below) and shipper’s determine that quantity matches demand. These ports come along about 2.5 times in a decade. Should be aged for minimum 30 years and once opened, recommended to enjoy within 24-48 hours. Bottoms up!
    • Single Quinta port: brilliant scheme to sell top-quality port in undeclared years. All grapes from a single parcel (quinta) are aged two or three years and then bottled without filtration.
    • Crusted Ports: meant to attract vintage port fans though beware as it is not a vintage port. A crust or sediment is deposited into the bottle as these wines are not usually filtered before bottling. Will go on the market only three years after bottling. For a full-bodied, dark red port wine at a great value, look no further.
    • Garrafeira: Try saying that three times fast. These ports are aged for a minimum seven years in glass demi-johns. These then have to decant sediment and are rebottled back into 750 ml bottles. The label must include the date of harvest, date wine was transferred to demi-john, and date wine goes into its new, smaller receptacle.

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White grapes (mainly gouveio, malvasia fina, and viosinho)– the mashing of juice to skins, known as maceration, from white grapes during fermentation is kept to a minimum. Great for cocktail wizardry or served simply with a splash of tonic over ice. The dry version (seco) is actually quite sweet and meio seco is sweeter than sweet. Straw color with intense lusciousness layered with white stone fruit. For below port wine, the viscosity of high glycerol content inspires the name lágrima for tears that run down the side of the glass.

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Straw color with intense lusciousness layered with white stone fruit. The viscosity of high glycerol content inspires the name lágrima for tears that run down the side of the glass. Quirky fact: Quality classifications of port wine were created to control surplus. The very official Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (Douro Port Wine Institute, or IVDP) gives points based on 12 physical attributes like gradient, site, and aspect of the parcel. If the winery in a given year cannot accumulate enough points, they receive an F and are allowed only minimum quotas to make fortified wine. Those qualifying with an A or B score have much more flexibility and are granted permission to fortify greater quantities of must.

Porto, Portugal – a good start to the new year

It is hard to think about imbibing at the start of the new year. Pockets are lighter, or empty, and your body is saying, “More, really?” As people with jobs that don’t include tasting wine and developing recipes embark resolutely on new diets and workout regimens, those working in the food and wine industry typically spend these first few weeks of the year thinking about what will be the next big thing in the industry for the coming year.

We took advantage of a long weekend and hopped over to Porto to see what is new in port wine. Safe to say that not much has changed in two hundred and fifty years. The legend goes that a wine merchant from Liverpool sent his sons in 1678 to Portugal in search of wine. They stumbled upon a monastery above the Douro river in the village of Lamego. Here monks added brandy to the wine during fermentation. Previously, traders stabilized the wine with a spirit before shipment to London.

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Porto view from tranvia bridge

Port is a fascinating beverage that takes a rustic version of brandy, called aquardente in Portuguese, and adds it to the must, killing the yeasts and thereby arresting the fermentation. Sugar remains and is balanced by tannin, alcohol and a range of aromas in ruby to vintage ports. This tannin and alcohol along with a decent acidity, make vintage ports some of the longest lived wines in the world. Ferreira has a vintage port from 1815 that was recently auctioned. As Stephan, our Ferreira guide, said, “You only invite your best friends over that night…and vintage port should be consumed within 48 hours.”

The wine used to make port comes from the Douro Valley. D.O.C. Douro is one of the oldest quality regions anywhere in the world having been established in 1756, just five years after the establishment of the first Port winery Ferreira, which we visited. Yields in the Douro are among the lowest in the world with just 500 to 750 g per vine or 1.5 kg from newer, 20 years or more vines. The most common grapes are touriga nacional, tinta barroca, touriga franca, tinta roriz, and tinto cão for red port and gouveio, malvasia and viosinho for white port.

The grapes are grown upstream, east of Porto in the valley where their flavor phenols develop rich berry character the further east you go and the more extreme the climate becomes. At the Spanish border, temperatures regularly exceed 35°F  in the summer. Many ports are then sent downstream to age in the caves across the river from Porto in an enclave called Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the port lodges can be found. On a beautiful albeit cold January morning, it was a nice place to be. After all, Wine Spectator gave the 2014 Wine of the Year title to Dow’s vintage port 2011. Maybe we are on to something in 2015…

We’ll let you know when we organize our first port shipments this spring.

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