How to sell Tawny Port when it’s 90 degrees outside

(photo: City of Oporto by Flickr member Francisco-PortoNorte)

It’s late June and here in Minnesota the bugs are starting to come out and pretty soon by 3:00 in the afternoon that heat will start to be a bit too much for most people. Or maybe it’s the humidity … that magical invisible meteorological condition that separates us from Colorado (that and mountains, scenery, and outdoor baseball). Anyway, back to point.

When you’re in Minnesota and sell some of the best Ports made, June through mid September tends to be a pretty slow time. I hear it from every restaurant and retailer buyer I present them to: “Are you kidding? It’s way too hot outside for Port!”

So what do they do in Portugal? Think about it. Nobody consumes more Port than Portugal, yet they have heat waves the likes of which put us to shame. Heat and humidity are a way of life there. So what do they do? They chill it!

Try it yourself. Get some Graham’s 20 year tawny, or Smith Woodhouse 10 year tawny and put it in the fridge overnight. Then pour two glasses and microwave one of them until it’s just above room temperature. This is a great, quick education in taste sensations. The cooler temp brings out the acidity and liveliness in the port. It enhances the bright brown sugar aromas, the orange rind tang, the brighter dry fruit aromas. It’s downright REFRESHING. The one that is too warm is downright FLABBY, with the heat of the alcohol overwhelming the wine.

Last year, in Chicago, there were fourteen restaurants that were doing chilled Tawny Port offerings. The results were clear: it was a hit. Not gangbusters, of course, but enough to justify the ‘effort’ to do it (‘effort’ here being to put the bottle in the cooler and re-print the menu).

And retailers? Don’t forget that in many other states you would be banned from in-store tastings! Make use of our situation and chill down a bottle of Tawny Port to introduce you customers to a new favorite summertime sipper! Offer 20% off all Port between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Do anything to bring attention to that part of your shop!

That is simply money in the bank.