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Biltmore Becomes a Port Authority

Written By Jean Sexton

Posted 11/01/16

Updated 03/16/20

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If you think the phrase “any old port in a storm” also applies to port-style wines, think again: the pleasure of sipping a fine port makes it worth the effort of selecting something truly special.

The origin of Port

As the name suggests, Porto or Port originated in Portugal—a country with a long grape-growing and wine-producing history. Port is a type of fortified wine, similar in some respects to sherry, Madeira, Marsala, or vermouth.

While most fortified wines are created by adding some type of distilled spirit (such as brandy) after fermentation, distilled spirit is added to Port wines during fermentation, which effectively kills the actively fermenting yeast. Without yeast to consume it, residual sugar levels in the wine remain high, providing Port with its characteristically sweet flavor.

Biltmore winemakers pour Ventageo for a special eventBecoming a “Port authority”

As with Champagnes and wines of other protected designations of origin, Port can only be labeled such if it originates in the Douro River region of Portugal.

When our winemakers began the lengthy process of crafting this style of wine at Biltmore, they knew it would have to be labeled “dessert-style,” which is the legal wording for Ports that are not from the Douro.

“Although our new port-type wine cannot be labeled Port,” said Heather Jordan, Biltmore Wine Marketing Director, “it is handcrafted here at Biltmore from the traditional Portuguese grapes that would be grown in the Douro region, including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Tinta Amarela, and Souzão.”

Our winemakers carefully selected these varietals from our California vineyard partners who also supply outstanding fruit for some of our Biltmore Wines and the producers of some of the finest American port-style wines.

“They’ve created a wonderful tawny port,” Heather said, “which refers to the aging process. The tawny designation means that the port has been barrel-aged for at least two years and some oxidation has occurred, deepening the rich notes of nuts and caramel that you’d expect to taste in a more mature port.”

Close-up view of Ventageo labelIntroducing Ventágeo

“Ventágeo is a first for us,” Heather said. “It is a very traditional port-style wine, and the name combines elements of the Portuguese word for wind with the first letters of George Vanderbilt’s name to create a word that suggests voyage and travel.”

Ventágeo honors George Vanderbilt’s journeys around the globe and the treasures—including fine wines—he carefully chose for his private estate. Intense, handcrafted flavor featuring rich layers of sun-dried stone fruit drizzled with hints of caramel and ripe berries makes Ventágeo a stunning finish for any meal or special moment.

Featured image: Ventágeo in the Champagne Cellar

First image: Winemaker Sharon Fenchak gives guests a preview of Ventágeo at our Vineyard Harvest Celebration in October

Final image: A closer look at the Ventágeo label

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