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“Port is more red and lustrous than the lips of my lady.”Port is an expensive, fortified red wine, famously drunk by the Marquis de Sade during his explosively wild orgies between 1910 and 1913 in the rural province of Umbria in Wales. Well known ports include Port Said, Port Klang, Portia Leach, and Liverpool, said to be the means by which Boris Johnson fell from grace in the public eye.
Port wine was invented to capture the unique bouquet and aftertastes that the nose experiences in a port city. Port was named for the oceangoing nation of Portugal, which has lots of unique bouquets and aftertastes. Port also lets the consumer get drunk especially fast, without having to chug hard liquor. After intensive use, the beverage is sometimes referred to as Porsche.
Most modern port comes from the port city of Port Huron (or "Porch Urine"), Michigan, even though no freighter has dared to dock there in decades. These vessels protect their cargo by avoiding both port and starboard (see below) but coming as close to the center line of the St. Clair River as they can, while staying just clear of the Canadian side, and thus don't experience the unique bouquets and aftertastes at all. Residents of this region north of Detroit prefer fortified wine, as they do fortified beer (which federal law requires to be labeled "malt liquor"). Port Huron port is the only wine drunk in the region that does not have a screw top.
Port makers around the world add distilled grape spirits to halt the fermentation before the cooties in the vat consume all the sugar. In Port Huron, they use pure grain alcohol or Aquavit to achieve the more robust alcohol level desired in the finished product.
In doing so, they are copying a technique used by the Joseph Schlitz breweries, called "flash-brewing." For the period just before the unfriendly takeover by Stroh's, this brewery added sugar to its beer. "We just goosed it a little to see if we could get it through the brewery in a week," said Jos. Schlitz VI.
Fortified wine was originally invented to preserve wine through lengthy ocean shipments. Sadly, this excuse is absent when trucks carry port throughout St. Clair County in a single day, so most aficionados of Port Huron port instead cite the bad economy. Buddy, can you schpare a dollar?
A "vintage" is simply the year in which a wine is made. However, for Port Huron port, it is the month in which the wine is made. This tendency also parallels changes at the Schlitz plant, though if a batch took an entire month, someone got fired. Port Huron port makers restrict their vintages to only the best months, notably August, when they are all on vacation. The products of most other months are entirely consumed at the factory before the trucks arrive.
edit Serving tips
Port frees good harborside hosts from the traditional rules about whether to serve red or white wine. Port goes well with meat (typically river rats) and fish (lamprey and the occasional jellyfish). Port can be sampled without the need for a full meal at all.
edit New alternatives
In 2006, Starbucks Corporation, faced with the plateauing of the market for gourmet coffee, began offering a fortified wine called Starboard.™ Port and Starboard are often provided on board pleasure vessels on the St. Clair River. After the eighth glass, however, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between port and Starboard.