When is Port not a Port?

Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:02am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Vintners can take the vines out of Portugal but can they be used to produce the full-bodied Port wine that the nation is famous for in another country?

Peter Prager thinks so. His family has been making Port in California's Napa Valley for 30 years, partly because no one else was.

But Rupert Symington, whose ancestors have been linked with the wine in Portugal's Douro Region since the 17th century doubts any wine made elsewhere would really be Port.

"What's important is that people recognize the real thing," he explained in an interview.

"There are copies, but unlike cars and computer chips, we have such a unique soil and weather system that it's almost impossible to replicate what we have ... Even if you transplant the same vines to California, it won't taste the same. If you want the real thing, you have to buy the real thing," he insisted.

Trade agreements seem to support his argument. U.S. vintners are prohibited from selling anything they make as Port in Europe, Japan or Canada.

Prager, 49, conceded that while he used the same varietals as those grown in Portugal, along with other grapes European producers would never consider such as Petite Syrah and Chardonnay, his wines did not taste the same.

"We make Port here because it can be made very well here," Prager said from his family's winery in St Helena, California.   Continued...

<p>Barrels of aged Port wine are seen at a Gaia city cellar in northern Portugal September 11, 2006. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro</p>