Over the last couple of years, rich has replaced "artistic" when it comes to cuisine. A watercress salad washed down with Perrier doesn't qualify as lunch any longer, unless of course you're a pet rabbit, in which case it's de rigueur. In my neck of the woods, the hottest new restaurant in town is a classic steakhouse where the double porterhouse weighs in at a challenging 44 ounces and the potatoes lyonnaise are swimming in enough butter to float a small dinghy. Last week I saw a heart surgeon leave the place and head straight to the Ferrari dealership, conveniently located around the corner.
In keeping with the trend toward substance, port is back, both as an after-dinner drink and as a beverage that can be served throughout the meal. These fortified wines from Portugal are massive, ripe, complex, and unapologetically vinous. If you're accustomed to see-through Merlots, try reading The Wall Street Journal through one of these bruisers. It's not just about substance, though. Don't forget the other quality of great port: style. Here are three different types of port in a range of prices. Each one is suited in its own way to the New Seriousness.
RAMOS PINTO QUINTA DA URTIGA NV PORTO ($16)
In an industry where many of the firms date back to the 18th century or beyond, Ramos Pinto is something of a Johnny-come-lately, founded by two brothers in 1880. It's now owned by Maison Louis Roederer, the distinguished champagne firm. Unlike many port producers, Ramos Pinto owns most of its own vineyards - 460 acres worth. Urtiga is a 37-acre vineyard in the Torto Valley. The 30-year-old plantings contain the several different grape varieties that traditionally go into port.