Why Do We Mess Port Up In The UK?

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One of the first things you’re told when you’re sat in your lecture room at WSET (wine exam board) HQ, eagerly waiting to tackle Port, is that most people in the UK drink it wrong. I’m not saying that they miss their mouth and tip it down their shirts, or that they stand on their heads and try and drink it backwards. It’s more that bad habits have crept into how lots of Brits drink Port. And as a Port lover myself, it’s that glorious mix of funny and annoying to watch it happen. 

Just Drink The Bloody Thing

If you, or your parents, or your grandparents haven’t done this, then you’ll know someone who has. They get a bottle at Christmas, open it up, have a glass, stick the stopper back in, and only pull the stopper out again next Christmas. Port is a wine. Within a few days of opening, at best, it’s gone. When you open a bottle, you drink the bottle, end of story.

What On Earth Are Port Glasses About?

One of my best mates grew up in the countryside, in proper picture-postcard Britain. His parents’ house is full of really cool little trinkets and traditions are kept brilliantly well. But I’m sorry guys, one that needs to go is the port glasses. I’d never seen them before we had a bottle at his one Christmas. When he pulled out the glasses I just looked at them, completely dumbfounded. These things are little, glass thimbles that you’ll finish by inhaling the liquid before it’s touched your lips. Port is a wine, use a wine glass! Please people, help me out here!

Anyone Know The Bishop Of Norwich?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the best Port traditions are British by invention. Back at the start of the 1700s we weren’t exactly talking to France, so we signed treaties with Portugal to bring in their products instead. The navy in particular gave us the tradition of only passing Port to the left, or so it’s said. Also, if you hold onto the bottle too long then at some point you’re going to be asked if you know the Bishop of Norwich. I’ve never met anyone that actually knows why, but it’s all a laugh, eh?

So there we are, Port’s a wine. Open it, drink it (using proper bloody glasses!), just don’t keep hold of the bottle too long.

Cheers


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