The Porto Wine Brotherhood

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

In 1983, while working at The Water Club in New York, Roy Hersh was introduced to the 1963 Sandeman Port. Sommelier Sam Correnti had purchased the 1963 Sandeman Port and “whenever he opened a bottle, he would call me in for the decanting,” Hersh recalled.

Correnti would decant the Port, pouring it through a cheesecloth to catch the sediment. “He would take the cheese cloth, with the sediment, and strain some into my mouth.” Tasting this 20-year old Vintage Port, Hersh was hooked.

Hersh, who holds both culinary and hospitality degrees and has worked in the restaurant industry in New York, Colorado, Virginia, Washington DC, Miami and Washington, spent the next 11 years saving up money to go overseas for the first time. His first trip was to Portugal in May 1994 and since then he has been more than 30 times.

Throughout this time, Hersh promoted Port wine, introducing it to many restaurants on both coasts, hosting tastings, and in 2000, Hersh began writing about Port and Madeira for the website WineLoversPage.com.

As a leading promoter of Port wine, Hersh was inducted into the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, or Porto Wine Brotherhood, in 2003. Hersh was one of only two Americans enthroned that year.

The Confraria do Vinho do Porto was established in November 1982 to promote Port wine, the sweet red, fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. The Brotherhood recognizes those who work in Port wine companies as well as journalists, retailers and advocates who work to share their passion for Port wine both locally and internationally.

The Brotherhood is led by a five-person group that includes the Chanceler (Chancellor, the senior representative in the Confraria), the Almoxarife (Administrator), the Coperio-Mor (Head-Cupbearer), the Almotacé (Treasurer) and the Fiel das Usanças (Warden of Usages). Members of the Confraria are known as Confrades (Brothers), of which there are three ranks. Cancelário (Vice-Chancellor) is given to Heads of State; Infanção (Nobleman) is given to “notable people or institutions who make a significant contribution to the promotion and prestige of Port, of who otherwise merit distinction”; Cavaleiro (Knight) is given to those who “have made a significant contribution to the understanding and prestige of Port Wine.”

After taking his oath to Port in 2003, Hersh quit his day job in the hospitality industry and created the first For The Love Of Port newsletter in February 2004. Hersh met Stewart Todd later that year and with Hersh’s ideas and content and Todd’s knowledge of computers and website development, they launched the For The Love Of Port (FTLOP) website in July 2005.

For The Love Of Port is an independent, interactive website that is first and foremost focused on Port wine, but also includes Madeira and non-fortified wines from all regions in Portugal.

Other features of the website are the Forum, which has more than 4,600 members and nearly 115,000 posts. FTLOP offers a vast user-driven Tasting Note Database, including nearly 10,000 from their participants and an additional 3,500-plus of Roy Hersh’s tasting notes.

Hundreds of articles, photos and videos on Port, Madeira and Douro wines are available in the archives, including comprehensive reports on specific Port vintages and a detailed vintage chart.

The FTLOP Newsletter, which currently has more than 5,000 opt-in recipients and subscribers from 78 countries, is launching its 90th issue in this month. For The Love Of Port also organizes tours to Portugal, offering guests opportunities to experience insider expeditions and learn about the wines, food and viticulture.

For The Love Of Port has built a global community with Port Wine Clubs across Europe and North America. Hersh explains, “increasing this Port community is our raison d’être and what drives us to be the world’s leading independent Port wine website.”

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Last month, the Confraria do Vinho do Porto was in Seattle and San Francisco to induct new members. Joining Hersh in the Brotherhood as Cavaleiros are FTLOP colleagues Stewart Todd, Vice President of Technology, and Andy Velebil, Forum Moderator. Todd, based in Seattle, is in the midst of developing a new website with Hersh and teaches classes on Port wine; Velebil, based in California, also hold classes on Port wine and moderates the FTLOP forum.

In addition, For The Love Of Port was enthroned in the Brotherhood as an Infanção (Nobleman). FTLOP is the first non-human entity brought into the Confraria and recognized for its work as an educator and promoter of port wine for more than a decade.

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This is a significant honor, as Roy Hersh noted: “When learning that the website, For The Love Of Port, was selected as the first ever social media entity to be inducted into the Confraria (attributed the rank of Honarary Confrade), especially at the level of Infançao (Nobleman), it was a very humbling moment. Having dedicated my service in honor of my original oath to the Confraria do Vinho do Porto (2003), For The Love Of Port has been my life’s work. I am grateful for this recognition and it is dedicated to our team that has successfully made FTLOP the most innovative and active Port website in the world.”

FTLOP has introduced thousands of people to port, madeira and now all the wine regions of Portugal. If you want to learn more about these wines or are looking to travel to Portugal, check out www.fortheloveofport.com.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.

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