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Published: Tuesday, 7/4/2006

Toast the Fourth with port or a glass of rum shrub

I ve long wondered why we Americans apparently haven t inherited a respect for porto, the fortified wine originally made in Portugal.

It s an American-style sturdy beverage, with a hint or more of sweet, strong flavoring and texture (read chewy ).

Finally, it has a relatively high alcohol content, enough so to survive an Atlantic crossing tossed about in small wooden sailing ships, which is more than fine European table wines can endure.

Though porto mostly just plain port is capable of being truly fine, with delicate elegance and respect for a cultured palate. Founding Father John Adams of Massachusetts knew New England s shippers who saw that his dinner table was graced with the right bottles. The nation s less prosperous citizens, as committed as the leadership to the ideal of liberty, drank rum, which had a less refined taste and was not as costly as table wine.

Plain rum usually was the popular beverage to celebrate weddings, funerals, and elections, but a special rum-base fruit-flavored drink called shrub usually made with raspberries nearly disappeared, like rum, in the great tidal wave of fine distilled table wines and liquors. If you d like to offer a toast to an early American president, a recipe to mix a pitcher of shrub was described by Eric Felten in the July 1 Wall Street Journal.

Another wonderment is why it s taken so long for Master Sommelier Evan Goldsteib and his mother, Joyce, to write and publish Perfect Pairings, (University of California Press, 328 pages, $29.95).

It s the best explanation I ve seen on matching wines and food. Evan is a nationally recognized sommeleier, and his mother is the retired owner and chef of the widely praised Square One Restaurant in San Francisco.

Specific sections are devoted to sparkling wines, white wines, red wines, and dessert wines. Each section offers five or six specific dishes, with detailed cooking instructions. Their best yet.

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