Port is made
in various styles in the Douro Valley, a rugged, yet beautiful and
stunning location in northern Portugal. The area was first demarcated in
fortified wine, port is made by stopping the fermentation before it is
complete, in order to arrest or keep some residual sugar in the wine. In
most cases, maturation takes place in Villa Nova de Gaia, close to the
coolness of the mouth of the River Douro and opposite the city of Oporto.
slopes alongside the River Douro and its tributaries are terraced to
accommodate the vines. Labor therefore is still pretty intensive and
most of the picking is done by hand. Over forth different grape
varieties are grown here, but only five have been identified as ideal
for the production of port: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta
Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cāo .
Once the ripe
grapes are picked, fermentation will follow in stainless steel tanks,
although some 'quintas' (vineyards) still tread grapes in 'lagares',
open-top granite tanks. Ordinary port will often have a long maturation
in casks, known as pipes, or in large wooden vats, while vintage port
will develop for most of its life in bottle.
is seen as an after-dinner drink or a classic accompaniment to cheese,
particularly Stilton, its breadth of styles means that it can be
suitable with a range of food. A sweet tawny port for instance, works
beautifully with a rich pate.
: made from white grapes. Dry or sweet.
youthful, spicy, fruity, and with a deep ruby color.
Character : deeply colored, full-bodied port around four years of
aged in wood, tawny colored, smooth, and with flavors of dried fruits. A
blend of grapes from several harvests, an indication of age (10, 20, 30
or 40 years old) will be shown on the label of the best ports.
A single harvest Tawny. At least seven years old, having rich, smooth,
complex 'Tawny' characteristics.
Bottled Vintage (LBV) : port from a good year (not necessarily a
'declared' vintage). Matured in wood for five or six years. Accessible,
more complex than ruby or vintage character.
Quinta : single harvest, from an individual vineyard. Maturing in
bottle to reveal black fruits and spice on the palate. Throws sediment
(crust), so needs decanting.
single exceptional harvest, which may be declared. Aged for two to three
years in wood, then slowly in bottle, for up to three decades. Complex,
blackberry-like flavors, spicy and powerful in youth. Needs decanting.