Fortified Wine - Port

Fortified Wine - Port

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 1756.

A rich, 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.

The steep 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.

Styles of Port

Although port 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.

White Port : made from white grapes. Dry or sweet.

Ruby : youthful, spicy, fruity, and with a deep ruby color.

Vintage Character : deeply colored, full-bodied port around four years of age (blended).

Tawny : 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.

Colheita : A single harvest Tawny. At least seven years old, having rich, smooth, complex 'Tawny' characteristics.

Late 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.

Single 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.

Vintage : 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.

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