Port is a fortified wine that is made by adding brandy during fermentation. The addition of spirits kills the yeasts,
which in turn halts the fermentation process. This results in a wine both sweet and high in alcohol. Named for its
home city Oporto, true Port must come from the designated area. The grapes used are a blend,, but the favored grape
thought to be the best is Touriga Nacional. It is a tiny grape with an intensely dark skin that is fond of hot weather.
Resultant wines are highly aromatic and inky in color. Other grapes include Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca
to name a few.
>Styles of Port
The most confusing part of buying and choosing port is the style. All ports are made through halting fermentation by
adding brandy. From there, the styles are determined by multiple factors. Many ports fall into two broad categories:
Ruby and Tawny. The main difference here is aging – Roby ports age in bottle, tawnies age in cask and see a bit of oxygen.
Here is a quick
description of ruby, tawny and others:
The most basic and often least-expensive port. Ruby port is bottled young with very little time in cask and sold with
no aging required. It keeps its bright ruby color and the best wines show red fruity-spice and warmth. A fine ruby or
reserve ruby is usually higher in quality.
Late Bottle Vintage Port
Like vintage port, LBV comes from a single year, often undeclared. It's bottled four to six years after harvest and
can be kept for a few years in bottle. Not as complex as actual vintage ports, LBVs are still excellent and can be
enjoyed earlier than most vintage ports.
Quinta stands for vineyard. A single-quinta is just that – port from a single vineyard. Like LBVs, they are from a
single year, but usually not a declared year. Ruby in style as they are bottled after only a couple of years in oak.
The most famous and decadent of ports, vintage ports are only made in declared years and by law must be bottled
after 2 years. Because it ages in bottle instead of cask, it will retain those ruby characteristics of fruit and
color. Vintage ports are delicious and seductive, with just the right balance of fruit and alcohol to warm your
palate and your spirit. Vintage port can last for decades, but are delicate after opening so finish within a couple
of days once opened.
Basic Tawny Port
Port that has been aged in cask for a few years, usually showing a lighter hue and a brown tinge. Not as fruity as a
ruby and not as intense as an aged tawny. The brown tinge comes from exposure to oxygen at a controlled level.
Aged Tawny Port
An aged tawny has been left in cask or barrel for at least 6 years. Made of high-quality grapes, aged tawnies gain a
silky texture and spicy, nutty flavor from oak ageing and oxygen. Can be aged 10, 20 or 30 years, as the bottle will state.
Perfect slightly chilled.
Colheita Port (vintage-dated Tawny)
A Colheita port is a vintage aged tawny. The date of harvest will be printed on the label. Colheitas are like aged
tawnys, but often with an extra bit of character from the year of harvest.
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Portugal
Common Descriptors: sweet, warm, spicy, rich, smooth
Learn More About Portugal
The country best known for Port,
Madeira and corks is often overlooked when consumers think of red and white still
wines – but take note! The table wines of the region have improved dramatically in the past few decades. The
winemaking areas trickle down the country's narrow shape, bordered by the Atlantic on the west and Spain on the east.
Furthest to the north lies the region Minho, which produces the slightly spritzy white wine, Vinho Verde. Translated,
it means green wine, not because the wine is green, but because it is meant to be drunk in its youth. Vinho Verde is a
light, refreshing wine, low in alcohol and with a slight spritz. It can be made with a number of grapes, but the best
whites are made with Alvarinho (yep, same as Spain's Albarino). Red Vinho Verde exists too, but not on the export market.
For other red table wines, the three most common regions are the Douro, Dao, Bairrada and Alentejo.
In the Douro, home of Port, red wines are made from a few grape varieties including the primary port grape, Touriga
Nacional as well as Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). Still red wines from the area are good quality and contain fruity,
spicy notes. The Dao and Bairrida areas use Port grapes and the local tempranillo and make high quality, good value
red wines. Bairrida also makes a few sparklers. Alentejo is a super big and super hot region in the south of
Portugal making reds and whites.