Checking on the types of wine that there are generally, I noticed the other day that dessert wines are not often referred to. You see, while there are talks and posts and long long articles about wines like Red Bordeaux and Champagne, classic and very important ones indeed, almost nothing is being said about wines like Port, Madeira or Sherry wine in comparison.
But why do we fail to talk about them and give them the “importance” they so much deserve?! Now that’s a question I am not going to overthink, BUT I am going to take the chance and start talking about all those wines!
So, as a start, I am going to give you a little bit on Port wine for today!
Did you know that it holds the third oldest wine appellation in the history of wines? Did you know that there are more than 100 grape varieties that can be used for Port wines?
Well, those are some of the interesting facts I will give you on this wine along with many many more. So, how about I help you learn Everything You Need To Know About Port Wine?
It is one of the greatest dessert wines after all!
Are you ready? Well, come on! Let’s not just waste time and start now!
Some General Words About Port Wine
Port, Vinho do Porto or Port is a fortified wine that is produced only within Douro Valley in northern Portugal. Other countries such as France, Canada, Australia, etc. produce wines similar to Port wine, however, according to PDO rules only the ones from Portugal can carry that label name. The region of Douro Valley has the third oldest appellation in history, in 1756, following those of Tokaj, in 1730, and Chianti, in 1716.
Generally, though it is known to be a red sweet wine that is typically served with dessert, there are a lot of styles of Port wine that range from red, white, rosé to Vintage and Late-Bottled Vintage. Port Wines contain an alcohol level of about 19% to 22%.
How Is It Made?
Typically, Port wine is produced with the method of fortification, a method according to which a distilled spirit is added to the wine to stop the process of fermentation in order for the wine to contain a higher level of residual sugar and alcohol. While Brandy is the grape spirit usually used for the making of fortified wines, in this case, Aguardiente or Aguardente plays that role. After the process of fortification, the wine is aged and then bottled. During this winemaking procedure, there are two options for winemakers to follow as far as aging is concerned, depending on the type of Port they wish to produce. According to it, Port Wine types are distinguished to those that age in sealed bottles and the ones that age in wooden barrels. But I will give you more info on those categories and the types they included as we move on, so stay with me.
Which are the Grape Varieties used for the production of Port Wine?
Lots of different grape varieties are used to make a Port wine, a blend of them that is, however, only five of them are mostly used for its production. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (or widely known as Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa and Tinta Amarela are those grape varieties (all black grape varieties). Some of the other black grape varieties used are the Bastardo, Marufo, Malvasia Preta and Rufete grape varieties (among others). Some of the white grape varieties used in the making of Port wine are the Malvasia Fina, Verdelho, Viosinho, Samarrinho and Vital grape varieties (among others).
Types Of Port Wine
Basically, there are 2 main categories of Port wine according to their making process:
- Wines that age in sealed glass bottles and
- Wines that age in wooden barrels
But let’s get a closer look at these two categories and the further categories they are divided in…
No #1: Wines that age in sealed glass bottles
- Vintage Ports are blends from grapes harvested on the same vintage year and they are considered to be of excellent quality. Not all years are declared vintages as the decision is made by the region’s wineries called “Shippers”. Vintage Ports account for a small part of the overall Port wine production. They may be left to age in barrels or stainless containers for about two to two and a half years tops before they are bottled and left to age for another ten to forty years in cellars. Vintage Ports are usually red full-bodied wines that tend to get better in time and need decanting before drinking.
- Single-Quinta Vintages are vintage Port wines that come from a single wine house. That usually happens when the entire production of all wine houses is not enough for the year to be declared as vintage, thus, a wine house may declare this same year of its own vintage production as a Single-Quinta Vintage Port.
- Late Bottled Vintage Ports (LBV) are made from grapes of a single vintage harvest and they are left to age in an oak barrel for about 4 to 6 years before they are bottled. Now, there are two categories of Late Bottled Vintage Ports. One is filtered before put into the bottle and needs no decanting, so it can be drunk immediately. It can be aged for some time but its improvement potential is only up to a certain limit. On the other hand, the other LBV category is not filtered and needs to be decanted before drunk. But it has a much better aging potential after having been bottled compared to the filtered LBV.
- Crusted are blends of several vintages. That means that the producer may use vintages of different years to make a Crusted Port wine. They are bottled after three to four years of aging in the wooden barrels, and they are left in cellars to age for three years and more before they are sold. They are meant to be drunk rather soon after they are sold, although they can be further aged by the buyer. They are called crusted as these wines develop a ‘crust ‘in the walls of their bottles and they also need decanting before drinking like Vintage Ports. They are of great quality but they are a cheaper solution than Vintage Ports for the buyer.
No #2: Wines that age in wooden barrels
- Ruby Ports are red Ports and they are the most usual type of port wine to be produced due to their low selling price. Usually, they are kept in stainless steel tanks to avoid oxidation and they are meant to be drunk young. The color may defer a little bit between two Ruby Ports but that depends only on the certain brands of wine.
- Reserve Ports are better quality Ruby Port wines that have a more complex character than Ruby Ports.
- Tawny Ports are wines that come from red grapes, although sometimes white grapes are also used in their making.They belong to the wood aged category of Ports and they spend at least 2 years in the wooden barrels. They can be sweet or semi-dry and they have a golden-brown color, one that can be achieved either through the gradual oxidations during its making or through its blending with white Port wine. Tawny Ports are blends of older vintage wines and the age indicated on the label can be 10, 20, 30 or above 40 years. However, these indications do not refer to the age of the blend itself in the barrel, but to the average age profile of the blend.
- Colheita Ports are Ports made with the same process as Tawny Ports left to age for seven years or more in wooden barrels or inox vats. Some of them may be left for more than 20 years in the barrels before they are bottled and become available in the market. They are created from a vintage wine, a single vintage one that is, and the year of the vintage is stated on the label of the Colheita Port wine.
- Garrafeira Ports are actually a quite rare type of Port. Just like Colheita Ports, they are created from single vintage wines and they also have the date of the vintage year written on their labels. However, this type of Port wine is left to age for three or six years in a wooden barrel and then it is placed in a large special glass container of about 11 liters, called demijohn, to age for eight years or even more before it is bottled.
- White Ports are wines made from white grapes and they belong to the wood aging category of Ports. Their aging differs are well as their styles, which they can range from very dry to very sweet. According to their sweetness level, they are characterized as Extra Seco, Seco, Doce or Lágrima. White Ports can be a great base for cocktails while they can also be served chilled on their own. A very common “cocktail” in the Porto region, is sweet white Port wine with Tonic.
- Rosé Ports are wines relatively new as they were first introduced to the market in 2008.They are basically red ports with a slight distinction during the fermentation, in order for the rosé color to emerge.
What About The Port Producing Wineries?
The wineries or Houses that produce Port wine are called “Shippers”. Although most of the first Shippers were British and Irish, many others, Portuguese, Dutch and German ones have come to establish a good ranking position among them.
Now, how about I give you some of the top Port Houses?
These are 15 of the Top Houses that produce Port wines
- Barros, Ameida
- J.W. Burmester
- A.A. Calem & Filho
- Borges & Irmao
- Cockburn Smithes
- C. da Dilva
- Delaforce, Sons & Co.
- Diez Hermanos
- Feuerheerd Brothers
- H. & C.J. Feist
- W. & J. Grahamn
Ok, so I got the types, I got the Port Houses but how about something a bit more practical?
How to Pair Port Wine With Food
You see, Port wine is typically served with dessert, after all, it does belong to the Dessert Wines category. However, as I already mentioned above, some of its types can be served on their own and some of them can even be served with a meal, depending on its alcohol, sweetness and certain of its characteristics.
The thing is this though, when it comes to food pairing, Port wine is paired in the same way as any other wine, based on the Contrast and Complement strategies and not only!Of course, it is wonderful to pair with desserts like chocolate, a hard one to match but not when it comes to Port, but you can still experiment and work your own food and wine combinations out. Apart from the general guidelines, anyone will give you, it is a matter of your own personal wine profile at the end of the day.
So, if you haven’t tasted any kind of Port, now is the time to start! Take things gradually and try to taste every type of Port available, once you practically see what it tastes like you will find your own ideal food pairings. Oh, by the way, when it comes to cooking with Port wine, you will find it an excellent addition to your reductions!
So To Wrap Things Up…
You now have a pretty good idea of what is Port wine is all about! You know that it is a dessert fortified wine that comes from the Douro Valley of Portugal and that it can be made from a great range of grape varieties! It has two methods of aging after the process of fortification and those are the ones that define the types of Port wine available. You have seen that there are quite a few types of Port wine, Vintage Ports, Single-Quinta Ports, Late Bottled Vintage ones, Crusted Ports, White, Rosé, Ruby Ports, Reserve, Tawny Ports, Colheitas and Garrafeira Ports.
Only some of the most important Wine Houses of Douro Valley were mentioned above and there are a lot more for you to find!
Overall, you now have everything you need to know about Port Wine! Now, take all these info and use them! Taste all the Port wines you can and why this is such an important and interesting wine that you have to make yourself familiar with!! Drink it, choose your own food pairing and even use it in your cooking! Go on! It’s yours for the taking!
Hope I have included everything you needed to know about Port Wine! If not, please take a moment and write your addition in the comments section… Cheers!