Port Wines

Port wine is a fortified wine from the Douro region of northern Portugal.
After the wine has been produced, using only designated Portuguese grape varieties, it is fortified by adding a neutral grape spirit known as arguardente which stops the fermentation and leaving residual sugar in the wine. It also boosts the alcohol content. The spirit is sometimes refered to as brandy but it bears very little resemblance to commercial brandies.
After production, the wine is stored and aged in barrels before bottling. The name “Port” comes from the city of Porto on the River Douro, where most of the product was introduced to the market.
The Douro Valley has been a protected region (Appellation) since 1756.
Although the vast majority of port is ruby or tawny, there are other variations such as white and even pink. Port can also be produced in sweet, semi-dry and dry varieties.
Fortified wines similar to port are also produced outside Portugal and include Australia; France; South Africa; Canada; India; Argentina; United States and Spain.
Under European Union guidelines only the product from Portugal can be labelled as “Port” whilst in the USA port can come from anywhere in the world.
Ruby port is the least expensive and the most produced style. After fermentation it is stored in stainless steel or concrete tanks to stop aging and keep its bright red colour and fruitiness. The wine is filtered before bottling and does not generally improve with age.
Pink port is a recent variation which is fermented in a similar way to Rose wine, having limited exposure to the grape skins so producing a lighter colour.
Tawny port is made from red grapes and aged in wooden barrels which exposes them to a gradual oxidation and evaporation. This results in them changing to a golden-brown colour. The exposure to oxygen also gives them a “nutty” flavour. A tawny port without age indication will generally have had at least three years in barrels.
Colheita port is a single vintage Tawny port, aged for at least seven years and will have the vintage year on the bottle instead of the age category. (10 – 20). Some Colheita’s can spend twenty or more years in barrels before bottling.
White port is made from white grapes and can be made in a wide variety of styles. These can be served cold and make a great basis for cocktails.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a port that is bottled after being left in the barrel longer than normal before bottling.
Crusted port is a blend of several vintages and is bottled unfiltered and should be decanted before consumption.
Vintage port will be made from a declared vintage year and aged in barrels or stainless steel for around two years before bottling. They then require another ten to forty years of aging in the bottle. Because of their short time in barrels they retain their ruby colouring. Because the character of these ports comes from the decomposing of the grape solids in the bottle, they must have a settling period before decanting and consumption.