Whenever it relates to wine and wine-based drinks, the possibilities are almost limitless. Not only are there hundreds upon hundreds of grape varieties, but once such grapes are converted into wine, the range of potent potables extends that much more.
Port wine is most widely served as a dessert wine because of its richness. Port is available in various colors, including red, white, rosé, and an aged version known as tawny Port. While most of the Port we see around stores is of mediocre quality, there are also fine port wines that are highly prized and cost hundreds of dollars. Let’s get acquainted with this fascinating, historic delicious red wine.
This article shows you all the primary information about types of port wine, the origin, the way how to drink port wine and its benefits.
What is port wine
Port is a fortified wine, which means it is a carefully blended combination of wine and spirit (in this case, brandy). The mixing accomplishes two goals: it makes the drink smoother (which consumers prefer), and it makes the drink more shelf-stable (better for producers). Historically, however, blending was performed to achieve the best way to transport wine over long distances cheaply and safely.
However, due to the thick, syrupy substance that comes from the process of adding spirits to wine, Port is situated in the far corner of the wine world’s diagram, alongside other powerful wines such as Madeira, sherry, marsala, and vermouth. It can be used in the same ways as other spirits: straight, in drinks or punches, or as an ingredient in cooking when a recipe calls for it.
The origin of port wine
Port beverage is only produced in and around Portugal’s Douro Valley. Port processing is concentrated in urban areas along the Douro River, such as Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (home to Sandeman, Taylor Fladgate, and its port buildings, Fonseca Guimaraens, Croft and Delaforce, Graham’s, and Cockburn’s), where vines were always crushed by foot.
Similar to the naming restrictions that apply to Champagne, EU law requires ports to be produced in Portugal in order to be sold under the brand. Since such laws do not exist outside of the EU, Portuguese manufacturers have started to include a certification stamp on their bottles to indicate their provenance and authenticity.
When the English were at war with France during the Peninsular campaigns, they avoided consuming French wines, and this world-famous fortified wine became popular. This time in history provided the Portuguese with an opportunity to introduce their wines into the important British market.
Types of port wine
Following an initial fermentation point, the base wine is fortified with brandy to stop the fermentation phase to catch the fruit’s flavors at their height. This also traps a higher concentration of residual sugars than average, contributing to the sweetness and high alcohol content of port wine. The Port is then aged in casks (or, in some cases, straight in bottles) for just under two years before being mixed with other vintages or left to mature more.
Port wine is classified into five styles. White wines are usually clear multi-vintage blends that range from sweet to dry. The ruby and orangey ports are both sweet multi-vintage blends that can be aged. Dated ports are high-quality citrus wines that are sold according to their age. Harvest ports are not mixed and are matured by a minimum of seven years.
Besides, there are many types of port wine I want to introduce today.
The most luxurious and prestigious type of port wine is Vintage Port. Vintage Port, despite accounting for only a tiny portion of overall Port volume, is the Douro’s flagship type, made only from a single vineyard in an excellent year.
A vintage is only “declared” when both the quality and quantity of available fruit are balanced. In January, two years after the harvest, samples are sent to the Institute of Douro and Porto Wine. Vintage announcements are made by the end of June after being reviewed and tested for consistency evaluation.
This type of port wine is made from the Douro’s best grapes, usually from the Cima Corgo sub-region. The grapes are allowed to fully ripen before being harvested, vinified, and fortified with a high-proof grape spirit.
Vintage Port is aged in barrel for just two to three years before being distilled unfiltered, as it is already very thick and full of sediment. This is why the minimum bottle-aging cycle for Vintage Port is known to be 15 years, and no other wine is said to take as much time in the bottle to mature itself. The best cases will still be alive after 50 years.
If technical advancements boost wine-making equipment and the ability to monitor weather conditions, port houses are likely to produce years of Vintage Port more frequently. Vintage years that have recently been commonly declared include 1994, 1997, 2003, 2007, and 2011.
Critical acclaim has contributed to a revival of interest in the style. Vintage Port is often regarded as an alternative to Bordeaux or Burgundy as an addition to the cellar. Decanting this type of port wine before serving is needed because the sediment in the bottle may become crusty over time.
Ruby Port, named for its young, bright red color, is the most commercially developed and widely available brand of port wine. It serves as an introduction to fortified wines in general for many people.
In contrast to Vintage Port, this type of port wine is a mix of young wines from various vintages. Most growers bulk-age their Ruby Port in cement or steel tanks for two or three years to avoid oxidation and preserve the wine’s young, fruity qualities. Ruby Ports do not change with bottle age since the wines are filtered and often pasteurized before bottling. The small consolation is that they do not contain sand and therefore do not need decanting.
The word “Ruby” is not formally or legally defined. Before the 1960s, it actually denoted a port of mass production. However, the port trade seems to have settled on the Ruby style – youthful, strong, and fruit-forward. The aromas of red-berry fruit that define the style complement the bright red hue that inspired the name.
Reserve Ruby Port is a step up from normal Ruby Port, generally aged for three to four years. Producers used to refer to these wines as “vintage character” Port, but the word was considered deceptive and was subsequently banned.
Rose port is a strongly aromatic type of port wine produced in the Douro region of northern Portugal. This type of Port, as the name implies, has a distinctive pink hue and usually exhibits notes of peach, raspberry, strawberry, and caramel.
Croft launched the style, which is one of the newest in the Douro, in 2008. The IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) initially classified the style as “light ruby” when it was first published.
Rosé Port, like other Port wines, can be a mixture of grape varieties. Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Co are the most widely used. These are vinified with little skin touch, resulting in a rosé color and less tannin in the wine. The use of cold settling prior to cool fermentation enhances Rosé Port’s distinctive freshness and smooth, friendly taste even more.
The fermentation process is stopped, as with other ports, by the addition of high-proof grape brandy, which destroys the yeast cells. This has the additional benefit of increasing the alcohol strength to about 19% ABV. Rosé Port is not aged, in contrast to older, more conventional port models.
White Port is a divisive type of port wine that is made in a variety of ways ranging from very sweet to dry. The style, which is often derided by purists, has grown in popularity as a chilled aperitif and cocktail mixing agent.
About half of the 50 or so varieties allowed in a White Port blend are actually white grapes, including Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Codega. However, the red grapes that can be used are of lower quality than those allowed in the more prestigious Vintage Port.
White Port is usually inexpensive since it receives little to no maceration during fermentation. The sweetness is due to higher residual sugar content, and alcohol levels are significantly lower than in red Port types.
While barrel aging is not typical for this type of port wine, those that do exhibit appealing nutty characteristics that lend themselves to the aperitif style. The wines are usually matured for no longer than 18 months and are preserved in stainless steel or cement tanks.
While Lagrima White Port is primarily sold on the domestic market, the term “tears” refers to an especially vicious, sweet type of White Port. Leve Seco (“light dry”), which is slightly drier and less popular, is at the other end of the continuum.
A traditional White Port has apricot, citrus rind, and nut notes. A quick mix with tonic is one of the most common cocktails.
Unlike Ruby Ports, which spend most of their time in the container, Tawny Ports are aged in barrels for many years. This causes oxygen to connect with the wine, giving Tawny Port its most distinct characteristics and resulting in the pale, “tawny” color that gives the style its name.
Many commercial Tawnies, on the other hand, are lighter in color not due to prolonged aging, but because they are made from lighter-colored base wines using gentler vinification processes, such as shorter maceration periods.
The tawny color and nutty, aged fragrance are often achieved by ageing in the heat of the upper Douro area, rather than shipping it downstream to Oporto, as is common in other types of port wine. This expedited aging process is known as the “Douro Bake,” which also refers to the caramel-like aromas that form in wines aged in this manner. gg
Fermentation of the base wine is stopped, as it is for all Ports, by applying high-proof grape spirit. This increases the alcoholic intensity of the wine to about 19% ABV and destroys the yeasts that were turning sugar into alcohol. The amount of unfermented sugar remaining in the must determines the sweetness of the wine.
Tawny Ports are non-vintage wines that are distilled from several vintages (as opposed to Vintage and Colheita Port). The primary goal is to retain the house style rather than to reflect the retro characteristics of any given season, by combining Tawny Port with Sherry and non-vintage Champagne.
Aged Tawny Port perfectly captures the real essence of Tawny Port. This group includes Reserve Tawny (which must be aged in barrel for at least seven years) as well as wines with an age statement (10, 20, 30, or 40 years) indicating how long they have been aged in barrel. These age statements are necessarily ambiguous since they refer to a non-vintage wine, and they rise per decade rather than per year.
Colheita Port is a single Tawny Port with a vintage date. It is similar to Tawny Port in terms of production, presentation, and taste. Still, the main distinction is that Colheita is the result of a single vintage and can thus vary significantly from year to year.
It is aged for at least seven years in oak, giving it a nutty, oxidized flavor. While theoretically mandated to spend seven years in a barrel, it sometimes spends up to twenty years. During this time, the wine oxidizes, making it more similar to Aged Tawny than any other Port type.
The term colheita means “harvest” or “vintage” in Portuguese. Still, it is stylistically distinct from Vintage Port, which is traditionally more durable and barrel-aged for no more than a few years. A Colheita year must be “declared” in the same way as a Vintage Port year is. In January, two years after harvest, samples are sent to the Institute of Douro and Porto Wine. After quality evaluation, vintage declarations are made by the institute at the end of June.
Both the vintage year and the date of bottling are used on the front and back labels, and can be used as a guideline for consumption: Colheita Port should be used within a year of bottling.
Crusted Port is a younger, more specialized type of port wine that is bottled unfiltered, allowing a sediment (crust) to form in the bottle over time. It is a relatively new innovation that aims to have a full-bodied, classic design that resembles Vintage Port at a much lower price.
Crusted Port is usually a mix of chosen fuller-bodied lots of wine that spend two to four years maturing in wooden vats before being bottled unfiltered. The bottles must then be aged for at least three years before they can be shipped out of Oporto. Only the date of bottling is permitted to appear on the label legally.
The wine may take a decade or more to grow a crust, but this represents an earlier drinking opportunity than most vintage Ports.The wine may take a decade or more to develop a crust, but this represents an earlier drinking opportunity than most vintage Ports.
Just a few buildings, including Fonseca, Dow’s, Churchill’s, and Graham’s, continue to manufacture the theme. Other houses have produced an unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage wine with comparable qualities. Crusted Port, like Vintage Port, needs decanting before consumption to eliminate sediment.
Garrafeira Port is an unusual form of this otherwise well-known Portuguese fortified wine. Today, it is only produced by the Niepoort family, whose first edition was in 1931. It is a sleek, delicate style that can keep its freshness even after sustained aging. It has been described as tasting like a cross between Colheita and mature Vintage Port.
This type of port wine, like the above, is produced from grapes from a single year, but the processing process is special. The fortified red ages in wood for three to six years, oxidizing and losing some color. It is then moved to glass demijohns and corked.
The second stage of aging takes place in a more reductive setting. Direct interaction with the glass imparts a distinct flavor known as “cheiro has garrafa” (the essence of the bottle). At Niepoort, demijohns are referred to as bon-bons and range in size from 7 to 11 liters (1.85 to 2.9 US gallons). This maturation takes several decades before being transferred to the bottle, and it can take several years in the bottle before being reopened.
Old Garrafeira Port bottles from other houses may also be open, typically at auction. Depending on the amount of time spent in oak or bottle, these may be more akin to a Colheita or an ancient Vintage Port. Other Portuguese wines use the word garrafeira. This denotes a reserve wine with additional ageing, rather than a reference to the Port type.
How to drink port wine
Ports distilled with a T-Cap cork would not benefit from further ageing and can be drunk immediately. It is not appropriate to cellar the wine for an extended period of time.
- These Ports can be kept at room temperature, but Tawny Ports are better served slightly chilled (55°F to 58°F), while young Ruby Ports are best served slightly chilled (60°F to 64°F).
- Tawny Ports will keep fresh for months after opening due to their interaction with oxygen during their time in barrel, while young Ruby Ports, with a much shorter time in barrel, can keep fresh for six to eight weeks.
Ports with a powered cork (primarily Vintage Ports) are bottled young and unfiltered, with the intention of ageing in bottles for an extended period of time.
- Vintage Ports are better served slightly chilled: 60°F to 64°F. Too cold (for example, straight from the cellar) and the wine may not release all of its aromas and flavors; too warm (68°F or higher) and the nose can look unbalanced. If you’re thinking about all the literary references to warming Port by the flames, keep in mind that houses were not centrally heated until the mid-twentieth century or later and could be as cold as or colder than current cellar temperature guidelines.
- A Vintage Port should preferably be consumed within a day or two of opening. Wines that are younger Older wines, those older than 40 years, are more delicate and are more likely to lose their freshness and complexity within a comparatively short amount of time, so they should be consumed as soon as they are opened.
Vintages less than 40 years old should be opened and decanted two or three hours before drinking. For most of us, opening the bottle and decanting it before sitting down to dinner means opening the bottle and decanting it before we sit down to dinner. Decant wines that are more than 40 years old 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
- If the bottle is less than 40 years old, leave it standing for 10 to 15 minutes, and up to 30 minutes if it is older.
- Pour the wine into a decanter slowly and pause when you see sediment flowing into the bottle bottom.
- Alternatively, you should pour into a funnel lined with muslin. Bleached filters should be avoided because they can add unpleasant flavours to the wine.
- If you choose to serve the wine from the original bottle, make sure to thoroughly clean the bottle before returning it.
- Take a deep breath and savor your Vintage Port.
The enjoyment of Port stems in large part from the ability to detect its lovely aromas. Instead of serving type of port wine in small cordial cups, use an 8-10oz white wine glass or standard port glass, which will enable you to swirl and aerate the wine in the glass, allowing you to taste the aromas and color completely.
Furthermore, before serving your Port, make sure your glasses are free of residual odors, since this can clash with the scents of the wine.
Port is traditionally moved clockwise around the bench. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that this action was interpreted as a token of peace to the individual seated on the left that the server would be unable to draw a weapon or revolver by pouring a glass of Port with the right hand.
A much more realistic explanation is that the majority of people are right-handed, making it easier to pour and move the wine with the right hand. According to tradition, the bottle should be held in motion and should not be put down until it has been returned to the host.
Port wine is all about having fun. When you pair your Port with the right foods, you can have a better tasting experience. A young to mature filled and fruit-driven Vintage Port pairs well with dark chocolate or a strong mozzarella like Stilton. Older, more graceful and sophisticated Vintage Ports need no accompaniment and can be savored alone, away from other foods.
Benefits of port wine
Numerous experiments on all types of port wine drinking have discovered different links between enhancing one’s quality of life and its consumption. Owing to the lack of water in ancient times, wine in general and Port wine in particular, became a need rather than a privilege, and it came to symbolize sustenance and survival.
Wine has proved its merit in terms of preserving life since the beginning of time. There are also ongoing studies on why port wine is regarded as one of the most potent elixirs known to man.
The first thing to remember is that quantity matters, and most experiments display the findings in glasses every day or week. In any case, saving it all through the week to gorge on during the weekend has been found to have no health benefits. So, our recommendation is to savor every sip, every texture, and every fragrance of your wine.
Longevity of life
Resveratrol is a polyphenol used primarily on all types of port wine, especially red port wine. It is a potent antioxidant present in grape skin and red grape juice. Antioxidants aid the body in combating free radicals, which can damage our cells and organs. According to research, resveratrol improves wellbeing and survival by increasing the function of a protein known as sirtuins. Sirtuins are responsible for shielding the body from aging-related diseases.
Several studies have shown that drinking alcohol, especially port wine, has health benefits that contribute to longer life spans. Nonetheless, these findings stress that positive effects can only be obtained by modest intake.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have been recognized as a global, life-threatening concern since ancient times. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CVD continues to kill more people per year than any other illness, and it is the leading cause of death and morbidity worldwide.
Many studies have shown that consuming polyphenols is associated with a lower risk of CVD. Wines include polyphenols, which can be contained in flavonoids, which are antioxidant effects. These polyphenols are known as resveratrol, and they may help protect the lining of the blood vessels in the heart. Consuming 1 to 2 drinks a day (4 to 8 ounces) can help to lower the risk of CVD.
Depression is a normal yet dangerous illness that can change how you behave, think, and perform day-to-day tasks. This may be confusing, as most people are aware that alcohol use may exacerbate depression or anxiety. Despite this, consuming a glass of wine once a week will act as an antidepressant.
A group of scientists completed a seven-year survey on 5,500 light to moderate drinkers and discovered that those who consumed two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to suffer from depression than non-drinkers.
Again, this is about drinking in moderation, and people who consumed heavily alcoholic drinks were more vulnerable to depression in the same study.
When added directly to the skin, the high levels of antioxidants in all types of port wine will prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria and help to preserve healthy skin. Antioxidants revitalize the skin, increase elasticity, and keep it shiny and sparkling.
Wine, when consumed as a beverage, can promote blood circulation, and can help to reduce wrinkle formation and skin ageing. Excessive drinking, on the other hand, causes hormone flow to become unbalanced, causing skin dehydration and increasing the likelihood of acne.
There is a distinction between being overweight and being obese. Overweight is described as having an excess of body weight that can be attributed to muscles, bone, fat, or water. Obesity, on the other hand, is described as having an abnormally large amount of body fat.
According to the Global Health Observatory (GHO), it is being overweight or obese kills at least 2.8 million people worldwide each year.
White wine, in particular, and all types of port wine in general, contains the antioxidants epicatechin, quercetin, and resveratrol. These antioxidants may reduce cholesterol levels and can also aid in weight loss by burning belly fat and decreasing inflammation, all of which are commonly correlated with obesity.
Aside from being an excellent aperitif and dessert wine, Ports (particularly the Authentic Port wines from Portugal) are also an excellent addition to your long-term wine collection. But you wouldn’t want to spend hours researching the various Port types, selecting the right ones, ensuring authenticity, and storing them in perfect conditions. That’s the reason why I make the whole method easy.