Fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. Typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and particularly enjoyable when paired with cheese.
Port is produced by fortifying wine with the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar, and to boost the alcohol content. Grapes grown for port are generally characterised by their small, dense fruit which produce concentrated and long-lasting flavours, suitable for long ageing.
Aged in wooden barrels allowing gradual oxidation and evaporation causing a gradual mellowing to a golden-brown colour and imparting “nutty” flavours to the wine. Tawnys with an indication of age represent a blend of several vintages. The port characteristic, of the years in wood, is stated on the label and indicate a target age profile for the ports, not their actual ages.
Colheita – Single-vintage Tawny (made from grapes from one single harvest). Instead of an indication of age (10, 20, …), the actual vintage year is mentioned as well as the date of bottling.
Colheitas must be ‘declared’ similarly to vintage ports after approval by the IVDP (Port and Douro Wine Institute)
Vintage port is made from the grapes of a declared vintage year. The decision on whether to declare is made, by each individual port house, based on the quality of the wine. Vintage ports may be aged for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling, and generally require another ten to forty years of ageing in the bottle before reaching a proper drinking age. Since they are aged in cask for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby colour and fresh fruit flavours.
Single Quinta – Vintage port originating from a single estate.
Most of the large port wine houses have a single quinta bottling which is only produced in years when the regular Vintage port of the house is not declared. In those years, wine from their best quinta is still bottled under a Vintage designation.
Some have also introduced single quintas which are run as separate estates.
Stored in tanks of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative ageing and preserve its bright red colour and full-bodied fruitiness, then fined and cold filtered before bottling. It does not generally improve with age.
Reserve – A premium ruby port aged in wood from four to six years and approved by the IVDP (Port and Douro Wine Institute).
Rose – Technically a ruby port, but fermented in a similar manner to a rosé wine, with a limited exposure to the grape skins.
Originally destined for bottling as vintage port but left in the barrel for longer than planned, LBV is bottled between four and six years after the vintage, it can be either filtered or unfiltered. Filtered has the advantage of being ready to drink without decanting and is typically ready to drink when released and tend to be lighter bodied than a vintage port. Unfiltered LBVs can age as long as Vintage Ports and, after a number of years, can be difficult to identify as LBVs by taste alone.
A blend of port wine from several vintages, crusted port affords the blender the opportunity to make best use of the varying characteristics of different vintages. Although crusted ports will improve with age, the blender often seeks to make these wines approachable at a younger age than for Vintage ports. Generally ready to be drunk when sold.
Made from white grapes and in a wide variety of styles, from dry to sweet. When white ports are matured in wood for long periods, the colour darkens, eventually reaching a point where it can be hard to discern (from appearance alone) whether the original wine was red or white.