Learn What is Port Wine? Introduction to Port Wine!

Now more about Port Wine! What is Port Wine?

Port Wine is natural and fortified, produced exclusively from Douro Region grapes in the North of Portugal, about 100 km east from the city of Porto. “Peso da Régua” is the main production center, but some of the best vineyards are at east.

Produced with grapes from the Douro and stored in the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, this wine is known since the second half of the seventeenth century is exported around the world from Portugal. Vast Port warehouses spring up in that time in the suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia.

The “discovery” of Port Wine is controversial. A new version, says that the origin was when British merchants added brandy to the wine. But the process that characterizes the attainment of the precious nectar was known well before the trade with the British. Already at the time of the “Portuguese Discoveries” the wine was stored in this way to prevent it soured.

The fundamental difference is in the production area and the grape varieties used, now protected.

What makes it different Port Wine of other wines, besides the unique climate, is the fact that the fermentation of this wine is not complete, it was stopped at an early stage (2 or 3 days after the initiation), by the addition of a brandy. So the Port wine has a naturally characteristically sweet taste (since the natural sugar of the grapes are not completely transformed in alcohol) and is stronger than the other wines.

They exist in a variety of colours and sweetness and they can be separated into several categories. In order to identify the several types of Port, some designations are used.

“Vintage” Port

Vintage Port is an excellent quality wine made from the very best grapes of a single year, the declaration of a vintage is a sign of an outstanding harvest. A serious wine collection contain at least some Vintage Ports from the best Port houses. It is considered the best of Port wines, representing only a small percentage of the total production of Port.

Vintage Port Wines represents no more than 2% of all Port sold in the world.

This Port has an extraordinary capacity to age, it represents a secure buy and an excellent investment, these wines increase in value as it ages.

It can be immediately consumed, it is kept in ageing cellars for a period that can last up to 50 years. It is a dark, full bodied wine, that becomes “softer” after ageing in bottle.

More information about Portuguese Wine at: “Wikipedia”

IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) is responsible for recognising and classifying Port wines as “Vintage Wine”.

Other Port Wines Denominations

Exist different denominations to Port wines according to the type of ageing:

“Ruby” Port Wine

The name came of its great youthful colour, like the color of the precious stone called ruby. This happens because the ageing process has a small oxidation (usually up to three years in wooden barrels). It is a young, full bodied wine and can be quite tannic and give strong fruity aromas, which make them perfect with berry based desserts. Ruby port is the cheapest port wine and most extensively produced categorie of port. After fermentation, it is stored in tanks made of stainless steel or concrete to prevent oxidative aging and preserve its rich claret colour.

“Ruby Reserva” Port Wine

In this category, “Ruby Reserva” the port wines are more aromatic, fruity and have a more complex structure than “Ruby Port Wines”. The blends used in the production of this wine undergo a more careful selection than the ones used in the Ruby category.

“Tawny” Port Wine

Tawny Port wine is obtained from blends of, usually, 3 year-old wines aged in wine seasoned casks. In this way, they wines don’t present the characteritsics of oak ageing. During the ageing process several rackings are performed to force oxidation and endow these wine with a perfect golden colour.

“Tawny Reserva” Port Wine

This denomination is applicable to Tawny and Ruby wines. Tawny Reserva wines have higher qualities than Tawny and their tones change according to the winemaking processes: they can be red, similar to rubies, or brownish, like the colour of the oldest tawnies. Tawny Reserva is obtained from the blend of 5 to 7 year-old wines.

Port Wine “Age Designation”

These are good quality Port wines with permission to use age designation. Age designations are: 10 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old, 40 years old and over 40 years old. This Port is a tawny obtained from a blend of wines from several harvests in order to join some different organoleptic characteristics(aroma, flavour and colour). Much lighter in colour than ruby, or bottle matured red Port, the ageing period in wood is variable and the age on the wine’s label is the average age of the several wines used in this blend(mixture of two or more grape varieties). It takes on a brown or amber hue with age, and have a delicate taste.

“Colheita” Port Wine

Is a very good quality tawny Port from one single harvest. Colheita is the Portuguese word for “crop” or “harvest”.  Before being bottled, these wine goes through an ageing period in wood of at least 7 years. Although Tawny is not a blend wine, it undergoes rackings and fillings during the ageing time. During the wine ageing, its fresh, fruity aromas oxidise and are transformed into a bouquet(aromas group), that dry fruit, wood and spices aromas stand out. This Port does not require decanting.

“L.B.V.” (Late Bottled Vintage) Port Wine

Created in 1950 and are top quality wines with good ageing potential. As the name suggests it has a harvest date and is usually obtained from a blend of wines from that harvest. The ageing takes place in big vats, oak tuns or stainless steel tanks in order for the oxidative evolution to be very slow. This Port matures more quickly, and is ready to drink soon after bottling. L.B.V. is bottled between July of the fourth year and December of the sixth year after harvest.
In the Late Bottled Vintage category can be also find has the “Envelhecido em Garrafa”(Portuguese) or “Bottle Matured Port”. This is a high quality wine that ages in bottle for, at least, 3 years and can create a deposit. Some of these wines are bottled without filtration: “Traditional” or “Bottle Matured Port”, can require decanting. These wines, are excellent with cheeses.

“Crusted” Port Wine

High quality Port wine, that is obtained from a blend of “Douro wines” from different harvests and bottled after 3 to 4 years of ageing in the best wood. It will last for ten years or so, is unfiltered, so create a deposit (crust) and requires decanting.

“Rosé” Port Wine

Rose is a recent innovation in the world of Port Wines. It’s a fresh, smooth and versatile Porto wine. The great color(pink) is obtained by using very intense red grapes and these process excludes oxidation during storage.

“White” Port Wine

White Ports is non-vintage Port made from white grapes, this wines differ from each other’s in sweetness and ageing period.  These Ports wines are young and “drunk” in the beginning of meals. The oldest ones do have longest ageing periods and have intense flavors and should be drunk at dessert. The white Port sweetness level has four categories: Doce, Lágrima, Seco and Extra Seco. This White wine is perfect with soda or tonic and a slice of orange; or as a chilled accompaniment to seafood. The sweeter versions, are perfect with all desserts.

“Reserva White” Port Wine

It is a great higher quality wine and is obtained from the blend with an ageing period in wood of, at least seven years. Have perfect aroma, golden colour and persistent flavor.

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