Probably the most famous of Portugal's alcoholic exports. Read on if you'd like to find out about the amazing array of different colours and styles available, the perfect accompaniment to your cheeses!
Port was created in the eighteenth century by British merchants. The method they pioneered of halting the fermenting by adding grape brandy to create a sweet alcoholic wine that could better survive long voyages has been widely copied throughout the world.
The trade in port itself is centered on the twin cities of Porto and Vila Nova da Gaia which lie on opposite sides of the mouth of the River Douro. Vineyards stretch back up river in 3 main areas - Baixo Corgo which produces the lightest wines, Cima Corgo where the greatest number of top vineyards are found and Douro Superior which, although sparsely planted is also a souce of top quality wine.
The climate becomes drier the further east you go, and in Baixo Corgo and Cima Corgo vine are grown on the very steep slopes on the banks of the river on socalcos. The most difficult challenge here is managing the vines, as socalcos cannot be mechanised and are expensive to run, the flatter vineyards of the Douro Superior is an increasingly attractive propositon due to it's cheaper managment costs but here the low rainfall presents a different challenge.
Styles of Port
White port, a captivating beverage born from white grapes, it radiates a golden hue, a testament to its rich heritage. Its mellow acidity and tantalizing aromas of honeyed nuts, a result of deliberate oxidation, dance on the palate.
Whether off-dry or brimming with sweetness, each white port proudly declares its style on its label. These non-vintage gems, typically matured for two to three years, sometimes bask in the embrace of wood aging, acquiring layers of nutty complexity that further elevate their allure.
With its versatility and elegance, white port effortlessly transitions from aperitif to dessert companion.
Ruby Port Categories
Ruby Ports are the vibrant, youthful spirits of the Port family, bursting with the exuberance of fresh fruit and a deep, captivating hue. Unlike their more mature counterparts, these wines are bottled at their peak, ready to unleash their lively charms upon your palate.
Basic Ruby Ports are the quintessential expression of youthful vigor, offering a delightful blend of sweetness and simplicity. Reserve Ruby Ports, on the other hand, are more sophisticated, having spent time maturing in casks, adding depth and complexity to their character. They possess a full-bodied presence, with richer fruit flavors and a harmonious balance of alcohol.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Ports represent the pinnacle of Ruby Port evolution, having aged gracefully in casks for four to six years, their flavours mellowed and refined. They come in two styles: Modern LBV, ready for immediate enjoyment, and Bottle Matured LBV, which continues to evolve in the bottle, its complexities deepening with time.
Tawny Port Categories
While Ruby Ports exude youthful exuberance, Tawny Ports embody the wisdom and elegance of age. These wines, have gone through a process of oxidative aging, transforming their vibrant hues into captivating shades of amber with more complex flavours.
Basic Tawny Ports share the same youthful core as Ruby Ports, they possess a subtle depth and warmth.
Reserve Tawny Ports, have ventured deeper into the realm of oxidative aging. They are a blend of different vintages and their flavours harmoniously take on notes of walnut, coffee, chocolate, and caramel.
Indicação de Idade Tawny Ports, 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old, are the culmination of decades of meticulous aging and the best will be smooth and concentrated. These must be registered, their flavors a profound blend of faded berry notes, there is no sediment and so will not need decanting.
Colheitas are the hidden gems, . These are fairly rare, found mostly in their native Portugal, are like vintage Tawny Ports that have patiently matured in wooden casks. Unlike their vintage siblings, Colheitas are bottled only when they have reached their peak, ready to unveil their exquisite flavours and aromas to the discerning palate.
The minimum aging period for Colheitas is eight years, but most spend far longer, their flavours deepening into a rich tapestry of dried fruits, nuts, and spicesand once vibrant colors mellowing into a warm, tawny hue.
Colheitas are the epitome of patience and precision, and wait to be discovered by those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Vintage Port Categories
Vintage Ports are only born from the finest years of Portugal's Douro Valley, are destined for greatness, their flavours and aromas unfolding over decades, captivating the senses of discerning connoisseurs.
Unlike their more readily accessible counterparts, Vintage Ports spend a mere eighteen months to three years in wooden casks before being bottled, their youthful exuberance captured and preserved.
Unlike other wines that rely on fining or filtration to remove sediment, Vintage Ports remain unfiltered, their natural essence intact, awaiting the crucial test of time, with each passing year, become more nuanced and refined. Decanting, a ritualistic process of separation, allows the wine to breathe, releasing its pent-up aromas and softening its tannins, preparing it for its grand performance.
Over time, the vibrant fruit flavours of their youth gradually mellow, giving way to complex aromas and flavours – dried fruits, nuts, spices, and a hint of smokiness – all interwoven with a velvety texture that lingers on the palate.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports
Single Quinta Vintage Ports are each a unique expression of a single estate's terroir and the winemaker's artistry, born from exceptional years and meticulously crafted to showcase the very essence of their origins.
Unlike their Vintage Port counterparts, which are blends of grapes from multiple estates, Single Quinta Vintage Ports are the epitome of terroir-driven wines, their flavours and aromas deeply intertwined with the soil, climate, and viticultural practices of their single quinta.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports are not produced every year but only in those exceptional years when the grapes reach unparalleled quality.
These Ports are often aged in Porto, a process that adds further complexity and refinement to their character. And unlike Vintage Ports, which are released for sale relatively young, Single Quinta Vintage Ports are carefully monitored, waiting patiently until they reach their peak maturity, ready to unveil their true magnificence to the world.