Port is made from black grapes grown in the upper Douro in Portugal. It is a fortified wine, which means that additional alcohol is added to the wine.
Port is made using a blend of black grape varieties. Color and tannins are rapidly extracted from the skins during a short period of fermentation.
A grape-derived spirit is then added to the partially fermented grape juice while it still has a high proportion of sugar in the must. The alcohol in the spirit kills off the yeasts and stops the fermentation. The result is a sweet wine that is high in alcohol.
It is aged in old oak for a period of time before being blended and bottled.
There are many styles of Port and the period of maturation determines which style it will be.
Ruby Ports are aged for short periods in large oak vessels and are bottled ready to drink. They are fruity and dark in color.
Inexpensive Ruby Ports are non-vintage, fruity, sweet, simple wines. They are, generally, aged for less than three years before being bottled.
Reserve Ruby Port is aged for longer – usually up to five years. They use better quality wines and have more intense and complex flavors than inexpensive Ruby Ports.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port
LBV Port is made from a single year’s harvest. They have intense red and black fruit flavors, often with a hint of sweet spices.
Some are filtered and some are not. The unfiltered ports are usually labelled as such and will have a deposit that requires decanting. They are ready to drink on release.
Vintage Ports are made using grapes from the best vineyards and they are only made in good years.
They are aged in oak for short periods and are bottled unfiltered. They therefore must be decanted when aged.
They are long-lived wines that benefit greatly from ageing.
With ageing, intense red and black fruits with spicy notes evolve into cooked fruit with animal and vegetal notes over time.
Inexpensive Tawny Ports are a paler-colored Ruby Port (some have White port added to adjust the color) with caramel and toffee flavors.
Reserve Tawny Ports are aged for a minimum of six years in small oak vessels. They develop kernel and oxidative flavors (walnut, coffee, caramel).
They have a tawny or even brown appearance rather than the ruby or purple colors of Vintage Ports.
They do not need to be decanted and should be drank as close to the bottling date as possible. This date is usually written on the label.
Tawny Ports with indication of age can be labelled 10, 20, 30 or 40 (indicates the average, rather than a minimum age). They are best served slightly chilled.
White port is made from white grapes and can be made in a wide variety of styles.
Rosé Port is a recent variation that was first released in 2008. It is created in a similar way to rosé wine.
There is a shorter period of contact with the grape skins, ensuring less color is extracted (creating the rose color rather than the typical deep ruby color created with longer contact with the grape skins).
What alcohol can you mix with Port wine?
Port wine may be synonymous with sipping on while you warm yourself in front of the fire on cold winter evenings; however, it is a surprisingly versatile drink.
So, whether you are a Port aficionado looking to switch things up or simply want to use up that bottle leftover from Christmas, there are lots of great recipes to choose from like Port Old-Fashioned, Port Negroni and Port Martini.