PORT, Things You Need to Know


What Is It?

Port as an appellation, or specific geographic area for growing wine grapes, was founded in 1756. That makes it the third oldest in the world.

There is no porto made outside of Portugal’s Duoro Valley – port, as with champagne, is a place; if you find “port” made elsewhere it may well be delicious; the fact that it is made outside the fence does not indicate an ersatz product, but it is not porto and should not be labeled as such. Still, I recommend you try it anyway, especially Charbay’s port, which is made with 5 different brandys.

Five Main Varietals:

Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão (even though others are permissable); except for the white ports.

PORT Is Just Fortified Wine

When normal wine is being made, yeast is barreling through the wine like Pacman eating sugar and creating alcohol and CO2 as a byproduct. This is fermentation. To create port, brandy is added – this high proof kills the yeast and stops fermentation, so the sugar eating is stopped – leaving residual sugar, which makes most ports sweet, adds body, and creates a higher alcohol wine, usually around 18-20%.

Short Scoop On Main Types:

Most port is a cuvee – like non-vintage champagne – a blend of different years and different quintas (estates) and areas.

All ports are wood-aged for quite some time, except vintage ports, which are only aged in oak for 2 years and then released. Aging takes place in bottle. Almost always, vintage port is consumed too early; it is more ad- visable to drink an LBV instead and wait for the vintage ports to be ready. There are usually three to four Vintage Declarations in a decade. Recently we’ve had 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007. (Although single quintas can declare a vintage in any year and often do, back-to-back). And as with all great wines, extreme conditions produce singular wines – it must be very dry and very hot for extraordinary vintages to happen. These are the most rare of ports and make up only 2 percent of port wines. And finally, often all the houses will declare a general vintage, but in some years not all the houses agree to call vintage. Check the books, company websites, and auction records for clarification.

Unfiltered lBVS and vintage ports have sediment and need to be de- canted – stand the bottle up and let the sediment settle, then pour – go towards the end so you keep the sediment out – or use a Port funnel.

Colheita – The word actually means vintage, but these are actually single vintage tawny ports aged in barrel-great values, can be decades old, even centuries, and get very interesting and beautiful over time (even more rare than vintage, 1 percent of port is colheita).

Ruby – The least complex, easy drinking

LBV – made from the grapes of a single years harvest, noted on the bottle, these wine spend several years in large oak barrels, the year of bottling will also appear (often the wine that was not vintage but almost as good and left to age and mature in cask)

Tawny – essentially a ruby that is left in cask to age and oxidize – not always age specific, but can be, as in 10, 20, 30 or 40 year.

Single Quinta – a single estate or farm

White Ports – range from dry to medium to sweet (Lagryma-hard to find) to white colheita (almost impossible to find outside the Duoro); dry whites are usually inexpensive and often used as aperitif – mix with tonic and lemon or orange over ice.


With dry white port or white Port aperitivos, I recommend nuts, particularly roasted almonds, try roasting with olive oil, paprika, lemon peel and rosemary. Cheese [not the blue veined ones], like double cream brie and chevre. Try cured green olives, if you like.

With LBV or vintage port any blue cheese will floor you. Picon, Roquefort, Saga, Cambonzola, Gorgonzola, Blue Ermite, and Cabrales (these two spicy strong blues will go with older tawnies as well).

With ruby ports-chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. But avoid a dessert that usurps the port; besides the gratifying glaze of sweetness and syrupy texture, the greater tantilization and satisfaction comes from the interplay with the wine’s acidity – better not to kill the buzz.

With tawnys – dark chocolate (don’t exceed 80 percent of dark), figs, vanilla ice cream dressed in pumpkin seed oil (I hope you are enticed by this one; the Austrians have been doing it for centuries – seductive.

For Further Reference:

www.fortheloveofport.com | www.catavino.net