What is Port wine

Port wine is one of the great classic European wines with a long and fascinating history.

On the bottle with Port wine you will find a label with the words „Porto“, „Oporto“ or „Vinho do Porto“. In English, we will see the designation „Port“ or „Port Wine“.

Port wine is one of the most admired wines in the world

Why this name? Port wine is historically strongly associated with the city of Porto in northern Portugal. Until recently, only from here was it possible to export further to the whole world.

An equally important role is played by the wine region in the valley of the Douro river, full of beautiful cascading vineyards. Only from this place can the vines for the production of port wine come.

Fortified wines

Port wines belong to the family of fortified or fortified wines or, if you like, dessert liqueur wines. The most famous fortified wines besides Port are Spanish Sherry, Madeira, Sicilian Marsala, Mistella, many types of spicy wines of the Vermouth type and also fragrant Moscatel de Setúbal or Moscatel do Douro.

The range of sweetness of fortified wines (credit: winefolly.com)

Fortification means that pure alcohol is added to the mash (ground grapes free of splinters) at some stage of the production process (at the beginning, during or after fermentation). In port wine, alcohol is added during fermentation – fermentation of grape must (mash), when it contains 6 – 8 % alcohol. The resulting product thus retains the natural sweetness of grape sugar and its flavors are rich, round and smooth on the palate.

Port is probably the most famous of the wines enriched with alcohol, and its rarest variant – Vintage – can undoubtedly be included alongside the best wines from Burgundy or Bordeaux.

How to recognize the original Port wine?

If you want to buy port wine, this question will surely occur to you. Don’t worry, getting to know real Port wine is not that hard. Definitely reach for the bottle, which has a paper sticker called „Selo de Garantia“ over the upper surface of the neck, in Czech let’s say „kolek“, on which is written in a round place „VINHO DO PORTO“ and „GARANTIA“. You will also find the batch number, which is registered at the Institute of Port Wine and Douro Wines (IVDP). This institution guarantees that the bottle you hold in your hand and this collection is an original Port wine. No other wine in the world has the right to use the name „Port wine“.

You can recognize the original Port wine by the stamp through the neck of the bottle with the inscriptions „VINHO DO PORTO“, „GARANTIA“ and the batch number IVDP

History of port wine

Although Port wine comes from Portugal, its world-famousness was taken care of mainly by the British. The war for the Spanish heritage between France and England is to blame. In 1667 the French King Louis XIV. restricted the import of English goods to France, after which King Charles II of England. imposed customs duties on French wines, later even banned imports.

Unloading of barrels of port wine in Vila Nova de Gaia on the Entreposto seafront (credit: Taylors.pt)

English traders thus had to look for wine suppliers elsewhere. They sailed on their ships to Portugal and began to transport wine from these parts. However, the journey back to the islands was long and the wine was often spoiled by the voyage. So they refilled it with wine brandy before transport, thanks to which the wine lasted the journey, but consumers did not like it so much again.

Legend has it that one evening 2 merchants from England, moving in the Portuguese city of Lamego at the time, were looking for a place to stay. They slammed the gates of the local convent, and the more open abbot invited them on. At dinner, the majestic gentleman treated them to a very sweet, quite alcoholic and pleasantly smooth wine on the palate, which the merchants really enjoyed for the first sip.

They asked the abbot for a recipe, and he finally told them. Its secret was to add wine to the fermenting grape must almost at the beginning of the fermentation. Refilling the wine brandy stopped the fermentation in it and a large amount of natural grape sugar remained in the wine.

The merchants did not wait for anything and bought all the wine that the abbot had. The year 1678 was thus recorded in the history of world viticulture as “1. delivery of port wine from Portugal to Europe ‚.

Chance? Fate? Probably yes, anyway since then this famous drink has written a lot of interesting lines. Read them in the special series History of Port Wine.

Port wine production

The art of creating any quality wine is a demanding process, and the same is true of port wine. The vintage, which begins in Dour at the end of August, is preceded by a whole year of viticultural work.

Port wine comes from the mountainous slopes of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, one of the oldest and most beautiful wine regions, where wine has been produced for two thousand years. In 1756, the territory of the vineyards in Dour was mapped and legally defined.

The first official wine region in the world was established.

The Douro valley is lined with high hills with vineyards

Like other classic great wines, Port owes its uniqueness to a combination of specific climate, soil, vine varieties and viticultural skills. A terroir such as the Douro Valley is not found anywhere else in the world.

Grapes, especially the original 6 varieties Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão and Tinta Amarela are grown and on steep rocky slopes extending from the Douro river to a height of 700 m above sea level. Many of the oldest vineyards here are located on narrow terraces, secured by hand-built stone walls.

The interesting thing about grape processing is that the berries are not pressed, but are poured without large chips into large granite tubs „lagares“, where they are carefully treaded by human weight or computer-controlled technology is used to grind them. Once the amount of alcohol in the mash reaches 6 – 8 %, it is mixed with 77% wine brandy and the fermentation is stopped.

The resulting product remains in the „Quintas“ wineries in Douro until February to March of the following year.

Although the vines are grown inland in vineyards at the top of the Douro Valley, they travel to the coastal town of Porto (or Vila Nova de Gaia) for large ripening brands, from where they are traditionally exported, although they can now travel the world already from the wine region around the Douro River.

Until the 20th century, barrels of wine were transported along the river on special ships called barcos rabelos. In the narrow streets of Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite the old town of Porto, wine is stored, sorted and shipped. Here you will find the most famous producers of Port, mostly of English or Scottish origin, thanks to which the United Kingdom in particular has become the largest consumer of Port wine in history. Today, however, port wine delights its admirers all over the world.

Types of port wine

One of its stunning features of port wine is the variety in different styles, each with its own taste characteristics.

There are 2 views on the division of Port wines.

According to the method of maturation

One of them assesses the way they mature. Ruby port wines ripen most of the time with almost no air access, either in stainless steel tanks or later in bottles. He spends only a minimal part of his life in barrels.

Here we include:

  • Ruby
  • Ruby Reserve
  • Garrafeira
  • Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
  • and Vintage – the Queen among Port

The taste of these wines is richly fruity after berries or raspberries. Expect the color to red to dark red (for example with LBV), you will often smell overripe cherries, coffee or a pinch of pepper.

The second method of maturation is intentional oxidation. These wines are stored in oak or acacia barrels, where they are in contact with the wood at all times and thus with atmospheric oxygen. This changes the color from cognac brown to brick to bright amber, in the taste we find nuts, cinnamon and balanced acidity. The scent tempts you to think of a mixture of oriental spices, vanilla and dried fruit.

This category includes:

  • Tawny
  • Tawny Reserve
  • Tawny 10, 20, 30, 40 Years Old
  • Crusted
  • Colheita

According to the year of harvest

It is a bit easier to orientate in Porto by marking it with the year of harvest. It is either not necessary to state it or vice versa. Vintage port wines are Colheity, Garrafeira, LBV, Single Quinta Vintage and Vintage.

For LBV and Crusted wines, we can find the year of bottling on the label and for some the year of harvest.

Other types of port wines are a mixture of several vintages, so they cannot be labeled with the year of harvest.

Port in gastronomy

More than any other wine, the port offers almost endless possibilities for pairing with food. It is traditionally served at the end of dining with cheeses, as a dessert or as a digestif after dinner, although white port, for example, will please in the form of an aperitif at the beginning of dining.

Many creative chefs use port to prepare main dishes, sauces, desserts, and all this can be fully enjoyed with chocolate and a fine cigar.

Vintage Port and cheese – a delicacy on a calm evening (credit: Taylors.pt)

Port is considered one of the most social wines that will make any occasion special, whether it is a quiet evening by the fireplace, an informal meeting with friends or a formal business dinner.

Where to buy Port today?

Nothing to pay for, of course it tastes best in Porto. Walk through all the wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia and enjoy their wines, sit on the banks of the Doura and enjoy the flowing river, light up at sunset by the Atlantic Ocean in Matosinhos, and want to take a trip here for at least a week. Porto is fascinating, friendly, refreshing and relaxed.

However, if you don’t have time to wander around the world at the moment, you can certainly get good Ports here at home at home around the world. There are several e-shops, or. you can find them in supermarkets or wine shops. Above all, don’t forget to reach for the bottle with the real Port.

You can buy Port wine in a reliable e-shop conveniently and without unpleasant surprises. You will find most of the wines in stock here, so you can admire it a few days at your home thanks to fast delivery. Do you have trouble navigating the whole range of Port wines? Instructions for the right beginners and intermediates on How to choose port wine can be found in these 5 tips. Discover tastes and write to me how you like port on the FB site.

What is Port Wine
Styles of Port Wine
Port Wine production
History of Port Wine
Port Wine origin