In this process, a neutral alcohol was added to the wine during fermentation to stop fermentation and maintain a certain amount of residual sugar, which determines the sweetness of the wine. In general, port wine is rather sweet and is often drunk both as an aperitif before a meal, during the meal as a food companion or after the meal for dessert, the latter being certainly its most popular "use".
There are now more than 80 grape varieties approved for port wine production. It is only after two years that port wine is tasted for the very first time and a decision is made about the further aging process.
For red port, there is Ruby (bottle-aged port) and Tawny style (barrel-aged port). For white port, the categories are very sweet, sweet, semi-dry, dry and very dry. As a special gift, a port wine in gift box is sure to score points with any wine lover. Browse through the fine selection of top Portuguese wines and discover the right Porto for you or your loved ones!
Port wine: The sweet one from Portugal
The name for this wine specialty unmistakably comes from Portugal's second largest city, Porto. Frequently, one also encounters the designation Port. The specialty with the Portuguese designation Vinho do Porto characterizes a red, in exceptions also white, sweet wine. The wine comes from Alto Douro. In Porto, after its production, the wine is classically spent for aging and storage. Then it is sent from here to the whole world. What characterizes this wine specialty and more information can be found in the following paragraphs. In our port wine store you can buy and enjoy many different types of port wine.
Which wine is allowed to use the designation?
The term port wine is a worldwide protected designation, which wines may only bear under very specific conditions. The most important exclusion criterion is that the wine must come from the Douro wine-growing region in Portugal. The wine from this region must have an alcohol content between 19 and 22% vol. Any wine with this designation has a DOC classification. Vines that come from other growing regions may not be used to make the wine. An institute has been created to monitor these characteristics: Instituto dos Vinhos do Porto e Douro.
The history of Port wine
The Douro region is located upstream from Porto. Here, wine growing has been practiced for thousands of years. Port wine houses and viticulture were especially pushed by the trade with England. The differences between England and France played into the cards of the Portuguese, or better into the vines. Not least, this high export demand played an important role in the history of port wine. Thus, to compensate for the relatively long trade route, the Portuguese added brandy to the wine from the Dougo region.
In fact, the secret of Port was, in particular, the addition of neutral alcohol to the wine during the time of fermentation. In this way, the fermentation process could be interrupted. This left a residual sugar in the drink and gave the wine its distinctive sweet taste. Exports flourished and the strong demand resulted in a reduction in quality in favor of quantity.
Therefore, towards the middle of the 18th century, regulations were introduced, laying the foundation that is reflected today in the extensive DOC regulations. Since the middle of the 19th century, the recipe of the wine has not changed. Today there are six classifications of vineyards and three classifications of vines.
Where is the port grown?
In the Port Wine Shop you will only receive products that are recognized as Port wine according to the DOC regulations. They come exclusively from the vineyards in the Douro Valley. These are vineyards that are cultivated in the classic terraced cultivation. For a genuine port wine product, only vines harvested in a precisely defined area may be used. This currently covers an area of 46,000 hectares. Three areas are distinguished:
- Baixo Corgo
- Douro Superior
The Baixo Corgo is located in the west of the Douro Valley. About half of all port wine products come from here. Since it is closest to the Atlantic Ocean, more precipitation falls here. A fertile soil characterizes this region. The Cima-Corgo provides about a third of the port wine. The area is characterized by steeper slopes, rocky and sometimes barren. The climate is dry and hot. From here come the top products, which you can also buy in our port wine store. The third area, the Douro Superior, extends to the border with Spain. In this region, the basic wines for port wine production are grown.
Which grape varieties are used for a Port?
Not all grape varieties may be used for a true Port. There are just under 30 varieties permitted. These are divided into three categories. These categories are:
The most important recommended grape varieties for a red port include:
- Touriga Nacional
- Tinta Barroca
- Touriga Francesca
- Tinta Roriz
- Tinta Amarela
- Tinto Cão
The following varieties are used for the white port:
- Malvasia Fina
Which production methods make a Port so special?
When you buy a Port wine, you will taste that a good Port is not only made by the area where it is grown. What secrets are there to discover in the production process? First of all, the same process applies as for other wines. The hand-picked grapes are pressed and the resulting must is set to ferment. The secret of the port is the so-called "fortification". In this process, ethyl alcohol is added to the still fermenting must. This process of fortification stops the fermentation. A residual sugar remains, which accounts for the sweetness of the port. Incidentally, the high sugar and alcohol content ensures a long shelf life.
The aging process of the port usually lasts at least two years. The beverage is stored in large wooden tanks. More modern are tanks made of steel. Some ports are stored for up to six years. A tasting decides for which use the port is suitable and how long it must be stored for this purpose. The principle is that a good port is refined and improved by long storage. On the other hand, an average port can lose flavor by being stored too long. We will go into more detail later about the different types you can get in the Port Wine Shop.
What does piping mean?
Piping refers to the process in the production of Port where the wine is transferred from large barrels to small ones. The timing of piping and, as a result, the subsequent further aging is crucial to the character of a port. The small barrel is called the pipe. Here the port can mature faster than in the large barrel. Here the port also takes on the color of the wood, which is known as tan or "tawny". In the pipe, the port oxidizes and can then be bottled. The bottle should be kept as dark and airtight as possible. Here, the port can continue to mature, albeit much more slowly. If the port is stored in bottles for a long time, a deposit may develop over time. Therefore, the port must be carefully decanted so that the deposit does not get into the glass. Of course, the long aging also affects the taste and appearance of the port. With age, the aroma of the port becomes much more complex and subtle, you can taste other flavors besides red wine. In terms of color, the port changes from a strong ruby red to golden and brown hues.
The different styles of Port
You can buy different styles of port from us. Port is distinguished according to various criteria:
- According to the duration of the maturity
- According to the type of grape
- According to the quality of the port
Port is classified according to the duration of aging in:
The Ruby is aged especially in bottles. The Tawny, on the other hand, is mainly aged in barrels. If white grapes were used, it is a White Port and if red grapes were used, it is a Rosé Port.
The different Ruby varieties
The Ruby has a strong and fruity taste due to its predominant aging in the bottle. The Ruby Port is further differentiated according to its quality. If such a port is only labeled "Ruby", it is usually a blend of young vintages. The taste is accordingly very fruity. A Port labeled "Reserve Ruby" is made from selected grape varieties and grapes. It is also a blend, but matured for a longer period of time. The "Crusted Port" is also a blend, but even higher quality. The "Late Bottled Vintage" is a blend of grapes that may only come from one vintage. A rare and very high quality port is the "Vintage". Only special vintages may adorn themselves with this designation. In the case of a "Vintage", the Port is decanted into bottles and continues to mature here for many years.
The different Tawny varieties
The Tawny Port varieties are decanted into small pipes after being stored in large barrels. There the port oxidizes and ages quickly. It acquires a nutty flavor and lightens in color. Port labeled only as "Tawny" is a blend. The "Old Tawny" stores in contrast longer time in the Pipe. The "Very Old Tawny" needs at least 40 years of aging. The "Colheita" is a Port made from different grapes of one vintage. Very long aged Tawny Ports and Colheitas show a color transition from brown to olive.
What is there to consider with White Port?
In the port wine store you can also buy a White Port. This wine is made from white grapes. It is stored for about three years. Only with a White Port, the degrees of sweetness are distinguished:
- Very Sweet or Muito Doce
- Sweet or Doce
- Semi-dry or Meio Seco
- Dry or Seco
- Very dry or Extra seco
Other variations of Port
Only relatively recently has there been a Rosé Port. In taste, the Rosé is actually between White and Ruby. Fruity and light in taste, it is also used for mixing cocktails. Other variants are the additions Reserva. This is a high quality port. The Garrafeirais a quality designation that refers to a long bottle aging with high quality. The Single Quinta designates a Port whose grapes come from a single Quinta.
The different colors and aromas of Ports
The ruby red color of the Port is found mainly in the Ruby. The concentration of the color decreases with the duration of maturation. Then polymeric pigments are formed. Then the color changes to orange to brown. The smell or aroma of port is nutty to spicy. This aroma is very characteristic. In addition, there are various aromas that come especially from the wooden barrels used for aging.
How is the port distributed and traded?
How does the port get to the port wine store? In the early days of Port, the processes of production, aging and trade were strictly separated. Over the years and decades, these processes intermingled and traders and producers entered into collaborations. These associations continued later from many ways and merchants, winemakers and wineries united and expanded. Today, large groups and chains own most of the wineries in the Douro Valley. These include Sogrape, Symington and Sogevinus, for example. Only a few family wineries still maintain production Among them are some well-known names such as Grahams, Kopke, Messias, Niepoort, Sandeman, Fonseca, Cálem, Barros, Ferreira, Quinta do Noval, Taylors or Offley. While England used to be the largest consumer country, today it is France. About one third of the port goes to this country. It is followed by the Netherlands and Belgium. Portugal, Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada. Germany has a share of about 3%. It is also interesting to note that exports to the various countries also differ in terms of quality. In North America and Great Britain, higher qualities are mostly consumed, while in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, ports of standard quality are drunk. More recently, many wineries are moving toward producing their own port and breaking away from the major groups. Some of them have gained an excellent reputation. You may already know one or two of the names:
- van Zeller
- Vale Meao
- Vale Dona Maria
How to drink a port correctly
The use of the port depends on its quality and type. Vintage and Garrafeira ports, for example, must be stored in the bottle beforehand. Only when they have matured do they develop their full flavor. All other ports are ready to drink immediately after purchase. For storage at home, dark rooms with a constant temperature between 10-12 °C are suitable. The unopened bottle should lie down and be moved as little as possible. The correct opening also depends on the type of port. Bottle-aged Ports such as Vintage, Garrafeira and Crusted usually require decanting. Other ports do not require this. With them, it should be noted that they spoil due to the oxygen in the air and should therefore be drunk as soon as possible. The barrel-matured port, such as the Tawny and the Colheita, is less sensitive to contact with air and light. It does not need to be decanted. Even after opening, it can be kept for weeks. Instead of a cork, such a port is closed with a stopper that can be opened and closed. Speaking of corks. A port that has been bottle-aged for a very long time sometimes causes problems when it is opened, as the cork may be difficult or almost impossible to remove from the bottle. There is a risk that it will disintegrate into its component parts. Some bottles, especially those older than 50 years, have a conical neck shape. Here it is almost impossible to remove the cork in one piece. Here, only a corkscrew can help. Another danger is the swirling of the deposit. This risk can hardly be avoided.
How is a port served properly?
Serving and even enjoying it also depends on the type of port. So, pay attention to the variety first and foremost when buying port. White Port is served chilled. It is suitable before the meal. You can also keep the White Port in the refrigerator. It can be served with tonic water as a long drink. In this case, the Port is served in equal parts with a slice of lemon and ice. A Ruby Port, on the other hand, is to be classified as a dessert wine. It is best to serve the Ruby after a meal. Ruby Port is served at normal room temperature. Gladly with a garnish of cheese and nuts. Quite modern are garnishes such as chocolate, dessert and similar sweet accompaniments. Somewhat unusual and not quite original is the hot port. It is a variant of the mulled wine. The recipe for this is hot water, cloves, cinnamon and sugar. With a Tawny Port, you are spoiled for choice. This versatile port is served as a so-called digestive wine.
All ports are served in a typical port wine glass. This can easily be mistaken for a liqueur glass. A port wine glass can hold between 80 to 140 ml, but is only filled about a third of the way. Thus, it is significantly smaller than the normal glasses for red or white wine. This discrepancy results not least from the higher alcohol content of the port. The shape of the glass corresponds to the tulip shape. In this way, the aroma can better come into its own.