Today we will talk about Port wine. I love sweet wines. They come in different ways. We have sweet wines produced leaving the fruit in the plant for a longer time, allowing the water to evaporate thus making the sugar levels higher. Many producers elaborate this kind of wines either with white and red varietals. It comes with the expression “Late Harvest” in the label.
A step further is leaving the fruit in the plant even longer waiting for a fungus to attack the grapes: the botrytis cinerea. The most popular of these wines are the French Sauternes, where we can find Château D’Yquem, whose wines are really sought after and very expensive. In Hungary they produce the Tokaj following the same principle.
Then we have wines made by adding alcohol to stop the fermentation. This provokes the yeast to die due to the action of the alcohol. The remaining sugar that has not been turned into alcohol will give its particular sweet taste. Portugal’s Porto is the best place in the world for this kind of wine. The first notice we have of this wine goes back to the XVII century, when the wine had to be added alcohol to survive its transportation to England by sea due to the wine shortage they had in the island.
Red Port wines use mostly the following grapes: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão.
We can divide the red Port wines into two big groups: those which are aged in oak barrels and those which are aged in bottle.
Aged in oak are full bodied, fruity wines with a deep red tonality and dark fruit flavors. We have Port Ruby, aged for two or three years, Port Reserva, a more quality wine, and Port Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) with four to six years in oak.
Then we have Port Tawny, which can be 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old.
The other group is the one aged in bottle. We have here the Port Vintage, the best wine produced in a single vintage. These wines spend two years in the barrels, then more in the bottle. Their longevity due to its quality is the longest one of Port wines. These are the most full bodied, structured Port wines. Not done using grapes of a single vintage is the Port Crusted. They can also age well in bottle.
Finally we have white Port, produced using Malvasía Dourada, Malvasía Fina, Gouveio and Rabigato. They age for two or three years in big oak barrels and we can find them in dry and sweet styles.
Port wineries have traditionally bought grapes to other producers. Still, some of them have their own plots where they cultivate their own grapes. These are called Quintas and when the Port is done with the grapes of one single quinta the name of it appears in the label. Some of the most popular are Quinta de Vargellas of Taylor’s; Quinta da Roêda, of Croft and Quinta do Panascal, of Fonseca.
Some other important producers of Port wines are Niepoort, Graham’s, Cockburns, Sandeman, Dow’s, Ferreira, Quinta do Infantado and Quinta do Noval.
Port is one of the places where the grapes are still pressed by stepping into them, not using press machines.
If you want to enjoy a nice glass of Port wine, serve it with cheese or chocolate, and make sure you sit, relax and share it with a friend. This will be the best way to discover Port.
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