A Pint of Port!
"A pint of old Port and a devilled biscuit can hurt no man." Dr.
Swizzle - Handley Cross by R. S. Surtees
Port --- A sweet fortified wine from Portugal's upper Douro Valley; shipped from
Porto, see map, brandy is added to partially fermented grape juice, stopping fermentation
and producing a strong sweet wine that is then matured for years!
The information below comes from a
variety of sources and has been arranged in an order
that I hope is informative. The sources are from:
Port, an Introduction to its History and Delights
by Wyndham Fletcher, Sotheby Parke Bernet 1978; Sandeman which is imported by the
Seagram Wines Co., New York, N.Y.; and Imediata - Comunicações e Multimédia, SA. Photo
credits to Imediata, LineOne UK., Good Cooking, Inc. and
Port, an Introduction to its History and Delights
by Wyndham Fletcher
(Mapblast Supplied Map)
Port, the famous sweet fortified wine of the Douro River Valley in Portugal, has long
been the classic way to end a meal and celebrate
an evening. Port is a sweet red wine with about 20% alcohol (as opposed to table
wine which is usually about 13%) and rather low acidity and
tannin. Ideally a good Port should have a rich
spicy flavor and in spite of its 20% alcohol, taste
The Port vineyard zone of the Douro River Valley, was officially demarcated by the
Portuguese in the 18th Century. It covers just
over 1,000 square miles, with less than 15% of
that area being planted in vines. Winters in the
Douro are cold, wet and often snowy, while the
summer season sees temperatures in excess of
100øF. The hardy vines of the Tinta
Francisca, Mourisco, Tinto Cao, Tinta Roriz,
Alvarelhao, Bastardo, Tourriga Nacional, and Tinta
Barroca grapes endure this harsh environment to
produce wines of great richness and intensity.
The recommended and authorized Red Grape varieties used in making Port include
Bastardo, Donzelinho Tinto, Mourisco, Tinto Cao,
Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francessa, Touriga Nacional, Cornifesto, Malvasia
Preta, Mourisco de Semente, Periquita, Rufete, Samarrinho, Tinta Amerela, Tinta da
Barca, Tinto Barroco and Touriga Brasileira.
Port is created in a unique way that captures
the fruit and flavor of the ripe grapes in wines
that possess extraordinary longevity. During
fermentation, prior to reaching the point where all of
the natural grape sugars have been converted into alcohol, high-proof brandy is added to the vats
to stop the fermentation. This leaves a wine with great depth of color and a high natural
After fermentation is complete, the wines are transported to "lodges" where they rest in
large oak casks called "pipes."
Vintage Ports are very grapey. This grapiness comes from the practice of bottling these
wines after they have spent 2 years in barrel.
Vintage Ports are to be held in the bottle for a long
time, ten years considered being just a start while
truly great vintages can require 20 years and more
to reach optimum maturity. They keep their grapey flavor and, through bottle aging, develop
bottle bouquet, a special quality found only in
bottle aged wines. It can take many years for
vintage Ports to become smooth if they have some
tannin when they are bottled.
Ruby Ports are generally young wines that
have had the chance to assimilate the brandy which was added during fermentation, but have not
lost their youthful ruby-red color. Fruity on the
nose and with the vitality of young wines, they tend
to be very fresh in the mouth. They are an average of 2 years old.
Tawny Ports are aged a long time in wooden barrels, spending 3 or 4 years in casks. They tend
to lose most of their fruit and the normal deep
red color becomes more of an amber hue (which gives the wine its name) and acquire a
nutty character. They should be very smooth when bottled. These may be wines whose bouquet
has some trace of
the young wines, but also many of
the characteristics of Dated Ports or Ports with an indication of age, or
"Ports of the Vintage".
Wood Ports represent the finest of Ports. They have been exclusively aged in barrel and not
in bottle like Vintage Port.
White Ports: there are several styles of White Port, namely those associated with
different degrees of sweetness and the manner by
which they are made. In addition to the
traditional styles, there are those with a very floral
and highly complex nose and a minimum alcohol content of 16.5% (Light Dry White Port),
of interest to those who are looking for a less alcoholic Port.
"Vintage Ports" are wines of superior
quality, produced in exceptionally good years from
select areas within the region. Made from wines
produced in a single year, they are kept in wood
for two to three years before they are bottled.
Presenting outstanding flavor characteristics, they must be very full-bodied and deep in
color when they are declared (two years after they
are made). Aging in bottle endows them with the smoothness and elegance that gradually
takes over from their initial astringency. As they
age, their bouquet becomes balanced, complex and highly distinctive.
Vintage Ports that have
spent some years in bottle are associated, on the
nose, with toasted aromas (chocolate, cocoa,
coffee, cigar boxes, etc.) and with spices
(cinnamon, pepper) and occasionally, fruits.
"L.B.V.(Late Bottled Vintage)" are also
wines from a single year. They appear in years of excellent quality and are aged longer in
wood than in the case with Vintage Port. They are bottled between the fourth and sixth year
after they are made. Red in color, their flavor characteristics endow them with elegance
and distinction. Full-bodied, smooth and with a
more or less fruity bouquet, they may develop to a certain degree depending on how long they
are kept in wood. Usually these wines are less astringent and full-bodied than Vintage Ports
of the same year, yet equally harmonious; their smoothness and elegance varies according to
the individual style of the producer.
"Crusted Port" Not a vintage, crusted port matures in the bottle. It is a young blended
wine which will be ready to drink in 3 years at a reasonable price.
In terms of sweetness, Port Wine can be very sweet, sweet, semi-dry, dry or extra dry. It is
the winemaker who determines just how sweet a Port Wine will be according to when he
interrupts the fermentation.
"Dated Ports" are wines from a single year
that age in wood for several years and can only be sold after they have attained 7 years of
age. While aged in wood, their young, fruity and fresh aromas develop through oxidation to
create a bouquet marked by the aroma of dried fruit,
the distinct and pleasant hint of ethyl acetate
and aromas of toasting, wood and spices. As they
age they acquire an increased smoothness and their bouquet becomes more harmonious and
complex. They become golden in color, with greenish tints in very old wines.
Port Wines with
an "Indication of Age" are similar in style to
Dated Ports but, unlike the latter, are blended
from wines of different years. The age that is given
on the label expresses the nature of the wine as regards the characteristics that are conferred on
it through aging in wood. Thus, a "10 years
of age" wine has the color, aroma and typical
taste of a wine that has aged in wood for 10 years.
The authorized age indicators are: 10 years, 20
years, 30 years and more than 40 years. As with
Dated Ports, their bouquet is characteristic of
the oxidation process: dry fruits, toasting, spices
and the characteristic hint of ethyl acetate that
is more marked in older wines. In the mouth they are smooth and harmonious and their
bouquet lingers greatly in the mouth.
(Railroad Trestle in the Douro)
Glossary of some Port Terms:
Baumé - the density scale used to determine
the degree of sweetness of musts and sweet wines.
Benefício - the Portuguese expression used
to describe the adding of grape brandy to fermenting wine.
Bouquet - the set of aromas that characterize a wine and that develop especially during
fermentation and aging.
Crushing - action of smashing the grapes to release their juice.
Destemming - removing the stems from the grapes .
Draw off - to drain the juice from the tanks in which the wine is made, leaving the
Fortified wine - a special type of wine where,
not excluding other situations duly defined in
European Union legislation, the natural
fermentation of the must produced by grapes is interrupted
by adding grape brandy, as in the case of Port Wine.
Lot - the wine that is obtained by blending two or more wines.
Maceration - the prolonged contact of the must with the solid grape matter with a view to
extracting the compounds that are responsible for giving it its color and aromas.
Must - unfermented grape juice.
Must fermenting - grape juice in which the alcohol it contains is fermenting.
Pomace - the solid matter from the crushed grapes that is impregnated with wine after
the wine has been drawn off from the tanks in
which it made or the dry matter that remains after
the wet pomace has been pressed.
Pumping over - the procedure that consists
of pumping the fermenting must from the bottom of the tank and pouring it in at the top of the
same tank so as to air the must and encourage the extraction of the compounds responsible
for giving it its color and to make it more homogeneous.
Racking from the lees - the process of
transferring wine from one cask to another for
purposes of separating it from the deposit it throws
(lees) and airing it.
Treading - crushing the grapes by foot.
(Warre's Warrior Porto Bottle and cases of Dow's Single Vineyard Quinta do Bomfin)