Porto, Oporto, Vinho do Porto, or simply Port wine is basically a Portuguese sweet wine that is fortified with distilled grape spirits. It is more or less like brandy, and comes from the Douro Valley that is located in the Northern provinces in the country of Portugal. However, now similar type of wine is also produced in several other countries including South Africa, Canada, India, Australia, and the US. But guidelines made by the European Union have made it clear to all that only the Portuguese product should be labeled as Port. On the other hand, the US Federal laws say that the Portuguese-manufactured wine should be labeled Vinho do Porto or Porto specifically.
Port wine, which is much heavier and richer as compared to other red wines, is usually served as a dessert wine. One of the distinctive features of the Port wine as against other common wines is that it can safely be stored in wooden casks that can “breathe” on account of its having more than average alcohol content (18% or more). Of course, this also adds to the aging of this wonderful beverage.
Port Wine – History of the Name
The name originates from Porto, which is a seaport and is situated where the Douro River meets the sea. And this is where the product was mostly taken for marketing. Port wine is produced from grapes grown as well as processed in the Douro region of the country. Fortified with brandy or cognac to increase the alcohol content of the wine, it is then stored and left for agingin barrels or vats in cellars or caves, before being bottled. It is fairly significant to note that the Douro Valley is where the wine is processed. And the place was a region that was protected in Portugal way back in 1756. The area is also the second most old protected wine region in any part of the world.
Some wineries in the United States, in an attempt to alter the basic characteristics of Port have used unconventional varieties of grapes like Frontenac. Interestingly, the Frontenac Port has even won Gold at the 2006 Indy International, authentic Port wine.
Varieties of Port Wine
Port wine variations are many, some of which include Ruby Port, White Port, Garrafeira, Tawny Port, Vintage Port and LBV or Late Bottled Vintage Port
Ruby Port is the most extensively produced variety of Port and is also the cheapest. Stored in concrete or stainless steel tanks to prevent oxidative aging, Ruby is often blended to imitate the style of the brand it is sold.
White Port is made from white grapes and can be dry or very sweet. It is often used as base for cocktails or other concoctions.
Tawny Port is made from red grapes that have been aged in wooden barrels for slow oxidation and evaporation, making it mellow and having a ‘nutty flavor. Tawny Port, as the name suggests, has a tawny or golden-brown color.
Vintage Port is made exclusively from grapes of a dedicated vintage, being the flagship wine of Portugal that is considered to be a premiere brand.
LBV or Late Vintage Port was planned as a Vintage Port but lack of demand compelled the wine to remain in vats for longer periods of time and thus acquire a stranger characteristic.
Garrafeira is an intermediate vintage form of Port that is made from a single harvest of grapes that goes through oxidative maturation in wood.