Does Port leave you perplexed?
Well, you are not alone. It's safe to say that even the savviest wine drinkers can find Port a bit confusing.
It’s never too late to go back to school though, so put on those thinking caps and study this Port primer from Fladgate Partnership winemaker David Guimaraens. Read on to find out what makes Port one of the world’s most historic and enjoyable wines. Tasting is mandatory!
What is Port? Port is a fortified wine produced from grapes grown exclusively in Portugal's Douro region. Port was created in the 1700s so the British would have wine to drink while at war with the French. As wines spoiled during the voyage to England, they were fortified to improve shelf life.
Factoid: A wine is “fortified” by adding a neutral grape spirit to stop fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine.
Port Grapes: Port can be made with 48 different grape varieties but five are considered the best and most widely used: Touriga National, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cão. Vineyards are cultivated on steep terraced slopes along the Douro River—arduous and costly work.
Grape Stomping: Grapes are hand-harvested, and in order to quickly extract colours and flavours without getting harsh tannins from the pips, the finest producers opt for the traditional way of crushing grapes by human foot treading in shallow stone tanks called lagares.
Port Styles: Simply put, Port can be divided into two main styles: Ruby and Tawny.
Most Ports are blended wines from various years with the aim of producing a consistent house style (much like Champagne).
Ruby Ports: Dark purple in colour, with rich fruity and spicy overtones, and a sweet character. Bottles marked “Ruby Reserve” offer more complexity than a basic Ruby as they are aged longer before bottling and are generally higher quality blends. Try Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby: aromas of fresh, rich, blackberry and blackcurrant. Velvety, rich, luscious dark berry and chocolate flavours with an intense lingering finish.
Vintage Ports: Vintage Ports are the highest quality Ruby Ports from one single year. A Port producer will ‘declare’ a vintage in exceptional harvests. Vintage Ports can be consumed young, but will develop in the bottle for decades, with powerful fruit flavours and tannins mellowing with age. Vintage Ports need to be decanted as they develop sediment in the bottle. Try Croft Vintage 2009: scents of eucalyptus, lychee, passion fruit, and cedar create a complex aroma. The palate is round and velvety with succulent berry and jammy fruit flavours.
Factoid: 2009 is the fourth vintage declaration of this decade, a rarity over the past three centuries.
Tawny Ports: Aged in large oak casks, Tawny Ports are amber in colour with flavours of toffee, dried fruits, and nuts. Ready to drink when bottled, Tawny Ports don’t need to be decanted. More complex Tawny Ports have an indication of age on the bottle, e.g. 10, 20, 30, or 40-year old Tawny. Their mellow, nutty, character comes from contact with air during long maturation in oak casks. Try Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny: intense amber tawny colour. Spicy, nutty aromas with hints of orange and toasty oak from long cask aging. Rich and concentrated flavours with a long mellow finish.
Factoid: Tawny Ports are delicious served chilled, with or without ice.
Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV): LBV Ports spend four to six years in oak prior to bottling. The wines combine the mellow flavours of a Tawny Port while retaining the potent fruitiness of a Ruby Port. They do not need to be decanted. Try Taylor Fladgate 2005 Late Bottled Vintage: powerful, blackberry and dark cherry aromas, with flavours of blueberry, raspberry, and black licorice. A well-structured wine with a wonderfully long finish.
Ruby Ports are delicious with blue cheeses like Stilton or Roquefort and rich chocolate desserts.
Tawny Ports are best accompanied with caramel and toffee desserts like crème brûlée or apple crumble.
The above information (including photos) was provided by Lisa Mendelson of Cornerstone PR and is used with permission.