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You might think Port when you´re thinking of Portugal, and you´re right. Only made in the Douro River Valley, Portugal, this red fortified wine is a blend of sometimes 52! grape varieties. Each adding its own personal taste profile.
The process of making Port makes it unique. After harvest & de-stemming, the grapes are shortly fermented to extract colour & tannins. The traditional way is the foot-stomping process, whereby a bunch of people crushing the grapes with their feet. Nowadays, this is all done mechanically, although some Port houses still use still do it the traditional way. What’s left is still a must containing loads of sugar & is high in alcohol. A high-in-alcohol spirit is added to stop fermentation whereby the yeast is killed. This result in a juice that’s high in sweetness & alcohol.
The wine then goes into oak barrels to age. Depending on the type of Port the winemaker wants to make, the Port can stay in the barrel for as long as 40 years. The last step is blending, most of the times from several vintages & bottling. Below the different types of Port the winemaker can make.
* Best served room temperature, 15-18C
Ruby – This type is a simple, fruit forward Port that has been aged up to 3 years in oak.
Reserve – A more complex Port with smooth & well-integrated fruit flavours. The smoothness comes mainly from the up to 5 years of barrel-ageing.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) – This is similar as a Reserve Port, but the grapes come from a good single year. Red & black fruit flavours with a touch of sweet spice & alcohol. The LBV’s might be unfiltered, so decanting is a must.
Vintage – Grape from the best vineyards from a good year. A short period of up to 3 years on oak, then into the bottle benefiting bottle-ageing. Here, the intense red & black fruit will turn into cooked fruit overtime. This Port is unfiltered, so decanting is needed.
Single Quinta Vintage - Comes from one particular year from one single wine house that believes their grapes are from outstanding quality. Vintage ones are unfiltered, so decanting is needed.
* Best served lightly chilled, 13C
Tawny – A lighter in colour Port with flavours of toffee & caramel. Some are blended with a bit of white Port (made from white Portuguese grape varieties). Aged for up to 3 years in smaller oak barrels than the Ruby style, which gives it its lighter tawny colour.
Reserve – Aged in the small oak barrels for at least 6 years. This will smoothen the intense fruity flavours into nuttier & coffee flavours with a slightly darker colour.
Indication of Age – The bottle may indicate the ageing time (10, 20, 30, 40 year) in oak. These Ports have concentrated & complex nutty, coffee & dried fruit flavours with its distinct tawny/brown colour. The bottle will also tell you the bottling date. The best time to consume is closest to this.
Colheita – ‘’Colheita’’ means year of harvest. The grapes come from a good year & grapes from this are aged for at least 7 years. Both the year of harvest & date of bottling are mentioned on the bottle. Best consumed close to bottling date. Complex nutty, caramel & dried fruit flavours is what you will get from this type.
Food wise, Port is a good guide for moulded & rich flavoured cheeses, chocolate & caramel dessert, nuts-based dishes & sweet or smoked meat.