What is port wine?
Port wine (or just port for short) is a sweet, fortified wine from the Douro region in northern Portugal. It is considered a classic dessert wine and takes its name from the port city Porto, where the Douro River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It is available in white and red varieties and in different types.
The most important grape variety for red port wine is Touriga Nacional. Other notable varieties are Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz(Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca as reds, and Arinto, Encruzado, Folgasão and Gouveio(Godello) as whites. The grapes are harvested by hand and then extensively crushed at the winery to release the pigments and tannins(tannins) from the berry skins. The fermentation of the mash is then stopped by the addition of high-proof brandy(ethanol). As a result, port wine usually has a residual sugar content of 40 to 60 grams per litre and an alcohol content of between 19 and 22 percent by volume. It is then matured for several years in wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks. Most port wines are blended from several vintages.
The most important types of port are:
- Ruby Port (matured for two to three years, slightly oxidative )
- Ruby Reserve Port (matured for four to five years)
- Tawny Port (aged up to three years in wooden barrels)
- Vintage Port (from a single vintage, matured for two to three years in wooden barrels, slightly reductive, drinkable after ten years in the bottle at the earliest)
- Late Bottled Vintage Port = LBV (from a single vintage, aged four to six years in cask and/or tank, usually drinkable immediately)
- Colheita Port (from a single vintage, matured for at least seven years in wooden barrels)
A significant difference to sherry is that port is fortified during rather than after fermentation.