The next time you’re in the wine aisle at your local grocery or wine store, think Port. Interest for the world’s most notable fortified wine has been reviving over the years after a slight decline. Thanks to an innovative cocktail culture as well as Port producers adapting to today’s wine world, it looks like we’ll be seeing more of the vino classic that dates back to the 1880s.
If you have a passion for wine and travel, then grab your passport and head over to Portugal, specifically the Douro Valley, where Port has been made for centuries. The wine’s name is derived from the coastal city of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, located on the mouth of the Douro River. Here is where merchant ships were loaded with casks of Port before heading to England.
Although dark in color and at first glance commonly mistaken for non-fortified red wine, don’t be fooled. There is a difference. The first is that Ports are noticeably on the sweeter side and also contain more alcohol, on average between 19%-22%. Reds and whites usually fall below 15% in alcohol volume.
The process of making a great Port starts off the same way as traditional winemaking. The grapes are harvested and then pressed to extract the juice and begin fermentation. Once the juice reaches a certain alcohol level, it is then fortified with brandy which stops further fermentation, preventing the grape’s sugars from continuing the process of turning into alcohol. As a result, you have a sweeter wine.
PORT STYLES TO MATCH YOUR TASTE
There are four main styles of Port: Ruby, Tawny, White and Rosé. Each has a distinctive profile that keeps wine enthusiasts coming back for more. Here is why:
- Ruby Ports are described as “full-bodied, rich and powerful.” They are aged in large stainless steel or oak vats to retain their original characteristics, which are reminiscent of fresh red fruits such as cherries and strawberries.
- Tawny Ports are specially chosen to age in casks. The wine is gradually exposed to air and the concentration of flavors and maturation of colors go from ruby to tawny. Tawnies also have complex flavors of dried fruits, vanilla and caramel. A Tawny with an indication of age such as 10 years or 20 years is produced by blending wood-aged ports of various years.
- White Ports are produced from white grapes whose colors range from pale white to gold. The flavors can range from very dry to very rich and sweet.
- Rosé Ports are pink with aromas of cherry, strawberry and raspberry and should be enjoyed young, chilled and served on the rocks or in cocktails.
Generally paired with desserts, Ports are versatile enough to enjoy with savory fare as well. Try pairing a Ruby and a Tawny with a great cheese board.
Ports are easily found in the United States. A few producers to look out for, many who have been producing for centuries, include:
- Blackett Port Wine
- Bulas Family Estates
- Da Silva Distinctive Port
- Quinta De Ventozelo
- Ramos Pinto
- Rozès Porto
- Sogrape Vinhos
- Vieira De Sousa
Although you will find various renditions of Ports outside of Portugal, authentic Portuguese Port will have “Porto” on the bottle’s label. This designation not only protects the producers but also consumers to ensure they are getting a true Port experience.