Port fortified wine is made in various styles in the Douro Vallery, a rugged, yet beautiful and stunning location in northern Portugal. The area was first dermacated in 1756. A rich, fortified wine, port is made by stopping the fermentation before it is complete, in order to arrest or keep some residual sugar in the wine. In most cases, maturation takes place in Villa Nova de Gaia, close to the coolness of the mouth of the River Douro and opposite the city of Oporto.
The steep slopes alongside the River Douro and its tributaries are terraced to accommodate the vines. Labour therefore is still pretty intensive and most of the picking is done by hand. Over forty different grape varieties are grown here, but only five have been identified as ideal for the production of port: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tini Cão. Once the ripe grapes are picked, fermentation will follow in stainless steel tanks, although some ‘quintas’ (vineyards) still tread grapes in ‘lagares’, open-top granite tanks. Ordinary port will often have a long maturation in casks, known as pipes, or in arge wooden vats, whille vintage port will develop for most of its life in bottle.
Styles of Port Fortified wine
Althoug port is seen as an after-dinner drink or a classic accompaniment to cheese, particuarly Stilton, its breadth of styles means that it cane be suitable with a range of food. A sweet tawny port for instance, works beautifully with a rich pâté.
WHITE PORT FORTIFIED WINE: made from white grapes. Dry or sweet.
RUBY FORTIFIED WINE: youthful, spicy, fruity, and with a deep ruby colour.
VINTAGE CHARACTER FORTIFIED WINE: deeply coloured, full-bodied port around four years of age (blended).
TAWNY FORTIFIED WINE: aged in wood , tawny coloured, smoth, and with flavours of dried fruits. A blend of grapes from several harvests, an indication of age (10, 20, 30 of 40 years old) will be shown on the label og the best ports.
COLHEITA FORTIFIED WINE: a single harvest Tawny. At least seven years old, having rich, smooth, comlex ‘Tawny’ characteristics.
LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE FORTIFIED WINE: port from a good year (not necessarily a ‘declared’ vintage). Matured in wood for five or six years. Accessible, more complex than ruby or vintage character.
SINGLE QUITA FORTIFIED WINE: single harvest, from an individual vineyard. Maturing in bttle to reveal black fruits and spie on the palate. Throws sediment (crust), so needs decanting.VINTAGE FORTIFIED WINE: single exceptional harvest, which may be declared. Aged for two to three years in wood, then slowly in bottle, for up to three decades. complex, blackberry-like flavours, spicy and powerful in youth. needs decanting.