For many port wine enthusiasts, the drink is enjoyed after dinner or as a dessert wine because of its sweet, rich flavours. A little sip after a meal can make for a great treat to finish off the overall dining experience as you start to wind down for the evening.
It comes as no surprise then that port has become one of the world’s most beloved drinkable digestifs. While the drink is best known simply as a sweet wine, there are many more layers to port.
Let’s take a closer look at how this wine is made, the different styles of port, and other ways in which it’s best enjoyed.
What Is Port Wine?
If you’ve ever been to a champagne tasting, you will know all about what is allowed to get classified as “champagne”. In the same way that all champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, all port must come from one country.
True port originates from Portugal’s Douro Valley. It is a sweet wine that is typically made from very aromatic varieties of grapes. Unlike any other kinds of wine, port wines are made by adding distilled spirits that also come from grapes, such as brandy or cognac.
Port is much sweeter than other kinds of wine, which is why at most wine tastings, it’s classified as a “dessert wine”. Since the wine is fortified with spirits, port typically has a much higher alcohol content compared to other wines, with an alcohol by volume (ABV) measure of 20%.
Regular wines usually have an ABV of around 12%. It’s higher ABV measure is one of the reasons why port is usually served in much smaller glasses.
How Is Port Wine Made?
While there are certainly differences between port and other types of wine, there are also plenty of similarities.
For one, the production of port begins only once the grapes are harvested. They are then pressed to release their juice, and then the fermentation process begins.
If winemakers want to create a sweet port, the wine will need to become fortified before fermentation is complete. This causes more residual sugar in the liquid, leading to a sweeter outcome. On the other hand, winemakers hoping for a drier port will need to add the spirits to the wine only after fermentation is complete.
Most of the time, port is aged in barrels for roughly 18 months. However, some winemakers choose to instead allow the wine to age in the bottle.
Types Of Port Wine
There are several different styles of port. These sweet, full-bodied red wines generally contain hints of caramel, blueberries, chocolate, and cinnamon. There are also numerous other varieties of port, just like there are of other wines.
In total, there are 52 styles of port, some of which we list below.
- Tawny port: This kind of port is perfect for anyone who likes their wines extra sweet. Tawny port is typically aged in a barrel and has robust flavours of caramel and nuts.
- Ruby port: Ruby port is a big category and covers all manner of port that is deeply red in colour. This kind of port includes vintage port, late-bottled port, and crusted port.
- Rose port: This is the newest kind of port and is made in the same way that rose wine is. It is best described as having flavours like caramel, strawberry, and violets.
- White port: White port is generally made with white grapes that are indigenous to Portugal such as Malvasia, Viosinho, Gouveio and Rabigato.
- Vintage port: Port can generally get classified as “vintage” when it’s harvested during an exceptional year for wine and is aged in a barrel for two years before bottling. Once bottled, it can age for another 10 to 15 years.
- Crusted port: Crusted port is one of the newest variations of the sweet wine. It’s so named because it is unfiltered when it goes into the bottle. This causes sediment, which is also known as crust, to form. Crusted port was created to mimic the taste of vintage port, but at a much lower price.
- Late-bottled vintage (LBV): This kind of port ages for between four and six years in a barrel before bottling. Because it’s aged for twice as long as vintage port is, it may get drunk while it’s still quite young.
- Colheita port: Aged in barrels for at least seven years, Colheita port is also a variety of tawny port. This kind is meant for enjoyment quite soon after it is bottled.
- Single-quinta port (SQVP): SQVP is a category of port that includes wines made from a single vineyard, which is also known as a ‘quinta’.
What To Pair With Port Wine
Port wine is sweet and delicious on its own, but it does pair exceptionally well with certain foods. While it is typically served after dinner, it works beautifully alongside cheeses with strong, rich flavours, such as blue cheese, as well as salted nuts and smoky meats.
For those with a real sweet tooth, port is also recommended as an accompaniment to caramel and chocolate-based desserts. If you are hosting a dinner party and serving port at it, be sure to serve it at room temperature, which is how it is best enjoyed. Serving it too hot or too cold could result in a burning sensation in your guests’ throats. Allow the wine to breathe for 10 minutes once opened.
Is Port Wine Cheap?
The price of port wines depends on a number of different factors, just as it does with all kinds of wines. While there are certainly several cheaper kinds of port available, there are also pricier ones. Factors such as vintage, origin and the kind of port are just a few of the determining factors when it comes to the price of this dessert wine.
A delicious drink with a rich flavour profile, there are so many styles of port that you can try to find your favorites!