Port wines are about one of the sweetest types of wine in the market, and they are unique for a reason. It is a fortified wine that puts the crown on an evening of delicious dinner, inspiring chatter and hearty laughter.
While we all enjoy a glass off port for its distinctive characteristics, some of us may lack certain knowledge about what makes it different from other wines.
Here is everything you should know about Port Wines:
What is Port Wine?
Port is a sweet, rich red wine made in the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal. Although port wines are mostly red, there are a few white port wines. Due to its extra sweet flavour, it is sometimes referred to as a ‘dessert’ wine.
The taste of Port wines differs according to the style with which it was made. However, all Port wines come with a few common flavours. Some of these flavours include berry fruits, chocolate, dried fruits, prune, cinnamon and nuts.
How Port Wine is Made
Port wines are made predominantly from red grapes grown in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. Traditionally, Port is fermented in lagars with people stomping on the grapes with their feet while the wine ferments. With technological advancement, most Port wineries now make use of automatic lagars with mechanical “feet” in place of manual labour.
During fermentation, brandy is added to the wine.The high alcohol content of the brandy prevents the sugars in the wine from turning into alcohol as it ferments. As a result, the wine contains more sugar than other wine, which explains its sweet taste. The addition of brandy to the wine is why it is called ‘fortified wine.’
The Character Of Port
Port wines are usually very sweet owing to the high level of sugar contained in the final product. Also, port wines have a high alcohol volume, with most ports having an alcohol percentage of between 19 and 22 percent.
On the palate, port wines are unique and rich with a heavy mouthfeel. It balances the sweetness and high alcohol in the finish. Fine aged Vintage Port or 30+ year Tawny Port have an even wider array of subtle flavours including graphite, green peppercorn, hazelnut, almond, butterscotch and graham cracker.
Types of Port Wines
- White Port – is usually a lighter type of port, made with white grapes. Common flavours include citrus peel, roasted nuts, baked apple, and apricot. There is less sweetness to this type of port, and it isn’t aged for as long.
- Rosé Port – is made with stronger berry flavours including strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry sauce. It usually has a delicious jammy note that gives it a bit more sweetness than the white port, but it’s not as rich as the tawny or ruby port.
- Tawny Port – gets its name and colour from extended ageing in wooden casks before being bottled. It has mellow flavours of caramel, cloves, cinnamon, hazelnut, fig, and prune.
- Ruby Port is usually aged for two-three years in vat before being bottled and sold ready to drink.
- Reserve Port – it has deep flavours of raspberries, blackberries, chocolate, and cinnamon. It is aged for at least three years before release.
- Vintage Port – the most expensive Port. It is made in tiny quantities from the best grapes, and only in the very best years. It is aged for two years before being released but can improve for decades in bottle.
How to Drink Port Wine
Serve Port just below room temperature, around 60 °F (16 °C).
Pairing Port Wines with Food
Port wine is best paired with richly flavoured cheeses, chocolate and caramel desserts, salted and smoked nuts, and even sweet-smoky meats (like barbecue). One popular way to serve Ruby Port is on the rocks with a peel of lime.