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101 Port

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:54 pm    Post subject: 101 Port Reply with quote

The drink known as Port became popular in England at the end of the seventeenth century. The local produced wine was found to be a better traveller by ship when brandy was first added. The abbot of the monastery in Lamego in 1678 is credited with successfully adding brandy to wine to produce a palatable drink. It took some 100 years later before the quality of Port reached the more refined levels that we know today. This can mainly be credited to a young Englishman, J.J. Forrester, who cleverly eradicated the false customs and trade that was in existence when he arrived in Porto. The Portuguese government was so pleased that they later awarded him the title of Baron. Another person that must be mentioned is Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, who was the uncrowned "Queen of the Douro" in the 19th Century as the largest single landowner and a friend of Baron Forrester.

The Port demarcated region is in the upper Rio Douro valley and its tributaries almost stretching 100 Kms in total length. The terraced vineyards are on slopes that reach to about 500 mts. The land is divided into Quintas that are private estates, many of which are owned by the old English Port Lodges located at the mouth of the Rio Douro in the town of Vila Nova de Guia. This town lies on the southern riverbank and opposite the city of Porto. A visit to a Lodge is recommended as they are interesting and have lots of character within besides imparting the knowledge about preparing Port.

Its governing body the Instituto do Vinho do Porto strictly controls the Port trade. Thirteen senior members of the Association enjoy the independent privilege of also being members of what is known as the "Factory House". This is an establishment with an old distinctly British flavour that dates back to the 18th Century in architecture and atmosphere. It is from within these granite walls that the British Lodges in Porto have successfully made trade agreements, and during their history, fought off threatening usurpers to their trade. It is considered a rare honour to be invited by a member to dine in style in its period rooms. Among others, a pleasant tradition is that an unmarked Port is served at the end of the meal to tease and test the assembled members and guests as to its origin, blending and year.

The grapes of which there are more than 40 varieties are picked in September in the special harvest know as "vindema". Again, an invitation from one of the Lodges to go up the River Douro to be present during this harvest is another privilege. In the name of tradition the picked grapes are placed in granite stone "lagares", and in the age-old custom they are trod upon by foot until the grape is sufficiently prepared for fermentation. There are today other modern methods that are now used by many of the Lodges. The semi-fermented "must" is then mixed with a controlled quantity of brandy. This prevents the fermentation continuing leaving the wine free from the natural grape sugar. All Ports with the exception of a "vintage" are matured in oak casks inside the Lodges prior to bottling. When sold they are ready for immediate drinking and do not have to be decanted.

A Lodge may declare a particular year due to the quality found in their best wine as a "vintage". This may be done in a period of 18 months after harvesting the crop. It is then bottled six months later and a minimum maturity period of 15 years is then allowed. The longer the period of maturing the better will be flavour of the Port. It has to be noted that all "Vintage" Ports need to be decanted prior to being drunk. A "vintage" year is declared about every three to five years.

Styles of Port
Vintage - Blended from the wine of the best vineyards in the same year and stored whilst maturing for not less than 15 years. It must be bottled and racked within two years of harvesting. It is the cream of all Ports.

Single Quinta Port - As the name implies this Port is from a single vineyard and can often be a Vintage Port.

LBV - This is a "Late Bottled Vintage" single year Port that has been matured in wood for not less than four years before being bottled. The label indicates the year of bottling and its vintage.

Vintage Character Port - This title is misleading in that the Port is similar to that of a fine Ruby Port and not that of a Vintage.

Crusted Port - This Port is a successful blending of wines from different years. Kept in casks for four years and then three years in the bottle prior to being sold. The crust deposit in the bottle is the cause of its name but should not be confused with Vintage.

Fine Old Tawny - As the name suggests this is pale-amber in colour and less full-bodied. It is a blended wine from different years and its label will indicate its age as an average year of its content. It is bottled and racked for 10, 20 years or more, assuming a smooth silky texture and a mellow nutty flavour.

Vintage-dated Tawny - These attractively priced Ports are as a Fine Old Tawny but also considered a Vintage. They can spend 20 or 50 years in a cask.

Tawny - A Port that is less sweet in flavour and composed of blending from different aged wines - even a clever mixture of red and white. These Tawny Ports do not improve with ageing.

Fine Old Ruby - Blended from different years and kept in the cask for about four years before being ready to drink. They have a fruity-spicy flavour and classified as inferior to Tawny.

Ruby - A fruity Port and as the name suggests, deep red in colour. They blended from wines of different years and take no more than one to three years to mature.

White - This is either dry or sweet in flavour. Normally chilled before serving and acts as an attractive aperitif in the small manner as a Spanish Sherry.

Leading Port Houses
Cálem - established 1859
Churchill - established in 1981
Cockburn - established in 1815
Crofts - established in 1678
Delaforce - established in 1868
Dow & Co - established in 1798
Ferreira - established in 1761
Fonseca - established in 1822
Gould Campbell - established circa. 1797
W & J Graham & Co - established in 1820
Guimarães - (belonging to Fonseca)
Morgan - established in 1715
Noval - established in 1813
Offley Forrester - established in 1737
Poças - established in 1918
Quarles Harris - established in 1680
Quinta do Côtto - established pre. 1300
Ramos-Pinto - established in1880
Royal Oporto - established in 1756
Rebello Valente - (belonging to Robertson Brothers & Co)
Robertson Brothers & Co - established in 1881
Sandeman - established in 1790
Silves & Cosens - (belonging to Dow & Co)
Smith Woodhouse - established in 1784
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman - established in 1692
Warre & Co - established in 1670

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Port Wine From Portugal

Port wine.In Portuguese: Vinho do Porto

Apart from the football, a good reason for visiting Portugal is the alcoholic beverage called 'port', named after the city of Porto, which is located near to the wine's demarcated area of production.

Port is a fortified wine; the wine has had grape brandy added to it after a couple of days' fermentation. 80% wine 20% brandy.

* Tinto (red)
* Tinto Aloirado (ruby red)
* Aloirado (tawny)
* Branco (white)
* Seco (dry)
* Doce (sweet)
* Vintage Character Port (a cheaper version of Vintage Port)
* Quinta (wine estate)
* Colheita (tawny port, cask-aged for 7 years or more)

There are several types:

Tinto and Tinto Aloirado are dark, sweet and the cheapest. They are made from a blend of wines of lesser quality.

Tawnies can also be blended. These get their name from the colour the wine takes on after maturing, often for many years, in mahogany casks. The longer the maturation, the lighter the colour of the port.

Branco, white port, is not so well-known outside Portugal. The dry version, "seco" makes a good aperitif.

Higher quality port includes tawny aged in casks for more than 7 years: 'colheita'; through LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) which is casked for 4-6 years; to, finally, the top quality Vintage Port, bottled within 2 years and left to mature in the bottle – rather than in the cask - for 10 years or more from a single harvest before it's ready to drink – this is made from wines of exceptionally high standard and only in certain years is it produced.


In Portuguese: Vinho da Madeira

Another fortified wine comes from the Portuguese island of Madeira.

The sweet version the English used to call "malmsey". There are two other versions: the semi-sweet "verdelho" and the dry "sercial".

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

port [from Oporto], fortified wine made in Portugal from grapes grown in the Douro valley; Portuguese law allows only this wine to be called port. Various grapes are blended by the growers, and brandy is added before fermentation is complete. In the spring the casks are brought to Oporto and Villa Nova, where the wines are blended and stored. Vintage port is wine of an exceptional year, kept in cask for two or three years, then matured in bottles : much of it for 25 years. Ruby port, generally a blend of wines of different vintages, is stored in wood and bottled before it loses its clear, red color. Tawny port remains longer in the cask, losing some color and alcohol. Crusted port is vintage or ruby port kept in bottles until it has formed a crustlike sediment. So-called white port is a sweet, amber-colored port matured in wood. Port is sometimes artificially colored with caramelized wine or berry juice.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Port wine (also porto wine) is sweet, fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern part of Portugal; it takes its name from the city of Porto, the centre of port export and trading. Port has been made in Portugal since the mid 15th century. Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The continued English involvement in the port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers: Croft, Fonseca, Taylor, Dow, Graham, Symington. Similar wines, often also called "Port", are now made in several other countries, notably Australia and United States. In some nations, including Canada, after a phase-in period, and the countries of the European Union, only the product from Portugal may be labeled as "port."

Port wine is typically thicker, richer, sweeter, and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits to halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. It is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, or with cheese, except in France where is served as a apéritif. It has an alcohol by volume content of roughly 20%.


Port comes in several varieties:

* Vintage
* Tawny
* Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV)
* Late-Bottled Non-Vintage (LBNV)
* Vintage Character
* Crusted
* Ruby
* White

Vintage port is made entirely from grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro, only those when conditions are favorable to particularly flavorful crops of grapes. The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, and is based on several factors, most notably the weather and the ability of the marketplace to absorb a new vintage. While it is by far the most renowned type of port, from a volume and revenue standpoint vintage port actually makes up a small percentage of the production of a typical port house. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of 2 years before bottling, and often require another 5 to 15 years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered proper drinking age. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavors. Particularly fine vintage ports can continue to gain complexity and drink wonderfully for decades after they were bottled, and therefore can be particularly sought after and expensive wines.

"Port" produced outside of Portugal may be labeled with a vintage date, but is not real Vintage Porto and likely is meant for immediate consumption rather than extended aging.

Ruby port may contain wine from several vintages. Ruby ports are fermented in wood and aged in glass, which preserves the wine's red color. It is considerably cheaper than vintage port, and can be used in cooking or to make cocktails.

LBV (Late-Bottled Vintage) port is intended to provide some of the experience of drinking a vintage port but without the decade-long wait. In contrast to vintage port's short time in barrel, LBV port is aged for several years in barrel to mature it more quickly. Typically ready to drink when released, LBV ports are the product of a single year's harvest and tend to be smoother and lighter-bodied than a vintage port. LBNV (Late-Bottled Non-Vintage) is similar, but made from a non-vintage year. The confusingly named Vintage character port is similar to LBV port.

Crusted port is a blend of port wine from several years; the "crust" refers to the sediment that it has in common with Late-Bottled and vintage ports; it is mentioned to distinguish it from the younger and inferior ruby port, which typically does not produce a sediment.

Tawny port is aged in wooden barrels, exposing it to gradual oxidation and evaporation, causing its color to mellow to a golden-brown after roughly ten years "in wood." Often they have pronounced "nutty" flavors. Most tawny port is a blend of several vintages, with the average years "in wood" stated on the label: 10, 15, 20, and 30 years are common. Tawny ports from a single vintage are called Colheitas (pronounced col-YATE-ah, meaning harvest or vintage). Tawny and Colheita ports are always ready to drink when released and do not typically benefit from aging in bottle, although they will not degrade either. Because it has already been exposed to oxygen, an open bottle of tawny resists oxidation the longest of all ports.

"Tawny" port produced outside Portugal is rarely aged long enough to develop a natural tawny color. Instead, it is the result of blending "ruby" and "white" ports, or possibly the addition of caramel coloring.

White port is made from white grapes, and generally served as a chilled aperitif. It is the only one which is optionally available dry as well.

Red port can be made from many types of grapes, but the main ones are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. White ports are produced the same way as red ports, except that they use white grapes—Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Malvasia, Rabigato, Verdelho, and Viosinho.

While Porto produced in Portugal is strictly regulated by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, many wines in the U.S. use the above names but do not conform to the same standards. Thus each genuine port style has a corresponding, often very different style that you will find on wines made outside Portugal.


There is rarely universal agreement on the quality the wine produced from a given year, and in some years a single producer may be alone in declaring a vintage. However, occasionally the harvest of a year is so good that all the major producers declare a vintage, and it in is these years that the port is produced that will last for up to forty years or longer, commanding high prices at auction.


There is a unique body of ritual and etiquette surrounding the consumption of port, stemming from British naval custom.

Traditionally, the wine is passed "port to port" -- the host will pour a glass for the person seated at their right, and then pass the bottle or decanter to the left (clockwise), this practice repeated around the circle.

If the port becomes forestalled at some point, it is considered poor form to ask for the decanter directly. Instead, the person seeking a refill would ask of the person who has the bottle: "do you know the bishop of Gloucester?" (or some other English town). If the person being thus queried does not know the ritual (and so replies in the negative), the querent will remark "He's an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the port".

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vintage Port refers to a wood aged, single-quinta port, made from the unblended grapes of a single estate in a single vintage.


The Douro valley in Portugal is an extremely hostile place to grow grapes, but the various port houses have been doing just this for several centuries. The climate and rainfall vary widely from year to year, greatly impacting the quantity and quality of grapes being grown in the valley. Twice or three times every decade, the climatic conditions of a particular year are good enough to yield a suitable quality of grapes. These young wines are fermented in the traditional fashion of port wine, and then allowed to age for two years in oak barrels. The resulting port is then tested and if it is deemed to be of suitable vintage quality, that year is "declared" to be a vintage year, and vintage port wines are then bottled, unfiltered, from this two-year old stock.

There are guidelines in Portugal about what may and may not be sold as vintage port, and this keeps the quality level high. You will not find a specific year of a port wine on the bottle except in these very special years that a vintage port is declared. You can expect that these wines will represent the highest echelon of all ports you will ever taste.

Non-vintage year wines are used to produce other things such as reserve-quality ports, tawny ports, and so on.

Storage and Maturation

A vintage port will continue to age for many years while still in the bottle. To this end, it is best to store the bottle in a wine cellar or appropriate container, at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Store the bottle horizontally, so that the cork is always in contact with the wine. Over the next fifteen or twenty years, the character of the port will change, and its overall quality can improve many times. Do not even think of opening a vintage port for at least ten years after it was bottled, to do so is sacrilege of the highest order.


During the aging process, the unfilitered port wine will throw a deposit or sediment in the bottle. To remove this, it is best to decant the port before it is served. Allow the bottle to stand for an hour or so to allow the particles settle to the bottom, and then slowly pour the port into the decanter. When you are near the bottom of the bottle, a strainer or filter can be used to prevent the sediment from getting out. Getting sediment in your glass will be like drinking coffee grounds. Not good.

Use a real port glass to serve the wine, such as a Riedel port glass. These glasses are shaped to allow swirling of the wine, and the fragrance of the wine to fill the glass and reach your nose. Besides, if you're drinking a $200 bottle of port , shouldn't you at least drink it out of nice glassware?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only the Strong Survive

Port, sherry and madeira were developed for their keeping qualities, but today they are valued for their taste. Andrew Jefford completes his wine survey with a look at fortification.
So, fortification. What's that all about, then?

I'll tell you in a minute. First, let's briefly summarise the life cycle of wine. It's born as grape juice, and becomes wine after the adolescent trauma of fermentation. Yeast gets to work, in other words, gobbling up sugars and excreting an equal mixture of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The yeast gives up when there's no more sugar to consume - then the air takes over. Oxygen turns the alcohol into aldehyde, then acetic acid. The wine becomes vinegar: death!
Cripes. Can nothing be done?

Yes, luckily. You can seal the wine in a bottle. Or you can fortify it.
Fortify it?

If you add spirit to wine, its alcohol level rises. Add enough, and its strength prevents it declining into a vinegary senility. This was discovered in the 17th century, when most wines were shipped around the world in casks, often turning vinegary as they did so. By contrast, fortified wines such as port, sherry and madeira would arrive on the quayside in perfect condition - which made great fortunes for their shippers. Of course, all good wine now travels in bottles, so the raison d'être of fortified wines has disappeared into history along with tallow-chandlers and ship's biscuit. But these are still great wines, as you'll discover if you try this month's selection.
Bit of an image problem, though; maiden aunts and all that...

So much the better, since bright drinkers aren't interested in image, only quality and value. Sherry is hugely undervalued at present, and is the best value for money of any wine category; port is fairly priced; and other fortified wines (such as Noilly Prat or the sweet Moscatel de Valencia) are also fine value for drinks of their strength, impact and complexity. Besides, some of the chic young Spaniards I've seen sipping manzanilla at two in the morning at Seville's April Feria would blow the glasses off a maiden aunt at 200 paces.
And with food?

Crisp, dry, chilled fino or manzanilla sherry is actually the best all-purpose food wine I know. It goes with everything, especially fish. Port is good with stilton, even better with a fine farmhouse cheddar, and best of all with nuts (particularly fresh Kentish cobnuts or the luscious salted almonds of northern Portugal). All fortified wines, needless to say, make great aperitifs (most of them should be chilled). And please serve them in a proper, tulip-shaped wineglass in appropriately generous quantities: there are plenty of rich reds that are just as high in alcohol as a light sherry, and you wouldn't even think of serving those by the thimbleful in idiotic schooners.
So can I really leave the bottles open for a month?

If you must; the wine won't turn to vinegar. But that doesn't mean that oxygen has no effect at all: it bears down on the wine like an irritating relative with a week to spare, leaving it quickly tired and exhausted. Ideally, finish all fortified wines as soon as you can.
What about decanters?

The only fortified wines worth decanting are vintage port and the sort of late-bottled vintage port labelled 'traditional' (which in this context means 'unfiltered'), which will contain a (sometimes heavy) sediment. A jug does the job just as well as a decanter, though: pour the wine carefully from the bottle (set over a source of light) into the jug until the sediment starts to appear. Stop pouring and serve either from the decanter or jug, or from the rinsed-out bottle.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marsala, Port and Sherry are all examples of fortified wines. Other well known types include Madeira and Vermouth. The process of fortification involves the addition of spirits, especially brandy and sometimes additional flavourings in the shape of herbs or spices.

The practice of fortifying wine took off in the 16th and 17th centuries with the increase of long sea voyages around the globe. Many of the normal wines transported from Europe spoiled during the rigorous journey during which they were not only subjected to being shaken about, but also to huge temperature changes. Wine makers found that adding certain amounts of brandy protected and stabalised the wines. It also gave them a more robust flavour as well as increasing the alcohol content. Fortified wines are generally between 17 and 21 percent alcohol.

The addition of brandy takes place either before or during the fermentation process, the timing of which makes a difference to the end product. If added before fermentation, the wine has a higher sugar content and is therefore sweet; if added after fermentation a dryer wine is achieved.


Originating in Western Sicily, Italy, Marsala takes its name from the town where it was produced. Although the area had been making fortified wine for a long time, even dating back to Roman times, it was in the late 1700s, that the Englishman John Woodhouse developed the technique used today for making Marsala.

Marsalas range from dry to sweet, the sweetest called dolce, the driest called secco and are graded from young to old, Fine being the youngest with 1 year aging, grading up through , Superiore, Superiore Riserva, Vergine, and Vergine Stravecchio or Vergine Riserva, being the oldest with a mighty minimum of 10 years aging.

Generally, the dry Marsalas are served apéritif and the sweet ones as dessert wines however it is also a vital ingredient in many Italian recipes includin zabaglione and tiramisu. As a general rule, choose the sweeter varieties for cooking as they have a richer flavour. Marsala can be substituted with Madeira or sherry.


Port originates from the Douro region in Northern Portugal. It takes its name from Oporto, the town where it was traditionally aged and bottled. Whilst there are many types of port wine, there are basically four categories: in order Vintage, Tawny, Ruby and White with Vintage port being considered the best. Some Vintage ports can be aged for 50 years or more!

Most ports are relatively sweet and are served after dinner although some white ports ( which are produced the same way as red ports except that they use white grapes) are sometimes left to ferment for a longer period thus producing a drier port suitable to be served as an apéritif.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher."
-Evelyn Waugh

Fortified wines were born of the need to preserve European wines on long trade voyages during the 16th and 17th centuries. Measures of brandy were added before or during the fermentation process to stabilize the wine. On long sea voyages, fortified wines were able to withstand the wildly fluctuating temperatures and constant motion they were subjected to in the ship's hold.

Virtually the same process is used to make today's fortified wines. The resulting wines typically contain between 17 and 21 per cent alcohol, and are more stable than ordinary table wines and less likely to spoil once opened. If Brandy is added after the fermentation process, the result is a dry wine. If added before fermentation, the result is a sweet wine with a high sugar content.

There are four key types of fortified wines: Port, Sherry (named for Jerez, its Spanish birthplace), Madiera [muh-DEH-rah] (named for the island southwest of Portugal on which it is made) and Marsala (the best-known fortified wine of Italy). The latter two are often used in cooking, but some drinkable types are available.

Port wines

Port, named for Opporto, the Portugese city of its birth, is perhaps the best known of the fortified wines. It has several different styles:

Ruby -- Aged only three years, ruby Port is deep red, with a rich, sweet flavor.

Tawny -- Generally older and lighter than ruby, this tawny-colored wine is available in different varieties and ages.

Vintage -- A classic after-dinner drink, vintage Port is typically aged at least 20 years.

White -- Made from white grapes, white Port's flavor ranges from sweet to dry. It is usually served chilled, after dinner.

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