The History of Port Wine
This wine is now so famous that the city for which it is named – Porto – has dedicated an entire museum to Port wine. More than 300 years ago, the supremacy efforts of the French forced the English to boycott their much-loved Bordeaux. Merchants naturally had to look for an alternative. Today it is hard to imagine a British gentlemen’s club without Port wine.
How those merchants actually found the solution to their dilemma along the steep slopes of the Douoro Valley is not exactly known. The region’s proximity to the seaport was certainly an important factor – they were businessmen after all. They did, however, also discover that the quality of the wine increased with the altitude of the vineyards. The perfect wine growing region (unfortunately 60 km away) was eventually determined and is characterised by very cold winters with extremely hot summers. The grapes grown in this region produce deep red wines and are the best foundation for excellent Port wines. Today the region is belongs to the remote Alto Douro district, a DOC classified wine growing region for original Port wine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to Look for When Buying Port Wine Online
If you are looking for original Port wine, it is most important to take note of the region stated on the label: It must be the Douro region. But the grape variety used in the vinification process also plays a role. There are 48 different varieties approved for the production of Port wine – both white and red, and the white varieties are something very exclusive. In general though, we only come into contact with the six most important red grape varieties: Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, as well as Tinta Roriz (more commonly known as Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao and the Tinta Amarela.
Age is the second most important consideration when you buy Port wine. A two-year maturation period in oak casks is the absolute minimum. These wines are known amongst experts as Ruby Port. The best quality Port wines are known as Tawny Port. They are available as wines aged for 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years. In the opinion of many experts, aging Port wine for more than 40 years does further improve its quality.
How long a Port wine has been aged, can be found under the term oak-cask aged in the descriptions of the individual Port wines.
Occasions for Enjoying a Glass of Port Wine
Initiates should perhaps acquaint themselves with Port wine on occasions when they might otherwise enjoy a glass of whisky: After a relaxing dinner, with a cigar, or a snack of nuts or almonds. And of course with cheese: It pairs very well with Parmesan and other sharp cheeses. The bouquet of Port wines for such occasions are often described as exhibiting notes of cinnamon, cloves or coriander seed, spices often associated with Christmas. But these Port wines may also have nutty-woody notes as well as dried fruit notes of citrus, apricots or plums.
A Port wine with a completely different character might display notes of liquorice, coffee, toffee, black and red berries, chocolate or vanilla. Discerning individual aromas is not only for expert wine tasters – do try it for yourself. Port wine, of course, can also be enjoyed on its own as a dessert wine, or with puddings such as ice-cream, cakes, flans or other fruit desserts.
Recipe Ideas with Port Wine
Port wine can be used to create wonderful sauces. Fruit can also be marinated in Port wine to be used as toppings for crèpes or ice-cream. An artfully made Port wine sauce is magnificent with game, beef or even duck.
Production: Port Wine is Red Wine – But Stronger
Port wine has an alcohol content of between 19% and 20%. Its foundation is red wine made of Douro grapes. During the fermentation process, the wine is fortified with high-proof liquor, which halts fermentation and preserves a portion of the fruit sugar in the must. That is why most Port wines are sweet and why such a high alcohol content can be attained.
After the wine has been fortified, it is put into oak casks to mature , i.e. aged in oak. Depending upon its quality and the current market demands, the vintner decides how to proceed with his product. One differentiates between the so-called Wood Port, where the entire maturation process takes place in wooden casks, the LBV or Late Bottled Vintage, which is filled from the cask into the black bottles typical for Port wine relatively late, and Port which has left the cask earlier to mature in the bottle on its own time.