Posted on December 06 2013
There are few drinks more Christmassy than Port so now seems like a good time to publish our brief guide to Port…
Port is made when fermentation is stopped half way through – while there’s still plenty of sugar left- by adding grape spirit. Since yeasts can’t survive in a wine of 20% alcohol they stop working, leaving a fortified wine that is high in alcohol and also very sweet.
One of the reasons for treading Port grapes – as opposed to simply crushing them mechanically – is that there’s very little time to make sure all the delicious flavours, deep colour and tannins that will help it age are extracted thoroughly and quickly before fermentation is arrested. The human foot is uniquely efficient at this! From here on it’s how Port is aged that will define its style and keeping abilities.
Put wine from a single vintage in barrel for 5 or 6 years to age, then filter it to remove all trace of sediment before bottling and you will end up with Late Bottled Vintage Port. This relatively new style is much appreciated for its dense, juicy flavour, and also because it‘s affordable and will keep happily for a month or so once opened as the filtering process makes it so very stable.
Leave the wine in barrel for much longer and blend it with some older similarly aged wines and you’ll get a Tawny Port. Unlike any other Port style, Tawny spends its life forming a meaningful relationship with oxygen via the barrels in which it ages – a process which creates luscious aromas of dried fruit and toasted nuts and causes the original deep colour to fade to something akin to brick red – or tawny. Tawny Port will also keep for a month or so once opened.
Vintage Port and Single Quinta Vintage Port are based on the fruit of one year and will be aged for the first few years in barrel before being bottled – guts and all – then stoppered with cork and often a wax coating to prevent any air getting in. Great years can age for many decades, but, once opened and decanted will deteriorate very quickly – so buy them for an occasion to share with like-minded souls.
A Quinta is a single vineyard or small estate – most vintage port comes from a blend of many different parcels throughout the Douro Valley. Single Quinta Vintage Ports are usually faster maturing and a little cheaper than a Vintage ports.
Our entire Port range is available to browse online.