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Varietal > Port
Wine Grape Varietals 101


What is Port

A fortified wine produced from distilled grape spirits, Port wine is the name for a product made exclusively in Portugal’s Douro Valley. This wine is usually sweet or off dry, often red, and is typically served at the close of a meal. Although other countries produce wines in the same style, and may even use the name “Port” or “Port-style” as a descriptor, only wines from this region may designate themselves Port. The three designated zones for Port production are the Baixo Corgo, the Cima Corgo and the Douro Superior. Within these three zones, land is composed of schist and granite and benefits from maritime influences, due to the nearby Atlantic Ocean, although changes in elevation do have substantial impact on grape growing. The grape varieties used to produce Port are multifold. In fact, over 100 varieties are permitted for use in the production of Port, though the five most commonly used are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa. White Ports, which are less common, are produced with white grapes, predominantly Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho. The majority of the grapes that succeed in Port production have small and dense fruit and share concentrated flavors and are suitable for long aging. Ports are first defined by their method of production and then by their style. The basic method for production of Port is that still wine is produced and then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit, known as an aguardente, which arrests the fermentation, boosts the overall alcohol level and leaves residual sugar in the resulting wine. From there, winemakers decide what style of Port they wish to make. Ruby Port is the least expensive and most commonly produced style of Port. Stored in concrete or stainless-steel containers after fermentation, it retains its bright ruby color and fruit-forward palate. Tawny Ports are wines that have been aged in wooden barrels and, therefore, have been exposed to oxygen and evaporation. The resulting wines are sweet and reddish-brown in color. Tawny Ports are labeled according to their time in oak, which can be anywhere from 10 to 40 years. Colheita Ports are single-vintage Tawny Ports that have been aged for a minimum of seven years. The vintage year appears on the bottle. White Port is produced from white grapes and can be made in a variety of styles. When aged in oak, the color turns darker. Lighter, drier styles of White Port are often used as aperitifs. Late Bottle Vintage, or LBV, Port is wine that was originally going to be bottled as a vintage Port but that was left in barrel for longer. There are two styles of LBV Port: one filtered and fined, and the other not. Vintage Ports, which must be aged either in barrel or in stainless steel for two and a half years before bottling, often require 10 to 40 years before they reach their desired maturation. These are wines that can cellar for decades, if not longer. These Ports are made solely from grapes of a declared vintage year, and not all years are declared. Single-quinta vintage Ports hail from a single estate, as opposed to most bottlings, which come from multiple estates.
Port wine glass

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Port grapes are found in dessert wines.

Structural Characteristics

Low Medium High
Alcohol levels
Low Medium High
Low Medium High
Tannin Structure
Low Medium High

Examples of Port to Try

Handling Tips

55-60°F / 13-16°C
50+ years