Port styles. Port is bursting with rich, intense flavours & aromas. Port, part 5.
There is a set of categories that identify the different types of Port Wine. The different types of red Port vary in colour from deep purple to light gold, with a range of intermediary hues. Also white Port comes in various shades from pale yellow, straw to golden white depending on the winemaking technique used. Port can be very sweet, sweet, semi-dry or extra dry. Just how sweet a wine is going to be is a choice made during the wine making process. It all depends on the sugar content in the wine on the moment the brandy is added to stop the fermentation of the wine.
Rose is the most recent innovation in the Port Wine world. It’s a fresh, smooth and versatile Porto wine. The pink colour is obtained by maceration of very intense red grapes and the process excludes oxidation during its storage.
Ruby Port is a blend of several harvests that have been aged in wooden barrels for up to 3 years before being bottled. Ruby port is full bodied, sweetish and has intense fruity flavours reminiscent of cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant. Ruby Reserve Ports are generally of higher quality and are aged slightly longer. The blends used in the production of Ruby Reserve undergo a more careful selection than the ones used in the Ruby category. They are still fruity, but have a more complex structure than just plain Ruby.
Port wine obtained from blends of, usually, 3 year-old wines aged in wine seasoned casks. This way, they don’t present the characteristics of oak ageing. During the ageing process several rackings are performed in order to force oxidation and endow the wine with a golden colour.
This category is applicable to Tawny and Ruby wines. Tawny Reserve wines have higher qualities than Tawny and their tones vary according to the wine making processes: they can be red, similar to rubies, or brownish, resembling the colour of oldest tawnies. Tawny Reserve is obtained from the blend of 5 to 7 year-old wines. Tawny Ports are older, lighter in both body and colour, and noticeably drier than a Ruby.
Tawny with age designation
Good quality Port wine with permission to use age designation. Age designations are: 10 year old, 20 year old, 30 year old and over 40 year old. This Port is a tawny obtained from a blend of wines from several harvests in order to join different organoleptic characteristics (colour, aroma and flavour). The ageing period in wood is variable and the age on the wine’s label corresponds to the average age of the different wines used in the blend (mixture of two or more grape varieties). Par example a 10 year old tawny is made from a selection of Ports from different ages, some few decades old, all ageing in the cellar. This blend created very balanced Port with a smooth and a silky texture and nuts and vanilla flavours.
Colheita or “Single Harvest Reserve”
Good quality tawny Port from one single harvest and an individual Quinta. Before being bottled, the wine goes through an ageing period in wood of at least seven years. Although Tawny is not a blend wine it undergoes rackings and fillings during its ageing process, it is not filtered. While the wine ages, its fresh, fruity aromas oxidise and are transformed into a bouquet with aromas of dry fruit, wood. This wine features the year of bottling on the label. As the word “Colheita” is difficult for non-speakers of Portuguese to pronounce, they have gotten permission to use a new term: “Single Harvest Reserve.”
High quality Port wine. It is obtained from a blend of wines from different harvests and bottled after 3 to 4 years of ageing in wood. The wine’s peculiar characteristics create a deposit (crust) in the walls of the bottle.
White Ports differ from each other’s in sweetness and ageing period. The youngest Ports are normally drunk in the beginning of meals. The oldest ones have longest ageing periods and intense flavours and should be drunk at dessert. According to sweetness level white Port has four categories: Extra Seco, Seco, Doce and Lágrima.
It is a higher quality white Port and is obtained from the blend with an ageing period in wood of, at least, seven years. Has golden colour and persistent flavour.
Single-Quinta or single estate Port
Single-Quinta is a wine that undergoes the same production process as a vintage, but comes from a single farm. A single Quinta wine is a “potential” vintage port that was not good enough to qualify in the end as a vintage.
Vintage is an excellent quality wine made up of one single harvest. It is considered the king of Port wines, representing only a small percentage of the total production of Port. Vintage Ports are the most structured and powerful of all Ports. If a Port house decides that the quality of its wine is sufficient for a Vintage, samples are sent to the IVDP for approval and only after the approval the house declares the vintage.
Cool, dark warehouses help port to age slowly and harmoniously
The quality of grapes used in Vintage Port is one of this style’s distinguishing factors. The grapes, typically grown in the Cima-Corgo sub-region of Douro, are left to achieve full ripeness before they are picked. This is Vintage Port’s first step in what will usually be a long life before consumption. It is often said that no other wine requires as much time in bottle to balance itself as Vintage Port: the minimum bottle-ageing period is considered to be 15 years, with the finest examples capable of vitality well after 50 years. It is bottled between the 1st July of the second year and the 31st December of the third year after harvesting. Although it can be immediately consumed, it is usually kept in ageing cellars for a period that can last up to 50 years.
It is a very dark, full bodied red wine that becomes softer after ageing in bottle.
To declare or not declare a Port vintage
The decision of whether or not to “declare” a Port vintage is generally made in the spring of the second year following harvest. In Portugal, IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto – Port and Douro Wines Institute) is the entity responsible for recognising and classifying Port wines as “vintage”. When the more traditional Vintage Port brands (Taylor’s, Fonseca, Dow’s, Graham’s, Quinta do Noval etc.) declare a Vintage Port in a specific year and make it a “classic” and “general declaration” the market will certainly look for the Vintage Ports produced in that year. Vintage” is a strong horse for the port trade, (the kind of horse that Sherry doesn’t have) for the image of port in general. It makes people talk about port and will probably have a positive effect on sales of port.
How to declare the “Vintage”:
- Simply said it starts when a producer decides to declare a Vintage when they feel that the wines produced in a specific harvest year possess the characteristics of a Vintage Port
- Port wine must be produced, aged and bottled according to the regulations which define Vintage Port
- The IVDP need to ratify the decision and approve the bottling and sale of the wine as Vintage Port
- The Vintage Declaration is formally announced.