What do you get when you cross a Portuguese wine with brandy? But the answer is no joke, as port wine is one of the biggest imported beverages into the UK and has a large following across the world, ranking amongst Bordeaux and Burgundy as the world’s most iconic wines. Port is achieved by combining red wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal with a grape spirit, or brandy, to create the famous fortified wine.
The introduction of port to the United Kingdom took place during the 18th century, whilst the British had stopped the importation of French wines due to the war that was taking place at the time. Several merchants took advantage of this and scoured Portugal for a superior wine variety and they stumbled upon the Douro Valley. It is reported that the merchants then added brandy to the wine in order to preserve it on the way back to Britain and therefore port was born. However this is likely just hearsay and the merchants instead discovered an already fortified wine, that would be appealing to the consumers back home and would conveniently last the trip back too. From this moment, the British increased their influence in the area, which is apparent in the most popular brands of port having typically English names such as Graham, Offley, Taylor and Warre and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are several different categories for port wine; port types are as follows;
Tawny port is a blend made up of several different ports that are then aged from 3 up to 40 years. The wine used in tawny is still red, however due to the extensive aging it develops a tawny colour; hence the name and newer flavours of nut and raisins come through.
Ruby port is the most extensively produced type of port and is stored in large containers for around 2-3 years after fermentation to prevent oxygenation and to preserve the claret colour. This style is normally the most inexpensive type of port, and does not normally improve with age. Ruby port is blended and often has a spicy and rich taste.
White port is made using different grape varieties from the same region. These grapes are typically Arinto, Gouveio, Malvasia and Viosinho. These grapes can provide both dry and sweet styles of port and are fortified in the exact same way as red. Slightly differently, white port is intended to be consumed as an aperitif and can be served chilled as opposed to room temperature.
Vintage port is the most sought after of port types as it is best known for improving in the bottle. To be classified as a vintage it must be from a single harvest, bottled between 2 and 3 years after the harvest and samples must be approved by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, who regulate port in Portugal, which sounds like a good job to us. Vintage port should be consumed a minimum of 15 years after bottling, which is plenty of time to mature into one of the world’s best port wine.
There are 5 other types of port that the Instituto do Vinho do Porto have defined, which are Crusted Port, Vintage Character, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Single Quinta and Colheita. Here at Beers of Europe, we have amassed a collection of over 50 port wines of various styles, brands and ages to satisfy everyone.
Pass the port!
- Cockburns Fine Ruby Port
- Cockburns Fine Tawny Port
- Cockburns Late Bottled Vintage
- Cockburns Special Reserve
- Grahams 10 year old Tawny Port
- Grahams 20 year old Tawny Port
- Grahams 2001 Quinta Dos Malvedos Vintage Port
- Grahams 30 year old Tawny Port
- Grahams Late Bottled Vintage Port
- Grahams Selection of Finest Ports
- Grahams Six Grapes Port
- Hutcheson Fine Tawny Port