All about port

With a long history behind it, port is one of the all-time classic European wines and has remained popular for many years throughout the world. It is produced exclusively in Portugal’s Douro Valley, and different producers are highly competitive when it comes to creating the best port. The hot, dry conditions in the valley result in uniquely small, dense and thick-skinned grapes which contribute towards the distinctive character of port.
Port is probably the world’s most well-known fortified wine; brandy is added early in the fermentation process, killing off the yeasts responsible for fermentation and ensuring that sugar levels remain high, resulting in a rich, sweet and relatively heavy wine. Because of this, port is most commonly consumed as a dessert wine and often used to finish off a meal, traditionally with cheese. However, there are different degrees of sweetness depending on the type you decide to go for. The varieties include:
– Ruby port. Designed to be consumed when young (aged up to three years), bright red ruby port is sweet, fruity and relatively easy to drink. It is also usually the cheapest variety. This is a great starting point for beginners in the world of port drinking.
– Tawny port. Like ruby, it is blended from a mixture of grapes, but has been aged for longer in oak barrels. It has a mellower, browner colour and a sweet to medium dry character. It’s often described as having notes of nuts and dried fruit, as opposed to the bright, fresh fruit notes of ruby port.
– Vintage port. The highest quality, darkest and most full-bodied ports are made from the best grapes produced in a single excellent year. On average, only three years out of every decade will be considered a vintage year, so vintage port accounts for only a small amount of overall port production. Although they can be drunk when young, vintage ports can be aged for many decades and have outstanding longevity and complexity of flavour, with the fruit flavours taking on notes of spice, pepper and liquorice. Aged port will form a sediment in the bottle, which means it needs to be decanted before serving.
Within these types there are numerous other varieties including Colheita, crusted, and Single Quinta, each of which has its own unique qualities. Although there are different varieties of port, they are all characterised by a rich, powerful flavour and aroma, as well as a high alcohol content. This means that port is one of the most intense wine varieties, but also one of the most rewarding.