Port is hands-down the most famous fortified wine. Like other fortified wines, it is made by adding alcohol to the must during fermentation. Ports are produced from the Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão grape varieties grown in the Douro Valley and come in a range of styles.
There are several types of port, which vary according to age, vintage, blend and other factors. Here are a few of the best known.
Ruby: This is a young ruby-red port. They are never aged for more than three years, and retain their fruity character as a result. Drink as soon as they are marketed.
Late Bottle Vintage (LBV): These ports are derived from a single vintage that is always stated on the label. They are barrel-aged for four to six years and are generally ready to be consumed as soon as they are marketed. Certain LBV ports are called “traditional,” meaning they aren’t filtered and may improve in the bottle.
Vintage: Vintage port is produced only in years (always stated on the label) when the harvests are deemed worthy of it. It is then aged in barrels for two years before being bottled. Vintage ports require several years of bottle aging before they can be drunk. Decanting is recommended when serving because a deposit forms at the bottom of the bottle.
Tawny: These wines are a blend of several vintages and are characterized by the tawny colour they acquire after barrel aging. The label may state the age (10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years): In this case, they are a blend of wines whose average age is the one indicated on the label.
Colheita: This is the wine from a single vintage that ages in barrels for at least seven years. The year of harvest and the year it is bottled must appear on the label.
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White and rosé ports
White ports, made from white grapes, may have a statement on their labels in reference to their sugar content (extra-dry, dry, semi-dry, sweet, extra-sweet).
A recent creation, rosé ports are characterized by their pretty bright pink colour and drunk cold as an aperitif.