In the 1600’s the French refused to sell anymore wine to the British. The British looked to Portugal to quench their thirst and Port wine was born. But before going into the history of it. What is port wine exactly? Something to get grandma drunk or an intriguing and complex wine?
Port wine is a fortified wine. During production, a little brandy or grape spirit is added before the fermentation process is finished resulting in residual sugar. This makes for a sweeter wine with a higher alcohol content. Port wines usually have an abv of around 20 percent.
Port wine is made in the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. Only fortified wine from the Douro Valley may be called Port wine, Port or Porto. Established in 1756, it was the first wine region in the world to be legally demarcated. Like other wines Port owes its distinct flavours to the unique soil and climate conditions of the Douro Valley.
Although the Douro Valley is around 130 kilometers away from the sea, the wine takes its name from the port town of Oporto. Port wine was shipped in boats along the Douro and was sent to England from Oporto, hence the name. The first shipments of wine called Port were recorded in 1678.
Port’s history is a long and complicated one. The essence of the story is that when the British couldn’t get anymore French wine they looked to Portugal to fill up their cellars. Many Brits and Scots eventually ended up setting up vineyards there. A lot of names and terminology surrounding port are in English for this reason.
Port comes in many flavours and types. Although it’s always sweet many port wines, especially aged ones, develop complex and distinct palettes. Port wine can also be kept for extremely long times. A good vintage will outlast any other wine and will reach maturity and optimum drinking age after a long time. There are Ports from the late 19th century that can still be drunk today.
Vintage ports, although the most exciting, only account for 1 percent of production. There are many styles available, from sweet to semi-dry, aged on wood or in the bottle. You can find out more about it here.
Port can sometimes have a reputation of being an overly sweet wine good for grandmas and teenagers looking to party. Yet it you have a good bottle it can be a rich and flavourful drinking experience. Try some yourself and let us know what your think.