Whether you are on a date, having friends at dinner, or want to impress your business partners, serving port wine after dinner is a sure bet. There is a pretty good chance they haven’t heard of port wine, and they will be pleasantly surprised by its taste.
Once they try the first sip, they will want to know more about this fortified wine.
To help you formulate a good, elaborate answer, you need to know a thing or two about Port wine. To that end, we’ve made this minimalistic guide. By the time you are done reading this, you will know what Port wine is, the types of port wine, and a few more interesting things about this magnificent wine.
What is Port Wine?
Port is a type of fortified wine coming from the Douro Valley in Portugal. The production of Port wine is strictly regulated and monitored by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto.
Port is made by adding brandy to red wine. Consequently, the alcohol content is increased to around 20%. Just for comparison, the average table wine contains 16% ABV. At the same time, the addition of the brandy preserves the natural sugars coming from the grapes.
If you want to be sure that you are looking at an authentic bottle of Port, search for the Selo de Garantia. It is a white seal that says, “Vinho do Porto Garantia.”
In terms of taste, you’ll find port wine, as a fortified wine, is likely a lot sweeter than you’re used to – almost a syrupy texture. Many people first compare fortified wines like port to traditional fruit wines like plum wine, which also carry a distinctive sugar level.
Bottle-matured Port vs. Barrel-matured Port
There are two ways to distinguish these two types of port wine. First of all, the bottle-matured Port tends to be smoother and with less tanning, whereas the barrel-matured Port tends to inherit some of the quality of the barrels. Additionally, barrel-matured ports tend to be more viscous because of the tiny evaporation that happens in the barrels. Even though there are a few other differences, those were the general differences and most important ones.
How to Start with Ruby Port?
If you are new to the world of Port wines, don’t jump to Vintage Port right away. Vintage Port is expensive, and it should be preserved only for special occasions. Once you open a Vintage Port, it needs to be consumed within 24 to 48 hours.
On the other hand, a Ruby Port can stay good for almost a month and won’t cost you a small fortune. Usually, it costs around $15. Ruby Port is served in small glasses. It’s very tasty and widely accessible. Typically, Ruby Port is served along with dessert, cheese, or fruit. Some of the most popular entry-level port wines are Delaforce Fine Ruby Port, Warre’s Heritage Ruby Port, Sandeman Ruby Port, and Nieuport Ruby Porto.
Now the Good Stuff
Let’s assume you had fun with the more affordable versions of Port wines. Now it is time to start developing a taste for the Port bottles located higher on the shelf. Here is a brief overview:
Ruby Reserve Port
Ruby Reserve Port is in many regards similar to Ruby Port as it is also very affordable, blended from vintage wines, and is instantly ready to drink. What distinguishes Ruby Reserve Port from the classic Ruby Port is that it’s made from higher quality wines that have been aged for around five years. Some of the top Ruby Reserve Port brands are Graham’s, Warre’s, and Sandeman’s.
In the beginning, Tawny Port is practically a Ruby Port. But, after spending a decade or four in a barrel, it turns into a Tawny Port. A tawny Port can come only in four ages: ten years, twenty years, thirty years, and forty years. After spending a long time in the barrel, the Tawny Port tends to develop a complex flavor and shed a good chunk of its fruitness.
As expected, the price grows along with the age of the Tawny Port. However, there is a consensus that you get the most value from a twenty years old Tawny Port. At this age, the flavors become more notable while its tannin softens up.
This is the only Port wine that gets to mature in a bottle. Vintage Port spends only the first two years in a barrel before being bottled and sent to the cellar for the remaining years. This is the top of Port wines that is very special and, as expected, usually comes with a pretty hefty price attached to it.
We’ve just barely scratched the surface of these amazing wines. But everyone needs to start somewhere. Check out the different styles, try Port wine from different producers, and develop your own taste. Soon you will want to start introducing it to friends, family, and anyone else interested in aperitifs.