One of the best ways to finish off the meal is with a Port wine. Vintners in Portugal have been producing the fortified wine for over 250 years with grapes grown in the Douro Valley near Porto, in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
The wine producing Douro region is the third oldest protected wine region in the world after the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in Hungary, established in 1730, and Chianti, in 1716.
Ports are made from a blend of several grapes, the most important being Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (more commonly known as Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cão. Port is fortified, which means that a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente is added to the wine as it’s fermenting, killing off the active yeasts, stabilizing the wine, and stopping fermentation before all of the grape sugars can be converted into alcohol. This process gives port its punch of typically around 20 percent alcohol by volume and its lively sweetness – a product of the natural sugars left over in the grapes.
The key to understanding port is to realize that there are really only two styles. Ports are either wood-aged, which makes up around 98 percent of all the types of port you’ll encounter, or bottle-aged – these are special, and have the high prices to match. That’s it!
But, those styles are divided into many types of Port. The officially recognized list of Port styles is: Tawny port, Colheita, Garrafeira, Ruby port, Reserve, Rose port, White port, Late bottled vintage (LBV), Crusted, Vintage port, and Single quinta vintage port. Unless you are searching for yourself, or a serious Port WIne lover, you will likely only ever come across Tawny, White, Ruby and Vintage Port. A Colheita is a great find, as are some older Vintage Tawnys (30 plus years old).
Port, like other wine, should be stored in a cool but not cold, dark location (as light can damage the port), with a steady temperature (such as a cellar), laying the bottle on its side if the bottle has a cork, or standing up if stoppered. With the exception of white port, which can be served chilled, port should be served at between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius (59 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit). Tawny port may also be served slightly cooler.
How could you ever be expected to keep track of all the variety within just one type of Port? The best way is to get a sample selection of Ports, like in the Maynard's Port Encyclopedia Volume III, or the Maynard's 100 Years of Port stack. Both are available by November 6th. See VIP's website for more information.