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Friday, April 15, 2016

Port Primer

                                          Port tasting during the Wine-Knows' 2011 trip

Port wine is synonymous with Portugal for it was here that the world’s first Port was crafted.  Named after the seaside town of Porto (from which the wine was originally shipped), it is made in a completely different manner than table wine.  Let’s take it take a step-by-step look at how Port is made, as well as examine the many different types of Port.

First, Port is a fortified wine---this means that alcohol has been added.   To learn about Port, however, it’s important to understand why the addition of alcohol.  Brandy was originally added to stabilize wine during the 17th century for transport to England.  Today, alcohol is added half-way during the fermentation cycle to actually stop the fermentation.   As fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugar into alcohol, by stopping it midway (leaving remaining sugar) this is the reason why Port is always sweeter than regular wine.  Port is higher in alcohol than table wine since brandy is added.

Port is a blended wine. Not only is there a mixture of many diverse grapes, from many different vineyards, but there can also be a combination of several different vintages that are blended together in one single bottle.

Port is, furthermore, unique in that it comes in several styles.  These different types of port are based on the quality of the grapes, as well as how long it has been aged.  Here are some examples of the most well-known styles:

1.     Ruby:  The least expensive and less complex Port, this one is aged for only 3 years in bottle.  It is often served chilled as an aperitif.
2.    Tawny:  named for its amber color, this Port is aged in barrels for at least 3 years and offers more complexity.  Tawny can also be served as an aperitif or served at the end of the meal.
3.     Vintage:  only 2% of the production, it is made in the best years by only the top estates.  Bottle-aged for often decades, it offers explosive aromas and rich, concentrated flavors and finish.  The classical pairing is a well-crafted blue cheese.

If you’re joining Wine-Knows on the sold-out trip to Porto this autumn, you’ll have the opportunity to try all of these and many more.

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