Give a simple definition of Port wine.
- Port is a fortified sweet wine from the Douro in Portugal;
- Port can be made white, red, or rosé with local grape varieties of the Douro, the most important of which is Touriga Nacional.
What are the 3 subregions of Port?
From west to east:
- Baixo Corgo: usually lighter-style wines
- Cima Corgo: highest concentration of Port vineyards
- Douro Superior: smaller production than Cima, usually high-quality, dry wines
What is the main climate of the Douro region?
How does it change across the region?
Generally speaking, the Douro Valley displays a warm Continental climate.
Western vineyards in Baixo Corgo tend to be cooler and wetter; Douro Superior in the eastern end of the valley tends to be warmer and more arid.
What is the main soil type in the Douro?
Schist experiences vertical fractures, making it somewhat easier for a vine's roots to dig deep for nutrients.
The topography of the Douro region is more likely to be flat land or steep slopes?
Douro has steep slopes and many older vineyards are planted on terrasses, rendering mechanization impossible.
In the Douro, what is the name of the traditional narrow terraces with retaining walls?
Even though this way of farming is expensive it is still widely used. Each terrace holds only one or two rows of vines and must be hand harvested.
Today wider terraces are built to make mechanization possible.
What are Patamares?
Patamares are terraces in the Douro constructed without retaining walls to allow for tractors and other mechanization.
What is the term used for vineyards planted aligned with, or going vertically up, the slope?
Vinha ao Alto
Vineyards planted vertically are used on gentle pitches near the bottom of slopes.
Port wines are mostly vinified as single varietal wines or blended wines?
The leading variety of the Douro Valley is Touriga Nacional, but blending it with other grapes helps to give texture and aromatic complexity.
What are the 5 most important varieties of the Douro for the production of red Port?
- Touriga Nacional
- Touriga Franca
- Tinta Cão
- Tinta Roriz
- Tinta Barroca
Approximately how long does primary fermentation last in the production of red Port?
About a day to a day and a half (24 to 36 hours).
At this stage the must has reached about 5-9% abv. It is at this point that winemakers stop fermentation by fortifying the wine with a neutral grape spirit, leaving enough natural sugar to keep the wine sweet.
Fortification timing depends on a few things: the original must weight and the winemaker's desired level of sweetness.
To what abv is Port fortified?
Port is fortified to 19-22% abv.
What role does fortification play in the production of Port?
- Fortification kills yeasts and stops fermentation, preserving natural sugars in the grape juice;
- It boosts the alcohol content.
What is the name of the neutral grape spirit used to fortify Port?
What can its maximum strength be?
The spirit can be no stronger than 77% abv.
What % of the total volume of a bottle of Port will be aguardente (or spirit)?
By comparaison, a Fino Sherry will be about 3.5% spirit.
In the production of Port, what are the three important ways to extract color and tannin prior to fermentation?
- Foot Treading
- Piston plungers and robotic lagares
What is the most traditional way to extract color and tannin prior to fermentation of Port?
- Grapes are placed in lagares
- A team of workers treads the grapes for 3 to 4 hours
- Not widely used anymore due to the labor expense; however, some premium wines are still made this way.
What is a lagare?
A lagare is a large, shallow, granite trough used in the traditional foot treading method for extracting color and tannin in the production of Port.
What two cities are considered historically most important in regards to Port wine?
- Vila Nova de Gaia
Both cities are approximately 70-80km downstream of the Douro River, near the Atlantic.
Why were Port wines traditionally aged and matured in Vila Nova de Gaia?
Vila Nova de Gaia is well suited for long and slower aging thanks to its cooler temperatures due to its proximity to the coast.
After Port wines had fully matured in cask, they were bottled and shipped directly from Vila Nova di Gaia to other markets.
Today, some producers age their wines in their vineyard facilities instead of transporting the wine to mature in and ship from Vila Nova de Gaia.
What is the common vessel used to mature Port?
Large oak tanks or neutral old casks.
The flavor of new wood has never been attractive or beneficial to the styles of Port.
What is the name of the oak barrels used for the shipping and maturation of Port wines?
On average they hold about 550 litres (145 gallons).
What are the 2 main types of Port wine?
What are the primary flavors of a Ruby Port?
- In their youth, Rubys display mostly deep and concentrated black fruit flavors with spice notes such as cinnamon and liquorice;
- When aged, Rubys can develop toffee, mocha, chocolate, and leathery aromas, yet they tend to express fresher and more bombastic flavors than a similarly aged Tawny port.
What styles of Port are under the umbrella of Ruby Port?
- Ruby Reserve
- Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
- Vintage Port
Describe the appearance, aromatics, and flavors of Tawny Port.
The wine displays an orange-brown color.
The aromatic profile shows dried fruits such as raisin and fig, with toffee, mocha, chocolate, and hazelnut flavors.
On the palate the alcohol is high, medium-sweet, and full in body.
How do non-dated Tawny Ports achieve their light color?
A producer can:
- Blend red and white juice together;
- Use grapes from Baixa Corgo which tend to be lighter in color and extraction;
- Hot maturation, which encourages faster aging;
- Apply a heavy filtration prior to bottling to remove color.
What is the minimum aging requirement for a Reserve Tawny Port?
Wines must spend at least 6 years in wood prior to being bottled and released.
What is Tawny Port with Indication of Age?
These are wines that are labeled as 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old and undergo extended oxidative maturation.
To be labeled as such, the wine has to have characteristics consistent with a wine of the indicated age.
The age indicates an average age of the wine in the bottle; it does not indicate the age of the youngest (or oldest) wine in the bottle.
Can Tawny Port be vintage dated?
Tawny Ports are usually not vintage dated; if they are, there are labeled as Colheita.
What is Colheita Port?
Colheita is a vintage-dated Port that has spent at least 7 years in cask.
How long do LBVs spend in cask?
LBV Ports must spend at least 4 years in cask (and can spend up to 6 years in cask).
LBVs must be bottled by December 31st the 6th year after harvest.
Are Vintage Ports made, or declared, every single year?
No, Vintage Ports are not made every single year. Vintage Ports are made only in exceptional vintages (usually about 3-4 every decade).
Each Port house decides individually whether to declare a vintage, and the house must declare it in the second year following harvest.
Vintage Ports must be bottled by July 30th the third year after harvest.
Is Vintage Port filtered at bottling?
Vintage Ports are never filtered.
It is bottled young and unfiltered, which means that as it ages it throws heavy sediment.
Vintage Ports can take decades to mature in bottle.
What are some recent declared vintages of Vintage Port?
In Portugal, what is a Quinta?
A Quinta is an Estate.
What is a Single Quinta Vintage Port?
This is a wine from a single estate from a single vintage.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports are typically made in years that a shipper does not declare a vintage - essentially a "baby Vintage Port."