What Exactly Is Port Wine?

What exactly is port wine? Port wine comes in different forms, but generally speaking it's a red wine that is fortified. Basically, it's a wine that originated in the vineyards of the Duoro Valley in Portugal...

Basically, it's a wine that originated in the vineyards of the Duoro Valley in Portugal that has been fortified.
Dave Cedrone, a wine consultant who offers private tasting, basic wine education, etiquette classes, and buying services for the restaurant industry, explains the definition.

"Port wine comes in different forms, but generally speaking it's a red wine that is fortified. Fortified generally means mixing or infusing or adding alcohol to the wine. Port is usually red wine fortified with brandy."
Cedrone notes that the fortification of Port wine changes the way we should serve it.

"There is additional alcohol added to it, so without question it is higher alcohol content and you would not drink it the same way that you would drink a glass of red wine or a few glasses of red wine. Port is usually served in a teeny tiny glass and it's very much a sipping type of a thing, usually reserved for dessert or possibly appetizers."

There are a very limited number of components that make up this type of wine, say the experts at portwine.com, "A combination of five grape varieties go into port wine: Touriga Nacional, Tino Cão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa. Rarely are any other grapes used."
Because of these distinctive flavors, your options for pairing foods with Port wines are very limited, says Cedrone.

"People might have them with cheese and crackers or certainly with desert chocolate and things like that."
Another option may be to forfeit the food altogether.
Cedrone elaborates, "People also have Port with cigars. It's in the same category, as brandy and cognac and all the other after dinner drinks. It's certainly more popular in the colder months because it's higher in alcohol so it can tend to make people a little bit hot when they drink it."
You also may want to experiment with the types of Port wine you will be serving, says Cedrone.

"If people are really interested in Port there are three different levels that they should be researching before they buy it. Tawny, ruby, and vintage are the three different types and they would want to find out the difference between them,whether they are made from one batch of the same grapes or if they are a mix of multiple different grapes or vintages and how long the Port has been aged."

Ruby varieties are bright red in color and have spent two or more years aging in large vats. Portwine.com describes it as "a blend from several harvests, different years and different quintas (grape farms)." It is drinkable at the time of bottling.

Tawny Ports are also composed of several harvests and ready for consumption at the time of bottling, but they're aged for a longer period of time in small casks. They also tend to have a drier taste than ruby varieties.

Vintage Port wine "is one of the most sought after wines in the world," says portwine.com. "From 1901 to 1999 only fourteen port vintages have been declared." It's desired because it's made from a distinct, high-quality single harvest and stored in wood for two years before bottling. Once it's bottled it spends years maturing, resulting in rich, complex tastes.

How much should you plan on spending on Port wine?
Cedrone says the cost of Port wine is comparable to every other variety on the market. "The prices range on port is from $8 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, no different than any other wine."

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