Port Wine
Flights      Hotels      Car Hire    Tours        

PORT WINE

In a class of its own, Port is a unique fortified wine style hailing from the spectacular terraced vineyards of Portugal's Douro Valley. It has inspired imitations from many of the world's wine regions, but much as with Champagne, none of the competitors can match a top vintage Port from a good producer. Port is a unique wine style that derives its flavour, strength and sweetness from the process of adding spirit to still-sweet part-fermented grape must. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that Port represents two rather different wine styles, depending whether the wine is primarily aged in bottle or in cask. Most readers will probably be familiar with the sweet, dark, tannic, richly fruited style of Vintage and Single Quinta Ports which are bottled fairly young, and will then slowly age to mellowness. Less commonly appreciated are the cask-matured Ports known as Tawny or Colheita (these are vintage dated tawnies), which are typically lighter in colour, with soft, spicy nutty flavours and less overt fruitiness. Both styles are worthwhile.

Right up until 1987 a wine could only be called Port (or Vinho do Porto) if it had been aged here at Vila Nova de Gaia. The EU had a hand in extending the demarcation thought the Douro wine region. However Port wine is Gaia's heritage and some 60 Port lodges still clamber up the steep hill and is a mecca for Oenophiles. About two dozen lodges are open for tours and tastings on weekdays and Saturday.

TYPES OF PORT

Vintage Port

Vintage

Vintage Port (or VP for short) is considered the crème de la crème or King of Ports. On average, VPs are only produced three times a decade, in the very best of years. A Port declaration only occurs when a shipper believes they have enough quantity of very high caliber grapes to bottle from a single harvest. VP’s typically are a blend of grapes from several Quinta’s that a producer owns. However, some grapes are also purchased from other contracted vineyards. After the initial vinification, VP’s are stored in large oak barrels called "Tonnels" for at least two years. By law, VP’s must then be bottled between the 2nd and 3rd year after harvest. They are bottled unfined and unfiltered and left to age. They will form a rather large amount of sediment over time and must be decanted prior to drinking. VP’s are typically designed to need many years of cellaring before they fully mature. There are strict controls on when a Port can be called Vintage, or 'declared' as it is known:

  • the wine must be from a single harvest
  • bottled between 1st July of the second year following harvest, and before the 30th June of the third
  • the maker must submit samples of the wine to the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, together with details of the quantity of wine to be released, the yield of wine from the grapes, and the proposed release date of the wine

  • If the Instituto is convinced that the wine is of sufficient quality they grant their approval and the maker can 'declare' the Vintage. Not all makers declare a specific year. It is a brave maker that does not follow the lead of other houses, but it is a far braver maker that declares a Vintage year when few others do.

    Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

    Late Bottled Vintage Ports are produced from the grapes of a single harvest; the vintage of which will be stated on the label and can be either filtered or unfiltered (formerly called “Traditional”). The year of bottling will also appear, typically on the back label of the bottle. LBVs are bottled between the 4th and 6th year after harvest and typically spend those years in very large oak barrels. LBVs which are filtered (and fined) are designed to be consumed upon release and are not meant to be aged. Filtered LBVs do not possess sediment and need no decanting prior to drinking. Most filtered LBVs do not state the term “filtered” on their label. Unfiltered LBVs will throw a “crust” (aka: sediment) just like a Vintage Port and need to be decanted. These types of LBVs can be cellared for longer term drinking than a filtered LBV (5-20 years) or consumed right away. Most of the time the word “Unfiltered” will appear on the front or back label to indicate this designation of LBV Port style.

    Single Quinta Vintage

    Whereas Vintage Ports are blended with great skill from different vineyard sources, Single Quinta Ports are, as the name suggests, made from single estates. This is where some of the best value Port is to be found. Essentially, they are treated the same as Vintage Port, bottled just two years after harvest, and will also need decanting. In many cases these wines are components of Vintage Ports during vintage years and are then released as Single Quinta wines in non-Vintage years. They might also be from independent estates who bottle their own Ports each year, an increasingly common practice.

    Late Bottled Vintage
    Vintage Port

    Colheita

    Colheita (pronounced Col-yate-a) is pure and simply, a single vintage-dated Tawny Port, (all grapes are from one harvest) which are aged in small used oak barrels. In Portugese the word "Coleheita" actually means "harvest" and can be construed therefore, to mean vintage as well. Colheita Ports may also go by the name of "Port of the Vintage" and therefore must not be confused with Vintage Port, even though it is vintage dated on the label. If "Reserve" or "Reserva" is on the label...it means that the wine is a Colheita and not a VP. Colheita must be aged in cask at least seven years, but eight years is pretty typical, but they may spend as many as 50 or more years maturing in wood. Look for the date of bottling on the front or the back label ("Bottled In 19XX ") along with the words "matured in wood" or "aged in cask"...both of which are further clues that this is not a Vintage Port. Colheitas offer excellent value as these wines are well aged, can be considered outstanding quality Tawny Ports, and are less expensive than similarly aged VP's.

    Like VPs, Colheitas are "declared" after approval by the I.V.D.P. (Port and Douro Wine Institute, located in Oporto with a secondary branch in Lisboa). There is even less Colheita produced than VP, approximately 1% of all Port produced and mostly Portuguese Port Shippers produce the great ones, it is far more popular in Portugal than the rest of the world. where it is just becoming more popular in the past five years. There are some Colheitas from the 1800’s that are still aging in small oak barrels in Portugal! Colheitas change dramatically during this extended time in cask and take on flavours of dried fruits, nuts, citrus and exotic spices, while becoming very smooth and complex the older they get.

    TOP TOURS

    The 10 Tastings of Porto With Locals: Private Food Tour

    The 10 Tastings of Porto With Locals: Private Food Tour

    Get a true taste of Porto during this private food tour with a local guide. Come hungry, and visit everything from local hot spots to hidden gems for a look into the authentic side of Porto. Stop at a grocery store for a cheese tasting, see how Portuguese pastries are made, sample dry-cured ham, and more. All tastings are included with the price of your ticket. See how traditional delicacies are made on this stress-free package. Ideally suited for first-time visitors.

    Check Availability

    Sunday Trip from Porto to Régua by Train and Return by Boat

    Sunday Trip from Porto to Régua by Train and Return by Boat

    Discover the UNESCO-listed splendour of the Douro Valley on this full-day trip to Régua from Porto, including a return boat ride. During a scenic train ride to Régua, you’ll see vineyards and valleys before you board a cruise ship set to sail down the Douro River. On this day trip to Régua and lunch is included.

    Check Availability

    Tour 2 days Douro / Régua / Porto / Gaia / Aveiro With wine tasting

    2-day Tour: Douro/Régua/Porto/Gaia
    /Aveiro with wine tasting

    A personalised for you, your friends or family. In this Tour you will discover magnificent North Portugal and its stunning Douro landscapes. You can take a beautiful cruise through the Douro, from Regua upwards to Pinhão or from Régua downwards to Porto. Cruises to be arranged with us after booking the tour. You will sleep and the next day you will also visit the city of Porto at the cellars of Gaia and the beautiful city of Aveiro. Arrival in Lisbon at approximately 22/23 hours of the following day for a maximum of 8 people. Tour can be adapted if you want to stop somewhere that is not mentioned.

    Check Availability

    Crusted

    Often referred to as the “Poor man’s Vintage Port” because they emulate the qualities of a Vintage Port but are a fraction of the price. Crusted Ports are blends of at least two or more vintage years that age in wood for up to four years and ideally at least three years in bottle, left unfiltered and are intended to be aged in bottle for midterm cellaring (10-20 years). Crusted Ports are not often seen today outside of the UK, as LBVs have all but replaced them. They offer good quality at typically very good prices, and will need to be decanted just like a Vintage Port to remove the sediment (or “crust”). A little known Crusted Port factoid: Like VP, Crusted Porto must get used to its storage conditions and initially will throw more of a "crust", and then it will slow down as it acclimates to its surroundings and will continue to slowly mature.


    Garrafeira

    This is a very rare style of Port and many Port lovers have never even heard of it, and even fewer have ever tasted one. Literally the word garrafeira (pronounced: gah-rah-FAY-ruh) translates to bottle cellar, private wine cellar or bottle rack in Portuguese. Do not confuse this with the word garrafeira you may find on your typical table wine in Portugal. In that scenario the word "garrafeira" typifies a Reserve wine, but has nothing to do with Port. Garrafeira which today is only produced by the Niepoort family is an elegant style of Port made from the grapes of a single harvest, like a Colheita and therefore has a vintage date on the bottle. But "Garrafeira" is its own special category and a unique relationship with special glass demijohns.

    Vinho do Porto
    Vintage Port

    Pink/Rosé

    Pink port is a relatively new variation on the market, first released in 2008 to appeal to a more youthful market. It is made with the same grapes and according to the same extremely strict rules that govern the production of vintage and tawny and ruby ports. It is technically a ruby port, but fermented the way a rosé wine would be, with a limited exposure to the grape skins, thus the pink colour. Bearing the hallmarks of a light ruby with its taste being lighter in style and containing a fruity flavour, it's commonly served cold in various ways.

    Reserve/Ruby Reserve

    This designates a higher quality version of the Ruby Port which used to be called, “Vintage Character” Port. A Reserve Ruby is typically a Port which is made by blending a variety of vintages, with an average age of 5-7 years. They are still fruit forward Ports, but have more complexity and structure than a Ruby Port due to the extra time in cask.

    Ruby

    This is the most basic of wood-aged Ports and the youngest. A Ruby Port is a blend of several years, typically averaging 3-5 years old. They are simple and fruit driven given their young age and are less complex than a Reserve Ruby or Late Bottled Vintage Port which progressively move towards a Vintage Port in style. Ruby Port is vinified to be consumed upon release and is not meant to be aged at all, with primary, vibrant fruit character.

    A lot of people use these to cook with, (e.g. Poached pears or for a Port reduction) as they are less expensive than other types. Lightly chilled, these make a wonderful drink on a warm evening. Almost all Port producers make a reasonably priced bottle of Ruby Port and they are easy to find in a wine shop or on the shelves of your local grocer. Once opened, they last reasonably well, so there is no rush to finish the bottle.
    Port Tasting

    Ruby Port

    TOP TOURS

    Port Wine Lodges Tour Including 7 Wine Tastings

    Port Lodge Tour Inc. 7 Tastings

    Appease your thirst for Port and learn about its production during this half-day tour in Porto. With your wine expert guide, visit multiple wine lodges and taste various Ports; learn how to identify the difference between Port families and how to taste them like a professional. Visit an interactive museum and a traditional wine cellar to learn about the history, harvest, and production of the wines of the Douro Valley.

    • All tastings included
    • Half-day Port wine tasting tour in Porto
    • Visit Port houses, cellars and an interactive visitor centre
    • Taste different types of Port and learn how to distinguish them
    • Learn about the history and production of Port

    Check Availability

    Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and Optional River Cruise

    Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and Optional River Cruise

    Soak up Portuguese culture on this full-day tour of the Douro Valley, departing from Porto. Meet your friendly guide and settle into your air-conditioned vehicle, then relax on the short scenic ride from Porto to the Douro Valley. See the Douro Valley’s main highlights, like stunning port wineries, a 16th-century monastery, and picturesque landscape. Break for lunch at the charming village of Pinhão, in the heart of the valley. After a full day of sightseeing and sampling Portuguese specialties, enjoy a quick ride back to Porto.



    Check Availability

    Complete Douro Valley Wine Tour with Lunch, Tastings and River Cruise

    Complete Douro Valley Wine Tour with Lunch, Tastings and River Cruise

    A personalised for you, your friends or family. In this Tour you will discover magnificent North Portugal and its stunning Douro landscapes. You can take a beautiful cruise through the Douro, from Regua upwards to Pinhão or from Régua downwards to Porto. Cruises to be arranged with us after booking the tour. You will sleep and the next day you will also visit the city of Porto at the cellars of Gaia and the beautiful city of Aveiro. Arrival in Lisbon at approximately 22/23 hours of the following day for a maximum of 8 people. Tour can be adapted if you want to stop somewhere that is not mentioned.


    Check Availability

    Vintage Port

    Tawny

    It must first be mentioned here that Tawny Port, not Vintage Port is the most popular after dinner wine in Portugal. It is very easy to find excellent Tawny Port all around Portugal, but there is some difficulty in finding top notch VP, especially those from older vintages.

    Tawny Port actually starts out like a Ruby Port, but then spends an extended period in wood to soften and round out its character. As the large oak casks or "pipes" are somewhat porous, the oxygen that enters over the years will allow some of the wine to evaporate. This concentrates flavours in the remaining wine and leaves a slight "air gap" at the top of the cask. Like a fine wine in a decanter with increased surface area exposed, the Tawny Port is allowed to oxidise during its time in the oak vessel. Constant racking over the many years the wine is in cask also allows for further oxidation. As this oxidation process takes place, the colour of the wine slowly changes from a purplish-red eventually to a tawny or reddish-brown. The more time the Tawny spends in wood the more complex its flavour profile, and the Tawny-er the colour becomes.

    Tawny with an indication of age

    There are only four types approved in this category and they are 10 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old, and over 40 years old. These are a blend of many years where the average age of the bottle is at least 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old. They are typically produced in a “House style” which varies from producer to producer yet remains relatively the same from year to year. It is the Master Blender's responsible for exhaustive work at blending these Tawnies that maintains the reputation of the "brand" and the Port Shipper's "house style." The consistency of the particular house style is the primary goal of the winemaker and master blender, along with producing a wonderful wine year after year. These Tawny Ports often give excellent quality to price ratio, (QPR) allowing the buyer to get an older Port at an affordable price. Tawny Port with an Indication of Age is what most Tawny lovers seek out. These wines offer a smooth and silky mouth feel, with intense flavours and aromas that vary from nutty, caramel, nutmeg, leathery, and even chocolate.

    Ruby Port