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Port wine: what is it and What are the types of Port Wine you should try?

Porto Luxury Tour - Port Wine

Did you know that Port wine is unique in the world and it is produced exclusively in Douro Valley? Discover that and more about Port Wine´s fame.

Even if you have never been to Portugal before you’ve probably heard about its famous Port Wine tradition between Portuguese people. Much of that comes from the exponential increase in export rates and crescent fame of Port wine since the beginning of times. Port wine is unique in the world and it is produced exclusively in Douro Valley. Meanwhile, it grows in popularity for its Unesco protected landscape and luxurious places to stay. 

In this article, you will discover that Port wine is more than just a famous variety of wine. You will definitely learn what is Port wine and what types of Port wine you should try.  It goes much beyond Ruby and Tawny, the most popular. Besides, you will be enchanted with its history and culture. 

What is Port Wine?

Port Wine is a fortified wine produced in the Portuguese region of Douro Valley and commonly associated with its sweet and strong taste. This high level of sugar present in the wine comes from the process of fermentation. It is said that, unlike still wines, stops it halfway through by adding up 77% spirit, raising the alcohol level but maintaining the natural sugar of the grapes. 

Nonetheless, the production of Port Wine has to follow specific and strict rules to get the specially protected certification of  ‘Port’. In sum, it is possible to observe 3 factors in Port Wine production: location, grape varieties, and fortification. 

In most of the supermarkets across the country and further, you will find the two well-known types: Ruby and Tawny. But in the next paragraphs, you will discover that there are much more than that. You will find out that the best port wines are the Late Vintage Bottled (LVB) made to the finest sip you can have in your entire life. 

Before that, let’s explore a bit more of the history of Port Wine and have an insider’s view of why it has become so important worldwide. 

A Brief History

Wine production has a long and rich history dating back to 1174 when it became an important export during the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal. When the sea trade was picking up, Portugal assumed a very favored position due to its proximity to the Atlantic ocean.

From that moment the relationship between Portugal and England were so close that Portuguese wine was shipped to England in exchange for salted codfish. But only in the 16th century, it was heard the name ‘Port’ for the first time.

Later on, during the 17th and 18th century, England and France entered a severe war and the imports from France were compromised. England and France were no longer business partners and England turned to Portugal for imports, mostly wine.

In 1702 Portugal signed the Port Wine Treaty or the Methuen Treaty, a commercial and military agreement that established trade relations between Portugal and England. The main term of this treaty was that Portuguese wine imported into England would have a third less duty than the ones imported into France. It also emphasized the boycott of French wine. 

Thus, you might be asking yourself: what about the name ´Port`? Where does it come from? Once upon a time, English merchants, in search for a place to produce fine wine, found on the upper Douro a perfect spot. The hot climate from there could give full-bodied and robust wines. 

But there was a problem: the hub for transportation to England was Viana do Castelo, hundreds of miles from the Douro. And from Viana, there was still a long way along the Atlantic Ocean to arrive at the final destination. So, sometimes the wine reached destination sour and to protect the wine from the long journey, brandy was poured inside the wine casks. This process made the wine taste different and become more fortified, robust, with high levels of alcohol. Yes, Port wine was born by accident. 

Since that time up until now, you can find numerous wine cellars and Port houses set on the banks of Douro River, in Vila Nova de Gaia, facing the city of Porto. And because of that strong English influence, many of the popular wine cellars are named after the Englishmen and Scots. Are they Taylor, Graham, Cockburn and more. 

Discover more about the Port winemaking one of our wine cellar tours bespoke for your best need. Check our 5-Days Luxury tour in Porto!   

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Porto & Douro Luxury Tour - Porto

The types of Port Wine

There is no better way to start this if not telling you about the two most famous Port Wines: Ruby and Tawny. As said at the introduction of this article, you can easily find both across the globe for an averaged price. But do you know what they contain and the difference between them?

The Ruby: It has got a strong red color including Vintage, late bottled vintage (LBV), crusted and Ruby Port. This kind of wine usually has an intense and fruity flavor reminiscent of cherry, blackberry, and blackcurrant.

Tawny: It is aged in barrel and has a very sweet taste including Reserve Tawny, Tawny Port with Indication of Age, Colheita Port and Tawny Port. It has got a nut aroma with butterscotch and intense fine oak wood flavor.

White Port: Is made with indigenous white grapes like Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio, and Malvasia. It includes the White Port and Reserve White Port. It is characterized by sweet and dry flavors.

Rosé Port: This new style of Port Wine is made with strawberry, violets and caramel flavors. 

Moreover, from the 20th century onwards, many other types of Port Wines were created. In 1934, for example, Taylor’s chip dry was invented from white Port to become a cocktail mixer. Much later on, the Taylor family introduced the Pink Croft, a type of Rosé.

Porto Luxury Tour - Douro River Cruise

Therefore, as you can see, all kinds of Port Wine created afterward is just a recreation over the classics Ruby and Tawny, but with a touch of eccentricity and richness in flavor and attitude. 

So, now that you know what is Port Wine, its development over years and the types of Port Wines available today you may feel comfortable to explore it further. At Wine Tourism in Portugal, we can ensure you the best tours and experiences. You can taste the Port wines in the Douro and exploring the city of Porto. Check our availabilities to make your time in Portugal an unforgettable experience.

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