Introduction to Port

Rabelo Douro

“A Portuguese creation, A British discovery”


Port is certainly the most famous fortified wine. Sometimes called Porto or Oporto. Fortified wines are made by adding a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine at some point during the production process. Thus Port wine is a naturally sweet wine (since the natural sugar of the grapes does not become completely alcohol ) and stronger than other wines (between 19 and 22 alcohol).

When England was at war with France they cut off the wine supply. English shippers began searching other regions of Europe for a ready supply of wine and they found red wines of Duoro. The problem was that when they shipped barrels to England, it rarely survived. Dry wines would turn bad while sweet wines would often begin refermenting. To solve this problem, brandy was added to wine before shipping to help stabilize the wines. And port was born.

Port wine has its variety of different styles, each with its own characteristic flavours, from the intense berry fruit flavours to the rich mellowness or complexity of a Vintage Port.

Port wine is produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, one of the world’s oldest vineyard areas where wine has been made for at least two thousand years. Port owes its distinctive character to a unique climate, soil, grape variety and wine making tradition. The Douro region is mountainous and arid. The climate is characterized by cold, wet winters and prolonged hot summers.

Over hundred grape varietals are permitted for port production such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão

The first written record of wine under the name Port were recorded in 1678. From 1680 to 1715, the development and export growth were outstanding from 800 to 8000 barrels to reach 19,000 barrels in 1749.  Although the wine is produced inland in the vineyards of the upper Douro Valley, it takes its name from the coastal city of Oporto from which it is traditionally exported. Until the 20th century, the wine was carried down the river Douro from the vineyards in special boats “Barcos Rabelo”. They are sent today by rail to aging cellar located in the city of Porto to be aged, blended, bottled and finally shipped.

Many of the oldest and top Port producers are of English or Scottish origin such as Graham`s, Dow`s, Taylor Fladgate, Warre and Cockburn and Britain was by far its largest market. However Port is now enjoyed all over the world. The success of Port continues unabated, with each year 120 million bottles sold worldwide …


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • BuzzedAldrin May 22, 2015, 11:24 pm

    Port is a fine drink, if fortified wines are to your tastes. Ports are great with dessert, and are a great wrap up to a good meal. Served with cold, sweet treats it really brings out the richness and flavor of the port and makes every bit and sip an experience.

    If you find yourself liking port, you should certainly try sherry (or Shariz.) It’s similar to port in that it’s a fortified wine. though It has a different flavor palette entirely. Some sherry types are great dessert wines as well. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ short story, a favorite in some circles, had the main character lure his victim to his death using Amontillado sherry.

  • Tipes August 15, 2015, 4:05 am

    I didn’t realize that Oporto was actually a town, but it is and that is where it was originally aged and bottled. Well, you learn something new everyday! I personally have never tried Port before, but from what I have read so far it sounds like a wonderful replacement for the typical wine. Especially, for those that have a sweet tooth (aka. me!) I love sweet things. I think I ‘ll go get myself some Port next time we have a family gathering.

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