Wine information > Port wines from Portugal

Port wines from Portugal

The wines of Portugal

While the vineyards of France are for the most part on gentle slopes, the black grapes from which Port Wine is made grow on the rocky terraced hills of the mountainous regions of the Douro in the north of Portugal. Port is defined, by formal agreement incorporated in a Treaty of 1916, as `a fortified wine produced in the Douro region and exported through the bar
of Oporto.'

No wine not answering to this exact description can be sold as Port, even with a qualifying name. The grapes are tipped into shallow granite troughs and trodden by the trabalhadores. At a certain
stage in the fermentation the process is checked by the introduction of Brandy. The newly-made wine is run off into vats. When the wine falls bright (the cold winter weather of these regions helping to this end) it is racked from its lees. A second racking is given in the warmer spring weather, and the wine is stored in casks.

The three classifications of Ports Vintage, Ruby, and Tawny need a word of explanation. Vintage Ports are the finer wines bottled
young (i.e. when about two years old) and matured in the cellar. It is these wines that have really made Ports famous in England, as, being bottled thus early, they retain the vintage character and full fruity flavour, ruby colour, and fine bouquet. In the process of maturing in bottle they form the well-known crust.

Only years in which climatic and atmospheric conditions have been favourable to the perfect ripening of the grapes and successful harvesting have any chance of coming into the category of 'vintage years' for under such circumstances alone can the wine be expected to possess the necessary fruit and flavour and sufficient fullness of body to throw the firm crust in the bottle.

The consumer, if he would consult his purse should buy Vintage Ports early that is, as soon as the wine merchants have bottled them. A
further advantage, which every regular Port buyer knows, is that it is better for the wine to be thus 'laid down' and kept in the buyer's own cellar, free from disturbance of any kind, to be opened at the owner's discretion or that of his successor.

To preserve the true vintage character all Vintage Ports should be bottled within a period varying with the particular vintage and wine
of from two to four years from the date the grapes were gathered. Purchasers should always assure themselves as to the bottling date
before taking delivery of Vintage Ports.

Ruby Ports stand half-way, in character as in treatment, between Vintage and Tawny. They are good wines, kept in wood for some time
before being bottled. They may be of one vintage or a blend. They have lost some of their depth of colour and strength in the wood, but have more body and colour and character than

A Tawny Port is a Port that has been slowly maturing in wood instead of in bottle. Ports so stored lose their deep red colour. They are more suitable for consumption in hot climates, but many people in the United Kingdom prefer them to the vintage varieties.

It is a curious fact that whereas Sherries were formerly largely shipped to India -a hot country- on account of the benefits that accrued to the wine either through the motion of the boat or the effects of the change of temperature, Ports are sometimes shipped to cold countries, such as Newfoundland, and stored there for several winters in the very cold and bracing climate. They thus become extremely soft and free from such qualities as are supposed to be
conducive to gout, etc. At the same time they retain their freshness and characteristics of true Port.

Decanting Port
When a Port is decanted the white splash on the punt-end of the bottles should be kept uppermost. The decanter must be dry and clean. If not dry, rinse it out with a little -a very little-of the wine. The bottle must not be shaken, even when the cork is withdrawn. If the cork breaks or there is any dust, use a strainer or piece of muslin, but avoid either, if possible. Do not allow any sediment to pass into the decanter. In a well-bottled Port the wine will usually pour out bright to the last. Wine only recently received from the merchants should be stood upright if wanted
for immediate use. Stand the wine upright for say, twenty-four hours in the dining-room to enable it to acquire the temperature of the
room. By this means any crust that may have slipped will also settle. At any rate, all old vintage wines ought to be decanted two or three hours before being consumed. This will allow the wine to develop its bouquet and flavour to expand them, as it were, after its long confinement. The same remarks apply to all old-bottled wines, whether Vintage Ports or not.

Besides the Ports shipped from Oporto the Lisbon red wines, of a similar type to Ports, grown in the neighbourhood of Lisbon, are also well known.

Since the treaty already referred to, these wines have been largely sold under their proper denomination of ` Lisbon.' Generally
speaking, they are not so good as the wines from the Douro, as they lack their fine qualities, but some of them come up to the standard of Port of fairish quality.

Port is sold, like Champagne, under the name of the shipper or merchant-shipper. Among the well-known Oporto shippers may be noted:
Butler, Nephew & Co.
Cockburn, Smithies & Co.
Croft & Co.
Delaforce, Sons & Co.
Dow (Silva and Cosens).
Ferreira Bros.
Feuerheerd Bros. & Co. Ltd.
Fonseca & Co. (Guimaraens & Co.).
Gonzalez, Byass & Co.
Gould, Campbell & Co.
Graham, Wm. &,7ohn, & Co.
Hunt, Roope & Co.
Mackenzie & Go. Ltd.
Martinez, Gassiot & Co. Ltd.
Morgan Bros.
Offley Forrester Ltd.
Rebello Tlalente (Robertson Bros. & Co. and G. Simon & Whelon).
Sandeman & Co.
Smith, Woodhouse G' Co. Ltd.
Tait, Stormouth & Co.
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman.
Van Zellers & Co.
Warre & Co.

Madeira wines

From Madeira comes a fine wine, popular in
England at the end of the eighteenth century, and now much less in demand than its quality deserves. It is a rich, generous wine, a delightful alternative to Port, especially in hot weather.

Connoisseurs note it as the exquisitely fit accompaniment of turtle soup.. Its alcoholic strength is due to the young wineberry being
kept in heated chambers for some months, whereby the watery elements largely evaporate. The best sweet variety is Malvoisie ; the best
dry White Sercial.