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Port

Port is a fortified wine originating in the Douro valley in northern Portugal and it is renowned for being the greatest of all fortified wines. Ports tend to be big, rich wines, high in alcohol, round and smooth on the palate whilst being warm, spicy and powerful on the nose. The Douro valley is the oldest regulated wine appellation in the world dating back to 1756. Although both Chianti in Italy and Tokay in Hungary lay claim to an earlier designated demarcation in that same century Port was the first wine-producing region to strictly enforce its regulations.

European law states that Port, or Porto as it is known in Portugal itself, must originate wholly from this delimited area lying within the Douro region. The regulations govern each stage of production, maturation and bottling which are overseen by an organisation called the IVDP - the Institute of Wines of the Douro and Porto. Representatives of the IVDP taste 20 Ports per day, ten new ones and ten previously tasted Ports to monitor standards, and compliant wines are awarded the quality seal which appears on every bottle of commercially available Port.

The process of producing port or any fortified wine is similar in many respects to that of regular wine up until about half-way through vinification. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed, traditionally by foot in stone troughs called lagares, and then moved to fermentation vessels. The process of treading the grapes helps to extract as much colour, flavour and tannin from the grape skins. What differentiates Port production from wine production is that the process of fermentation is halted by the addition of aguardiente, a grape brandy, which brings the alcohol content up to 18-23% whilst leaving un-fermented natural grape sugars in the wine. The liquid is now a sweet, dark wine its sweetness depending on the amount of residual sugar remaining.

Thereafter the Port undergoes the maturation process, whereby the liquid is left to settle and for the flavours to develop, in big wooden vats usually for a period of two years for single vintage Ports, after which they are bottled where they complete their maturation. Tawny Ports are left to mature in wood, sometimes for decades, where oxidative processes serve to mellow it making the wine lighter in both body and colour as well as smoother on the palate. Traditionally the Port was then shipped down river to mature in the cool underground cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the estuary from Oporto, to mature in perfect conditions. Recent developments have seen a trend for some producers to age their ports at the Port lodges located in the Douro Valley which has been made possible by new reliable electricity supplies to power air-conditioning plants.

Port is usually served towards the end of a meal with either the cheese or dessert course although white Port makes a good apéritif. Port also makes a great match for dark chocolate as well as the perfect accompaniment to a good cigar. In Britain tradition dictates that the Port must be passed to the left whilst not touching the table on its journey. It is still the case at some formal occasions that anybody failing to pass the Port on will be asked whether they know the Bishop of Norwich. This question acts as a prompt to do so immediately and anyone unfamiliar with the ritual who answers the question in the negative will be told in no uncertain terms that the said Bishop also forgot to pass the Port!

The most renowned port producers include Dow, Taylor Fladgate, Warre, Niepoort, Fonseca and Graham. They produce majestic ports which will age for up to 50 years.

 

Video: Discover Port

 

  1. Burmester, Vintage Porto, 1963

    Burmester, Vintage Porto, 1963

    Burmester produced a great Port from a truly fantastic vintage throughout the Douro. Traditionally made by treading the grapes.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

    Regular Price: £229.99

    Special Price:

    £179.99

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  2. Dow's Vintage Port, 1991

    Dow's Vintage Port, 1991

    Dow & Co. had a very successful vintage which was particularly firm when young, even for this company, with firm structure, moderately tough tannins and a wonderfully concentrated colour although it has matured wonderfully during its life..

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  3. Ferreira, Vintage Port, 1963

    Ferreira, Vintage Port, 1963

    A superb, fully mature vintage Port, now tawny in colour, which is still drinking exceedingly well indeed.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  4. Fonseca-Guimaraens, Vintage Port, 2007

    Fonseca-Guimaraens, Vintage Port, 2007

    This is an excellent vintage Port with a long life ahead of it. Good one to lay down for the future.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  5. Graham's Vintage Port, 1980 (Half Bottle)

    Graham's Vintage Port, 1980 (Half Bottle)

    Underrated in its somewhat callow youth this Port is now showing off its qualities in all their resplendence.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  6. Graham's, Vintage Port, 1980

    Graham's, Vintage Port, 1980

    A classic rich Graham's vintage Port which is still quite opaque with some yellow on the rim. and displaying some mellowed tannins. Complex, mature palate.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  7. Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1983

    Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1983

    The Niepoort 1983 vintage port is still quite fresh and full of life. Very soft and elegant, the tannins have melted and left behind a port of wonderful complexity. The nose is just as lovely as the palate offering cherries, dark fruits, raspberries, chocolate and caramel.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  8. Niepoort, Vintage Port, 2005

    Niepoort, Vintage Port, 2005

    2005 was declared a vintage by Niepoort although many of the bigger port producers decided to release single quinta ports instead that year. A vintage port that merits an 18.5 score with Jancis Robinson, who confesses to rarely giving more than 18 points, is a very good port indeed. As it is very young, we would recommend giving it another 10 years or so before popping the cork.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  9. Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, 2003

    Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, 2003

    A wet winter followed by a perfect, hot summer in the Douro created ideal conditions to produce Port with near perfect balance.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  10. Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port, 2004

    Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port, 2004

    This powerful and tannic vintage Port has a long life ahead of it yet as it continues to evolve in bottle.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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