Port wine is known by many different names. Some call it Port or Oporto. Others know it as Vinho do Porto. While many prefer to simply just call it Port.
The fortified wine is Portuguese in origin, and often comes from Portugalís Douro Valley located in the northern provinces. The red wine is characteristically sweet, although it can be found in white, dry, and semi-dry varities.
During the second part of the 17th century, the wine began to be referred to as port because of Porto, the seaport city located at the Duoro Riverís mouth. It was in that location that a large amount of the wine was exported to other European countries and also brought to market.
Often thought to be a dessert wine, port is most commonly served with sweet courses.
While port is indigenous to Portugal, you will find that many other countries also produce similar varieties of the sweet wine. The United States, Canada, Argentina, India, South Africa, and Australia are among the countries that produce wine that resembles the characteristics of port. Although these countries may offer a product that is much like port, European Union guidelines state that only Portugalís sweet, red wine can be labeled as a true port. Should you live in the United States, you will find that, under Federal law, Portuguese-made port is labeled as Vinho do Porto or Porto.
Grapes that have been grown and processed in Portugalís Duoro region are used to create port. While there are more than a hundred varieties sanctioned for the wineís production, only a handful of varieties are commonly grown and used.
The grapes used to make port are easy recognized because the fruit is small and dense, which make them perfect for producing a flavor that lasts a long time and for withstanding a long aging process.
To create port, the wine is first produced and then Brandy is added to fortify the wine and halt the fermentation process. Residual sugar is left in the wine and the alcohol content is given a boost. The mixture is often placed in barrels, stored in a cellar, and aged prior to being bottled.
There are several styles of the port that is produced in Portugal, although they are most often categorized in one of two ways - reductive aging and oxidative aging. Those that experienced reductive aging have been placed in sealed, glass bottles for the maturation process during which the wine slowly loses its color, becomes less tannic, and has a smoother taste. Those that have gone through oxidative aging have been placed in wooden barrels to age. The pace in which color is lost is quicker. And, in cases where the wine was created with red grapes, the color fades to a tawny hue. In addition, evaporation causes volume loss, therefore the final product has a more intense flavor and viscous consistency.
Most common categories for port are Rubies, Tawnies, and White, although you will find many other varieties, such as Vintage, Pink, and Reserve.