History of Porto Wine
History of Port. Grapes have been grown in Portugal since antiquity. … The Romans, who arrived in Portugal in the second century BC and remained for over five hundred years, grew vines and made wine on the banks of the Douro River where Port is produced today.
Port is an iconic wine with a lot of history made in the Douro Valley Portugal. Many iconic brands were founded by Englishmen and Scots, think Taylor’s, Graham’s, Cockburn. The English / Scottish factor is due to historical commercial ties which resulted in the Port wine as we know it. Here is what happened!
Portugal has been making wine for thousands of years and wine became an important export since 1174, when the Kingdom of Portugal was established. With that came the sea trade commerce and the favourable position of country on the Atlantic Ocean, meant that it caught the attention of merchants, especially from England. In 1386 a treaty was signed between Portugal and England to establish a political and commercial alliance, which boosted this relationship. By the second half of the 15th century, a large amount of Portuguese wine was shipped to England often in exchange for salt cod, known as ‘bacalhau’.
But it wasn’t until two centuries later, in 1678 precisely, that the first records show this Portuguese wine being referred to as ‘Port’.
Port Wine is a liqueur wine, produced in the Douro Demarcated Region, under peculiar conditions derived from natural factors and human factors. The tradition-based manufacturing process includes stopping the fermentation of must by the addition of wine spirit (benefit or brandy) and wine aging.
Port wine is distinguished from ordinary wines by their particular characteristics: a great variety of types, with an incomparable richness and intensity of aroma, a very high persistence of aroma and flavor, a high alcohol content (usually the 19 and the 22% vol.), in a wide range of sweetness and great diversity of colors. There are a number of designations that allow the identification of the different types of Port Wine.
The color of the different types of Port wine can vary between the dark red and the light brown, being possible all the intermediate tonalities (red, red-brown, brown and light-brown). The Wines of White Port have different shades (pale white, straw white and golden white), closely related to production technology. When aged in barrels, for many years, white wines acquire, by natural oxidation, a light-brown tonality similar to that of very old red wines.
In terms of sweetness, port wine can be very sweet, sweet, half-dry, or extra dry.
The sweetness of the wine is an option of manufacture, conditioned by the moment of interruption of the fermentation.
Port Wines can be divided into two categories depending on the type of aging.
They are wines in which one tries to sustain the evolution of their color ink, more or less intense, and to maintain the fruity aroma and vigor of young wines. In this type of wine, in ascending order of quality, the categories Ruby, Reserva, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and Vintage are included. The wines of the best categories, especially the Vintage, and to a lesser degree the LBV, can be stored as they age well in bottles. Especially advised are the LGW and the Vintage.
Obtained by stocking wines of varying maturity degree, driven through aging in casks or barrels. These are wines in which the color presents evolution, and should integrate in the sub-classes of color red-brown, brown or light-brown. The aromas resemble nuts and wood; the older the wine, the more these characteristics become accentuated. The existing categories are: Tawny, Tawny Reserve, Tawny with Age Indication (10 years, 20 years, 30 years and 40 years) and Harvest. They are wines of lots of several years, except the Harvest, which resemble a Tawny with Age Indication with the same time of aging.
When they are bottled they are ready to be consumed. We recommend wines of the Tawny categories with Age and Harvest Indication.
White Port Wine comes in several styles, namely associated with periods of more or less prolonged aging and different degrees of sweetness, which result from the way in which it is produced. The traditional wines were accompanied by wines with a floral and complex aroma with a minimum alcohol content of 16.5% (Light White Port Wine) capable of satisfying the demand for less alcohol-rich wines.
Rosé Wine of pink color obtained by little intense maceration of red grapes and in which oxidation phenomena are not promoted during its conservation. They are wines to be consumed new with good aromatic exuberance with notes of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth they are soft and pleasant. They should be enjoyed fresh or with ice, and can be served in various cocktails.
The process of aging a Port may last for several decades and is oriented differently depending on the type of wine to be obtained.
After the first processing, during the winter that follows the vintage, the wines are tasted and classified according to their sensorial quality. The best batches of wines produced in an exceptional year are usually set aside to qualify for the Vintage declaration. However, most of the wines are used for the elaboration of specific characteristics and complying with pre-established quality standards. The stockings are made either in large tanks provided with agitators or by means of reassembly circuits.
During the first two years, the wines are subject to numerous processing sessions whose number and intensity varies according to the characteristics that it is intended to acquire during its evolution.
In the case of Vintage or Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), the aging is done initially in hull, for 2-3 years in the case of Vintage and for 4 to 6 years in the case of Late Bottled Vintage. After subsequent bottling, the wine considerably improves its characteristics by virtue of operating the development at a low oxidation-reduction potential. The longevity of these wines, due to their richness in polyphenols, is very high (generally up to about 20 years in the case of Vintage and around 5 years for LBV’s, even though this improvement has been prolonged for many more years).
All other types of Port are aged under oxidation conditions: less pronounced in the case of Ruby (which thus preserves more or less intense color and vigor of new wines) more pronounced in the case of Tawny, Harvests and Wines with Age Indication. Throughout oxidation aging, the wine loses its roughness due to the tannins and develops an admirable rich and complex bouquet. Chromatic variations during oxidative aging are also very pronounced. The intense color of the new wines undergoes a gradual evolution going through the nuances reddish, to finish in the brown color of the old Tawny.
White Port wines can be prepared with some maceration, aging in oxidative conditions. For white wines for which a floral and complex aroma and a pale white color are sought, the oxidation phenomena are not promoted during their preservation.
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