A Guide to Port Wine
After picking, tasting, and stomping at our 46th Annual Harvest Festival, where do all the grapes go? Each year, the grapes harvested during harvest season are gathered and used to produce our award-winning Ports. You can then find our Port featured in various dishes at our Vintage House Restaurant such as our Port-glazed Steak Salad and our Port Fudge Sundae. But what makes port different from other wines? How is it stored? We’ve prepared an easy-read guide to Port wine that will answer all your questions.
What is Port?
Port is a wine that is generally overlooked and underrated in the market, but it can make for a very delicious drinking experience. Port is a sweet wine with flavors like cinnamon, caramel, raspberry, and chocolate. Sounds great, right? There are several styles of Port wine such as ruby, tawny, Colheita (aged tawny), and white.
These Ports are brightly hued, very fruit-forward with hints of chocolate, and full-bodied. Post-fermentation, ruby ports are aged in concrete or stainless-steel tanks, which do not allow any oxidation during the aging process. This method helps preserve the wine’s fruity flavors. Ruby Ports are generally the most widely produced and in turn, the least expensive bottles to purchase. Try our Private Reserve Papa Paulo Port.
This style is sweeter than Ruby Port with flavors of butterscotch, caramel, and nuts. This Port is oak-aged and lighter in body. Tawny Port spends more time aging in wood before bottling, specifically smaller-sized barrels significantly affecting aroma, taste, and appearance. Try our Tawny Port.
Colheita (Aged Tawny)
Colheita is an aged Tawny Port made with grapes from a single vintage. However, don’t confuse Colheita with Vintage Port! Vintage Port is bottled within two years of harvest while Colheita can spend up to 20 years or more in wooden barrels before being bottled. This is a relatively rare style of Port. Having a long maturation process in porous wooden barrels these Ports tend to have slightly nutty, woody, and fruity characteristics.
This style of Port is the least common. Made from a variety of grapes, including Codega and Malvasia Fina, unlike their counterparts Ruby and Tawny, White Ports are best when used in cocktails or other mixed drinks.
How is it Made?
Port wines are fortified, meaning that a neutral distillate is added during the vinification. This method includes the use of lagers which are shallow open vats made from stone or neutral concrete used to crush the grapes and intensify the extraction of color from the grape skins. All Ports start the same but each style, like the ones we discussed above, has different aging methods. The grapes that are picked by hand are crushed either by mechanization or grape stomping. Today, traditional Port wines are still crushed by foot during wine festivals such as our very own annual Harvest Festival.
Once crushed, Port wine doesn’t go through complete fermentation. Instead, the fermentation is stopped when the sugar level is ideal. The introduction of spirits like brandy assists in halting fermentation creating an environment where the wine yeasts can’t survive. Typically, most Port producers will only use about 30% brandy. After the brandy is added, the Port is aged for a minimum of two years.
How to Pair & Store Port
When is the best time to drink Port? Port is usually consumed after dinner with evening treats such as chocolate, cake, and even certain kinds of cheeses. Some may completely substitute Port for more typical desserts. But did you know, one of the best ways to serve Port is with savory food? It pairs elegantly with charcuterie boards, olives, and nuts but also with dishes such as sushi or surf & turf. Try a citrusy and nutty white Port with your favorite bag of potato chips next time you’re in the mood for a snack. While Port is delicious with savory foods, another way to serve it is with sweet foods—pair Port with peanut butter, chocolate, and other fruity desserts. Satisfy your sweet tooth by pairing our Paulo Port with chocolate-covered strawberries or fruit tarts.
What is the best way to store Port? Wine is sensitive to changes in temperature and sunlight. For that reason, Port wine is best stored in a dark place with a consistent temperature. Try to keep your port within 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, stored upright, and sealed with a stopper when opened.
Were you a 2020 Harvest Festival attendee? Get the chance to taste the fruit of your labor at our Papa Paulo Port Party. Enjoy port cocktails, light bites, and a special 2021 barrel tasting. Get your tickets today before this event sells out!