Omg, pour me some Port to help me study

Ah yes, another fortified wine. This time from Portugal. The last post on Sherry was way too long, especially to scan through, so I’m going to write in short sentences here. Four full days and five evenings left to study!

From where: 

Douro DOC located in north east Portugal. Grape growing area is found along the Douro River and its tributaries. The Douro runs from Spain through Portugal and to the Atlantic. Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto are the centre of the Port trade, with many of the wharehouses in the former.

There are three regions in the Douro DOC, Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. Three vineyard design types: socalcos, patamares, vinha ao alta.

Climate:

Dry and continental. Threat of winter frost. Wetter in Porto but gets less rain further inland (1200 mm vs 400 mm). Shallow soil over schist bedrock.

Tawny Ports

Tawny Ports with Age Indication

Grapes:

Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca.

How Port is Made:

Colour and tannin need to be extracted from the grape skin within 24 to 36 hours. A must cap forms during fermentation, which needs to be mixed in with the fermenting juice. There are three ways to do this: 1) Autovinifiers which are like the pump over method, 2) piston-plungers which press down the must and 3) robotic lagars that are covered in silicone simulate what was done traditionally in the past, that is, treading the grapes.

The wine is fortified with 77% grape spirit when it reaches 6 to 9% abv. The grape spirit is called aguardente. The ratio is 1 to 4 (spirit to wine). Fortification kills the yeast.

How it’s Matured:

The wine is brought to the wharehouses located in Regua, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia where it’ll be aged in 550 litre wood casks called pipes. These are seasoned. Ruby style wines will be aged in stainless steel tanks. Duration of ageing depends on style.

Styles:

White

White grapes. Gold colour, low acid, honey, nut, off dry to sweet. Generally sold 2 to 3 years old. Grapes are Malvasia and Sercial.

Ruby – Ruby, Reserve, Late Bottle Vintage

Ruby – aged less than 3 years, sweet, deep colour, fruity. Drink right away.

Reserve Ruby – higher quality, from one or more vintages, matured in cask for up to 5 years. Full-body, richer fruit flavour, better alcohol integration than basic Ruby. No decanting necessary.

Late Bottle Vintage – Modern LBV: 4 to 6 years aged in cask, fined and filtered. Consume right away. No decanting necessary (it’s filtered). Bottled-Matured: 4 to 6 years aged in cask and 3 years in bottle. Tannic, complex fruit similar to Vintage Port. Needs decanting.

Tawny Port – Tawny, Reserve, Age Indication, Colheita

Tawny – paler and browner in colour. Bottled ready to drink and fully matured. Come from Baixo Corgo. White grapes may be blended in.

Reserve Tawny – 7 years aged in wood, complex, soft, smooth. Russet or tawny colour. Blend of wines from different villages.

Age Indication 10, 20, 30, over 40 years – average age. State year of bottling. No decanting necessary. Walnuts, coffee, chocolate, caramel, faded berry fruit.

Colheita – rare. From a single vintage and aged in 8 years minimum in wood. Label must state vintage, aged in cask and bottling date.

Vintage Port – Vintage, Single Quinta Vintage

Vintage – Bottled between 18 months and 3 years maturation no fining or filtering. Intended to be aged in bottle for years. Made with grapes from best vineyards.

Single Quinta Vintage – Made with grapes from a single quinta. Name of quinta appears on label.

Will be focusing on Champagne and other sparkling wines tomorrow and start on France. Post topic to be determined; there may be several in one day.

Why do you like drinking wine?

I’ve mentioned it here before. I love to travel. I explore the world for various reasons, but mainly to be exposed to different cultures. I’m culturally curious and you know what? Learning about wine partly satisfies this curiosity.

For me, drinking wine isn’t solely about taking in the aroma and flavour. That’s why you’ll never see me write just a wine review here. There will always be a story when I talk about a particular wine in great detail.

What fascinates me is the history and the culture behind every wine, from where and how it’s made, why it’s made that way to the bottle and the label. There’s a story behind everything when it comes to wine.

My WSET teacher recently returned from Spain and Portugal and he shared with us photos of their wine regions. I loved hearing the stories, some of which were relayed to him by the the owners or winemakers of the quintas and bodegas (what wineries are called in Portuguese and Spanish, respectively).

It was most fitting then that we covered the Spain, Portugal and fortified wines chapters in our book this week. I like Sherry and Port, but I do have limited experience with fortified wines. During class, what excited me most wasn’t the tasting part, it was learning about the history of Port and Sherry.

Port, particularly. Why? Because the English had a lot to do with its creation! It all started in the late 17th century when England and France weren’t getting along. The English couldn’t get wine from the French, so they went to the Portuguese for it instead. The sea journey from Portugal to England was long though and the wine would often spoil. How did the Brits address this problem? By adding brandy to stabilize it. Now, I just gave you the History of Port for Dummies summary. But you get the idea, right? Wine is intertwined with and influenced by history and culture so much!

Oh, you know what else I learned in class? You’re not supposed to serve port to someone else. Tradition dictates that you pour the wine yourself and pass the bottle/decanter to your left without it touching the table. I can’t tell you why at this time, but for sure there’s an explanation for it and I will let you know when I find out.

The aroma and tastiness is what got me interested in wine, and as my interest grew, I started appreciating it more. When I drink wine, I’m drinking the history, the land, and the culture. Knowing what went into making it, how it came to be, and why it tastes a certain way, essentially the story, that’s what keeps me intrigued and that’s why I drink wine.

Now I ask you, why do you like drinking wine?