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Port wine

Features of Port  (ver o video)


The world's most prestigious fortified wine. Port wine is majestic, very rich in flavor and concentration, being produced exclusively in the Douro Region. Port wine, owes its unmistakable characteristics of aroma, body and flavor to the high quality of the grapes, as well as to the agro-climatic characteristics of the region. The Douro region was demarcated by royal charter, September 10, 1756.
 "Port" is essentially a geographical designation of origin.

History of Port

The best Port wines are produced on the steep and rocky Douro (and its tributaries ) riversides. The vine is grown on these remote hillsides since pre-Roman times. In the XVIIth century, due to the successive wars between England and France, British traders, deprived of their usual Bordeaux wines, turned their attention to the robust and fruity Portuguese wines. It was through the famous Methuen Treaty in 1703, between Portugal and England, which regulated the commercial exchange of English cloth for Portuguese wine, that Portuguese wine met a decisive consumption boost  in English lands. However, these wines didnt get to their  destination in top condition and the traders added brandy, to protect them from the rigors of the overseas journey to England.
Later, it became customary to add brandy during fermentation and thus was born the Port as we know it nowadays. Among the early traders, was Bearsley Job, who in 1692 was exporting Port and was a  partner in the firm we today know as Taylor's. In 1727 the son of Job Bearsley, Peter, was the first English trader to venture himself into the remote, mountainous region upstream of the Douro River in search of the best wines. In 1744, his brother Bartholomew became the first Englishman to buy an estate in the Douro. In time, the pioneers of the Port wine trade found out that the addition of brandy in the must during fermentation brought along other benefits besides simply protecting the wine, emphasizing its qualities, allowing it to become, as it  grew old in fresh and quiet cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, the opulent and complex wine we know today as Port.

The Douro Lands and its Farms

The singular features of Port derive not only from the winemaking method.
As with any great wine, it is also born of a unique association in the world, to climate, soil and grape variety. Separated from the sea by the  Marão Range and protected by the humid winds of the Atlantic, the Douro Valley has torrid  dry summers and severe winters. It's a wild, mountainous landscape of austere fairness. The vines are grown in precarious terraced manmade fields on the steep slopes of the Douro valley and its many tributaries. The older terraces are narrow and sometimes contain only a single row of vines. Separated by stone walls, overlap as steps of a pyramid, the product of centuries of Herculean labor. Recently listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, this is one of the most dramatic and inspiring  landscapes in the world of winemaking . Most recent terraces, also known as heights, are wider and have no walls. Rocky slopes are clipped with the aid of excavators and elevations are separated by a stone.

To construct new heights in this rocky terrain is frequently used dynamite to destroy large portions of shale, a bladed rock which forms the basis of the best land in Douro. Some of the newer vineyards are not planted in terraces but arranged in the hills, vertically in perpendicular rows . This technique, known as "vertical vine ," was perfected in recent years and its used in the less craggy hills. Douro has a wide variety of traditional grapes. Among the best are included Touriga Portuguesa and Touriga Francesa, producing aromatic wines of great concentration.The Roriz, rich in tannins and distinctive aromas of cedar; the subtle aromatic Tinta Barroca and the reliable Tinto Cão, one of most ancient varieties of the Douro Valley. The small grapes of thick skin that characterize the Douro varieties, along with the arid climate of this region, produce wines of great richness and concentration. The roots of the vines sometimes descend 12 meters through the cracks in the rocks, in their search for water in the soil for each grape berry.

The Winemaking

In mid-September the vintage begins. Year after year, the rogas, groups  of grape gatherers, return from their mountain villages to harvest grapes by day and step on them to the sound of music, at night. The wine ferments inside lagars under the watchful eye of the winemaker, as the gentle movement of the feet of the grape gatherers, gradually extracts rich color, tannins and flavor from the grapes. The sensitivity of the human foot makes it ideal for this task. This ensures that the extraction is complete but delicate, also ensures that the wines may have a perfect balance between concentration and finesse. Currently, there is already a similar mechanical system, the pistons developed by Taylor's which, like the legs of grape gatherers, gently work the grapes, keeping their skin in permanent contact with the fermenting juice. Whichever method is used, the wine treading is followed by a process known as beneficiation. At the right moment when the yeasts have turned about half the natural grape sugar into alcohol, the tread is halted and then, clear colorless brandy is added to the must. This beneficiation with brandy stops the fermentation, keeping much of the original sweetness of the grapes in Port Wine. From the synergy of wine and brandy, during aging period, the complex and subtle flavors that make Port one of the world?s greatest wines, is born. In the spring following the vintage, the new fortified wine travels for about 100 miles, to the quiet cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, where it begins its gradual transformation into Port.

The Styles of Port Wine?

Due to its beneficiation with brandy, Port Wine can be aged in oak for much longer than most other wines for two years or for many decades, depending on its features and its potential. It may also age in barrel, in wooden tub or bottle - or in a combination of these. From the different periods and aging methods, a large number of Port styles with different characteristics arises. Dry White Port, Sweet White Port, Tawny Port,  Harvest Port, Ruby Port, Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) and Vintage Port.

The Vintage Port

The Vintage Port is the most rare and exceptional of all Port wines, the true collectors wine, product of a single harvest of superior quality. Bottled wine still very young and powerful, it can be taken immediately but, it is also ready for years or decades of aging, inside the bottle in the cellar, where it slowly develops the powerful aromas and the opulent sublime flavors which feature a mature Vintage Port. After each harvest the finest wines are chosen. Made from wines chosen in advance and allowed to age for two winters. In the second spring they are tasted again. If they are considered exceptional, the wines are blended to achieve a balanced result, with structure, elegance, complexity, body, depth, and a powerful concentrated fruity flavor. Having reached this point, it is decided whether the wine will be declared Vintage, or not. For this to happen, the combination must have exceptional quality, the wine must be austere when young, with a great depth of flavor and a massive structure, able to develop over the years or decades, its own exquisiteness, the epitome of  Port, Vintage Port. If a Vintage is declared, the wine is bottled at the end of the second year. It is important to say that a Vintage is not declared every year, but only in exceptional years. Contrary to what many believe, the Vintage Port is not difficult to serve. However, there are some simple rules that will allow us to enjoy the best of all fortified wines. The Vintage Port ages in the bottle. To prevent the cork from drying out, it is necessary to keep the bottle lying down. A white mark may exist near the bottom of the bottle. In this case, the bottle must be laid so as to get the mark up. As it ages, Vintage Port creates a natural deposit inside the bottle. It is therefore advisable to decant the wine (carefully passing it to another container, without passing the deposit) before serving. In general, the bottle must be opened and decanted two to three hours before being served. Like all wines aged in bottle, Vintage Port should preferably be taken on the day it is open, or within two or three days. Vintage is traditionally served at the end of the meal, with cheese or nuts and dried fruit. According to an old custom, the wine is passed clockwise around the table, each guest serving himself  ( herself ) in turn.

Port Wine Cellars

The Port Wine Cellars are the ideal place to make contact with this national drink and its history. Open to the public, they offer the opportunity to enjoy this precious nectar, know its history throughout the ages, the region where it is produced and how it is obtained. Coming from Ribeira, take the lower deck of Don Luis Bridge, authored by Teófilo Sevrig, and visit the great Houses of Port by foot or car. Here you can discover Port, worlds most prestigious fortified wine, a great wine, a rich aroma and unique concentration, produced in the Douro. The Douro Region was demarcated by royal charter on  September 10th  1756, being the oldest Demarcated Region in the world. The History of Port Wine, the way it is made, its composition, its storage methods, which varieties are most sold and of course, the best and rarest vintages, are some of the interesting trivia that you can find out in dozens of Cellars, placed along the River Douro in Gaia. We recommend a visit to the Caves of Rozès, Sandeman, Ferreira, Croft, Quinta do Noval, Ramos Pinto, Romariz, and Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman.