Port, once called the Englishman’s wine, actually comes from Portugal not England. But the birth of the port industry owes much to England. In 1678, Britain declared war on France, which cut them off from the French vineyards. Since their wine supply was nonexistent, they turned to Portugal. When they were less than thrilled with Portugal’s common wines, they discovered a darker, drier red from the Douro region. It’s here where they came upon a monastery in which they were adding brandy during fermentation rather than after producing a port-type wine. The English couldn’t get enough of this sweet, high alcohol content wine so they flocked to Oporto to ship this sensation back home.
Real port only comes from Portugal just like Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. Port has an unusually high alcohol content, most ranging from 19-22%. Port wine has many different colors and varies in sweetness.
- Ruby : Usually the cheapest, it is stored in stainless steel tanks to prevent oxidation and leaving it with its deep color. It is often blended to match the style of the brand.
- Tawny : It’s made from red grapes and aged in wooden barrels. It is exposed to oxidation and evaporation so this port usually has a golden hue and a nutty flavor.
- LBV: Late Bottle Vintage port is born from quality and is aged longer in wooden barrels than a vintage port. It doesn’t need the lengthy bottle aging process and gives you a full-bodied, smooth red wine.
- Vintage: It is made from superior grapes and only accounts for about 2% of port production. They are kept in a wooden barrel for two to three years then require another ten to forty years of aging in the bottle. Vintage ports are smooth and elegant and also maintain the dark ruby color.
- White Port: It is a dry to semi-sweet made from white grapes. It is usually served as an aperitif rather than a dessert wine. It also makes a great cocktail poured over tonic.
Now you know a little bit more about the Englishman’s wine, but if you truly want to drink like an Englishman try their tradition of pass the port with a group of friends tonight. You simply pour a glass for your neighbor on the right and then pass the port to the left. The Port should not be set down until it is finished. Cheers lads (& ladies)!