Erin Doman on February 2, 2016 0 Comments Learning about the wine you are drinking can help you become better at pairing your wine with your food or picking out a good sipping wine. If you are looking for a unique wine that comes with a range of flavor profiles, colors, aromas, and pairing opportunities, try to get your hands on a bottle of Port wine. Port wine is a multifaceted and notably unique wine with a deep history. In order to really understand Port wine, you should learn about this history, where the wine is from, how it’s made, the food you can pair it with and other helpful pieces of information. This guide can give you the basics and help give you the push to try this unique Portuguese treat. History of Port The people of Portugal have been growing grapes since roughly 2000 BC. It wasn’t until around 1756 when the wines produced from this particular region became demarcated, which simply means that the quality of the wine became protected at this time. Before Port became mainstream, the most popular place to get Port wine was via France. This was the outcome of the Methuen Treaty of 1703, which made the wine import duty for France very low. However, when the English and the French were at war, the English had to find elsewhere to supply themselves with Port, and thus they began making this wine style in their own country. This is how this particular wine was popularized in areas outside of France. England and France are just as heavily associated with Port wine’s history as the homeland of Portugal is. Port is well known for being a fortified wine. A fortified wine is simply one that has brandy or another grape-based spirit added to it. When this wine was first produced the technology available was significantly less advanced. The wine had to be shipped by sea, so the bottles underwent great temperature swings and a lot of excessive movement. To help the wine survive this trip, brandy, a temperature resistant beverage, was added by English merchants. This addition of spirits is now common practice in the making of Port wine. Location Obviously, this wine is not grown and produced in France. The English had to find a place that was conducive to this style of wine production, and they found the Douro Valley. Douro Valley is located in Portugal. This location spans from the city of Oporto to the Spain-Portugal border. Only wine that comes from this region is given the title of Port. Production When you look at the production of this type of wine, the first thing you will find is the type of grapes that can be put into it. Port is unique because there are over one hundred different grape varieties that can be used to make this type of wine. The types of grapes are abundant, but the most commonly used ones are: Touriga Franca Touriga Nacional Tinta Francisca Tinta Roriz Tinta Cão All of the grapes used are indigenous to Portugal. Another unique aspect of the production process is how the wine is fermented. Port wine is typically fermented in lagars, which are shallow open vats. It used to be common practice for people to stomp the grapes with their feet during the fermenting process. Now, many of the lagars have mechanical “feet” that are used to keep the production a little more sanitary. The grapes used to make Port wines are still picked by hand. Most of the process has been mechanized, simply to make it more efficient. But the fields that grow the grapes for Port wine are actually protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The terraces are too narrow for tractors, so everything has to be picked by hand. Food Pairings Port is often thought of as a dessert wine because it is so sweet. The flavors depend on the grapes used, but commonly you can detect notes of blackberry, caramel, raspberry, cinnamon and chocolate sauce. The flavors also depend on the type of Port. This wine should be served slightly below room temperature, and it pairs well with: Blue Cheese Lobster Dried Fruits Salted and Smoked Nuts Sweet-Smoky Meats Crème Brûlée Fine Cigars Chocolate and Caramel Desserts Vanilla Ice Cream Some prefer to simply sip this wine on its own. Of course, what you serve Port with will depend in part on what type of Port you are dealing with. There are a lot of different categories, but typically you can find four main styles: Ruby: This Port is known for its deep, rich red color. It includes Vintage, Crusted, Ruby and Late-bottled Vintage (LBV). The red typically has a stronger berry and chocolate flavors. This type is typically paired with the cheeses and sweet, rich chocolate desserts. White: White Port tends to have a citrus flavor at the forefront and is a lighter wine. You may notice notes of apricot, roasted nuts and baked apple. This type is typically paired with blue cheese or fish dishes. Rosé: This Port is newer than its counterparts, but you will taste flavors of caramel, strawberry and violets. Unlike the other Ports, this style should be served ice cold. Tawny: The tawny has strong flavors of caramel, hazelnut, clove, fig and nut. This is commonly paired with desserts, nuts and cheeses. The younger Tawny complements apple pie while an older would go with vanilla ice cream. The different Ports are all considered dessert wine, but you will still notice strikingly different flavors. When you serve this type of wine, you should know that it should not be served in your typical wine glass. The Port glass is actually a smaller wine glass, and the normal serving size is 3 oz. This small serving size is due to the fact that the wine has a higher alcohol content and is much sweeter than other wines. Storing Port You know where the wine comes from and how to drink it, but how can you store this sweet wine? Once you open a Port, you have between two weeks and a month to finish it. It all depends on the variety of wine and where you store it. If you have a cool, dark place, such as a dedicated wine cooler, your wine will keep for longer. Better yet, you can use a vacuum preserver to close the bottle back up. In a cellar, a Port can age for a long time if it is a vintage variety. Most Ports that you buy from a supermarket are actually not bottled in a way that is conducive to aging them. If a bottle of wine has a plastic-topped cork cap, you should drink it soon after buying it. If the bottle has a long cork, you can keep it in your cellar. Port Wine Now that you know a bit more about the taste of this unique wine from Portugal, you should be excited and ready to buy your own bottle. Get the variation that speaks to you, and pair it with your main meal or even a dessert. Fortified Port wine gives you the chance to try an older wine without the big price tag. Pick up one bottle or a variety of styles in order to find which is right for you.