Major Port Types
- Ruby Made from simple, fruity, light wines, aged up to two years in wood.
- Vintage Character Ports A great misnomer. Think of these ports as a 'premium Ruby'. Made from a blend of vintages from lots too good to be classified Ruby but not up to Vintage, aged Tawny or even LBV standards, they are bottled after aging for 4 to 6 years in wood. They are filtered and cold stabilized to prevent sediment formation and given proprietary names. Taylor Fladgate's 'First Estate', Graham's '6 Grape', and Fonseca's 'Bin 27' are deservedly popular and offer excellent value.
- Tawny Most commercial, bulk Tawnys, found at the same price as Ruby, are in reality no more than lighter wines whose maturation has been technologically speeded up. Some, like the Ferreira 'Donna Antonia Reserve' are seriously made ports worthy of the name Tawny.
- Aged Tawny Young wines of high quality, character and concentration will enter a solera type aging system to create an aged Tawny. It takes between five to 10 years for the red pigments to precipitate out, creating the tawny color, and for the tannins to mellow, creating the silky texture. Ages ranging from 10, 20, 30 and up to 40 years represent the average age of the blend. Each port house blends to create a consistent house style. The 10 and 20 year wines provide the best value and deliver the mellow elegance and complex fragrant bouquet so prized by port lovers. The Portuguese consider the 20 year Tawny the ultimate expression of the port making art.
- Colheita Think of these ports as vintaged Tawnys. They carry a vintage date and a bottling date. They are cask matured for a minimum of seven years and released at their peak of maturity.
Bottle Aged Port Their character is molded by a combination of aging in the oxidative environment of wood casks followed by aging in the reductive environment of the bottle.
- Vintage Port If, a year following a vintage, wines from the best vineyards are of such exceptional quality and individuality and the quantity made can support the current market conditions, a shipper may "declare a vintage" and set the wine aside as Vintage Port. In the second year, samples are sent for approval to the IVP (Instituto do Vinho do Porto). These ports are kept in cask for 22 to 31 months and then bottled. They are meant to be bottle aged for 15 to 25+ years. The color slowly fades as the tannins polymerize and react with the pigments to form a crusty deposit. The intensity and astringency of youth mellows to a gentle sweetness and perfumed elegance. On average three vintages per decade are declared.
- Single Quinta Vintage Port Some of the best ports come from wine making estates called quintas. Most shippers own a quinta and since these wines represent the soul of their Vintage ports you will not see a Vintage and Quinta from the same year. In years that are good but not declared a Vintage, the ports from these quintas are often of Vintage quality. They are treated exactly like Vintage Ports and are only a shade below in quality. They will carry the name of the quinta, for example
- Taylor Fladgate 'Quinta da Vargellas'
- Graham 'Quinta dos Malvados'
- Dow 'Quinta do Bomfim'
- Warre 'Quinta da Cavadinha'
- LBV High quality ports from a single year that are not quite up to 'Vintage' standards and are aged 4-6 years in cask are called Late Bottled Vintage. The best are not filtered and show vintage characteristics, are capable of aging and often have sediment.
- Garrafeira These 'reserve' ports have a long tradition but are rare today. They are from a single vintage, aged a short time in cask and then aged in 5-10 liter glass demijohns for 20, 30 or 40 years from which they are decanted into 750 ml. bottles.
- Crusted A creation of the British shippers. Made from a blend of vintages and treated like a Vintage port so it will throw a sediment with bottle aging.
White Ports Made from white grapes, mostly Malvasia. Usually served chilled as an aperitif, often with a twist of citrus fruit and/or a splash of tonic. A few see some wood aging and develop a golden color and nutty flavors.