Everyone knows what port is for the most part but here are the notes I give to the bartending class on the subject. Of course , every bartender is interested in mixing cocktails but they must also have some knowledge on fortified wines such as port. Although not extensive , these notes on port is sufficient enough to give the bartender an idea.
Port is a wine that is fortified with brandy before the fermentation is complete. This stops the fermentation immediately so that not all the sugars are fermented into alcohol leaving the end result with a sweet taste. The addition of brandy increases the alcohol to at least 18% to put it into the category of fortified wine and which allows the port when opened not too spoil quickly.
Great ports come from the land of Portugal in the Alto Duoro region where there is a great influence of British who actually own the majority of port houses. This is mainly because of the close ties that Britain had with Portugal during their battles with Spain.
Even the classic food match for a Vintage Port is that of Stilton Cheese whose home is that of Britain. The custom is to just open a bottle of Vintage Port and to decant it and leave it in the center of the table and have the guests help themselves to it while nibbling on the Stilton.
Here are different styles 0f Port you come across;
Tawny Ports – Are wines made from red grapes and aged in wooden barrels exposing them to oxidation and evaporation which gives the tawny port nutty flavours like sherry. Tawny ports that have an age is a blend of several vintages with the average years in wood stated on the label.
Colheitas – is an actual vintage year.
Ruby Port – The most common port , this wine is stored in air tight containers such as concrete or stainless steel tanks to preserve it’s rich claret colour. This method of storage prevents the oxidative aging.
Vintage Port – This only accounts for 2% production. Made from grapes of a declared vintage year the house is the one to determine whether a harvest is worthy of one. A vintage port can only be decided upon the second year after a harvest and it must be aged 2 1/2 years in casks before bottling where it will retain it’s ruby rich colour and fresh fruit flavours for which it is known. Once bottled it should be stored on it’s side because like a wine bottle it will have a cork. Then spend the next 10-30 years like that. This port should always be decanted.
Single Quinta Vintage Port – Comes from a particular vineyard and a lesser undeclared year. Just another way of getting around vintage port as one can only be declared a few times a decade.
Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) – A wine that was destined for bottling as a vintage port but due to a lack of demand was left in the barrel longer than planned.
Crusted Port – The year on the bottle indicates the bottled date and not year grapes were grown. A blend of port wine from several vintages that enables the consumer to drink younger port than a declared vintage.
White Ports are usually served cool and served as an aperitif.
Ports with stoppers such as Tawny have a long shelve life whereas vintage ports once opened should be drank within a week. The older the vintage the quicker.
The serving temperature of port should be between the 15 (59F) to 20 (68F) Celsius range.
Hope this helps anyone out wanting to know a bit about Port.