PORT - PART 1 - THE RUBIES


I have just taken delivery of the first Wines With Attitude port, a beautiful Crusted Port, just in time for Christmas. A good time therefore to look into port and all its different styles.

rabelos on the douro port wine.jpg

All port is produced in a similar way to still wine up to the fermentation stage; during that process grape-based alcohol is added to interrupt fermentation, effectively killing off the yeast in the grape juice so that it can no longer interact with the sugar to produce alcohol. This means that some unfermented sugar is retained in the wine making it a naturally sweet wine with an ABV of about 19% - 22%; the increased alcohol also stabilises the port whilst it is ageing. The level of sweetness depends on how soon the fermentation is halted. Other fortified wines produced by this port method include most Madeiras and Vins Doux Naturels.

Sherry is made in a similar way but the grape spirit is added after fermentation.

The English can take some credit for creating port as English merchants added brandy to still red wine to preserve it for transportation. Port is produced in the Douro region, a denominated wine region since 1756 and then moved for ageing to the coastal town of Villa Nova de Gaia. The wine used to be transported on the river Douro by the beautiful rabelos pictured above but these days are moved by road.

Many grape varieties are approved to be used to make port and they are usually all grown and fermented together. Touriga Nacional is perhaps the best and the best known. It is also used for the ever-improving Portuguese still red wines like Churchill Estate's Douro Touriga Nacional.

Like all wine port can vary in terms of style, sweetness etc. I summarise them below and in a future blog.

crusted port.jpg

The first distinction to make is between the ageing processes of port:

  • Wood ports are matured in barrels for several years and so have exposure to oxygen which means they are generally more syrupy in texture, tawny coloured and nutty flavoured. Most tawny ports are wood ports and do not age further in bottle. We will cover tawny ports and other ports in a later blog.
  • Bottle-aged ports are matured in bottle (after an initial ageing in cask) with little exposure to oxygen so that ageing is very slow leading to a smooth, redder, more fruity style of port.
Most ruby ports are bottle-aged and not filtered before bottling so generally require decanting. Read more about decanting in my blog "To decant or not to decant" but for more specific guidance see each type of port below.

Don't just keep the port for the cheese course though ruby ports do go well with Cheddar cheese and with blue cheese, especially vintage port with stilton. The fruity style of ruby port matches well with chocolate desserts, chocolate/ fruit desserts like Black Forest Gateau, mince pies and any dried fruits.

Once you have opened a bottle of ruby port, don't be tempted to keep it until next Christmas; it will deteriorate on contact with the air so should be consumed within a few days of opening.

In this blog I cover the different types of Ruby Ports. You can also read all about tawny port in Part 2 of my Port blog series.

Guide to Ruby Port styles from Wines With Attitude.jpg

Cheers!

© Wines With Attitude Limited, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk

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Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET is passionate about good quality wine and set up her online wine business, Wines With Attitude, to share that passion with other wine lovers.

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