Everything You Need To Know About Port Wine (including where to taste it)

History of Port Wine Appellation

Portugal, as a wine-producing country, achieved its notoriety due to its famous port, Oporto.

In the Hundred Years War, the British were unable to buy French wine. They sported a southern look and still across the Atlantic and decided to choose Porto (or, for them, Oporto, or as they called it, Oporto) as their preferred source for wine.

Then, all of a sudden, the farmers were businessmen, making as well as selling wines. This happened in the 14th and 15th centuries. Yields were raised to the limits, and quality was not an issue as the demand was certainly sufficient.

In the 18th century, wine production had declined to the point that it was imperative to establish a governing authority over the producers.

Portugal’s adored Marquise of Pombal is the person who, in 1757, established the roots of the oldest appellations worldwide. He limited the port wine production to one area and fashioned a system of classification among producers in accordance with the quality.

The sole region of the world was the Douro.

In the beginning, the vines were planted there before Roman times, which was around 1,000 years BC in the time of the Phoenicians. The Romans had been the first to begin to construct amazing stone terraces on hills that were above the Douro River. Douro river.

The climate, because of the mountains and the strong river, was mild, which meant mild winters as well as cool summers.

Why is it that a wine that comes from Douro was named in honor of Porto?

The Upper Douro Valley is great for growing grapes. However, it is not ideal to export them in huge quantities. Barrels of wine were shipped toward Oporto City, and Oporto was a port with a connection to the Atlantic.

If they are received at English ports, they are marked in accordance with their destination. When they are received in Portuguese ports, they are marked as per their departure point, O Porto. That’s how port wine was named.

Port wine barrels on board at Douro River

Port Wine Production in Simple Terms

What is it that makes port wine so different from other wines? Are you sure it’s an actual wine?

The journey to Porto towards the North took time; wine merchants had to figure out a method to preserve it.

The wine was originally enhanced with brandy prior to the “journey.” Fortified literally means strengthened (by brandsy).

The current process is quite different because the wine is enhanced prior to aging, just after the fermentation.


  • The most obvious port wine that is a specialty for consumers is the fact that it has a high sugar content (around 130 g/liter) as well as a high percentage of alcohol (19-20 20 % abv).
  • Today, the wine is enriched to stop the fermentation and remove an enormous amount of leftover sugar. This also increases the amount of alcohol.

To understand the process of making this renowned Portuguese wine, let’s first understand the process of fermentation for every other wine that is dry

  • The sugar in the grape juice is eaten by yeast (these are also found in the grape’s berry).
  • The result is dry wine since yeasts typically do not stop until there is no sugar left to drink.

For port wine, the process can be interrupted at half-way:

  • The killing of yeasts is done by adding brandy (or the eau de vie, which contains 77 percent alcohol).
  • This permits the Portuguese to conserve quite a bit of sugar, and they increase the quantity of alcohol by 20 percent.

Be Selective When Buying a Bottle of Port Wine

To fully take in the wine after all these sophisticated tortures, to be able to feel the bouquet, not just the alcohol

  • It has to be made of premium quality grapes as well as eau de vie.
  • It has to be aged and matured in oak barrels to blend all the scents and flavors.
  • It should be served at a suitable temperature, which is 8 degrees Celsius, to serve white wine, between 11 and 14 deg for tawny. The younger the cooler and 15deg C for ruby.

Fast Facts to Taste Port Wine as a Connoisseur

If you want to look like wine connoisseurs from the port:

  • The port can be White, Ruby, and Tawny.
  • The ABV (alcohol per volume) typically is around 20%, irrespective of the color (white port is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc; however, be aware that it’s still 20% ABV, despite its color).
  • White Port goes really well with lots of lime, ice cubes, and orange slices, either as an aperitif or in cocktails. For example, if you purchase a gin-tonic in Portugal, it is usually served with a white port in place of Gin.
  • Ruby Port prefers hard cheese or chocolate. I was enjoying Late Bottled Vintage 2013 from Sandeman in Vila Nova de Gaia.
  • Tawny Tawny HTML0 – in this case, Sandeman Tawny 10-Years is a great match with cottage cheese and caramel desserts and cakes made of cottage cheese. Our sommelier highly recommends pairing it with apple pie.

Port Wine Tasting at Sandeman

Where can you test the port wines in Porto?

In reality, there’s a second issue here.

This is Vila Nova de Gaia, where all of the old ports’ wine cellars were situated and from where the barrels of wine were taken off towards the north, in the direction of the English customers.

This hub is only one river taxi or bridge away from Porto.

I have compiled a list of the top port wine cellars located in Vila Nova for my visit, and I am delighted to give them to you:

Caves Calem

This winery is distinctive because it was discovered by a Portuguese man (many of the port wine cellars are controlled by English) and also because he was insane (as at the time, people believed) and chose Brazil as his main client rather than England.

When he established Porto Calem in 1859, he set sail to explore Brazil. The man who was an adventurer was right. His first ventures were conducted in exotic forests.

In Caves Calem in Vila Nova, you can choose for a wine tasting, with food pairings, or an experience of wine tasting and Fado performance (and blend the two things that are unique in the town of Oporto).


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