Port wine is a Portuguese dessert wine that has been fortified with brandy and created from red and white wine grapes. Producers use various ageing and mixing times and methods to generate enticing fragrances and high-octane flavour that goes far beyond “sweet.”
Like a regular red blended wine, these grapes are picked, crushed to extract colour and tannins, and fermentation begins. Before fermentation is finished, a neutral grape spirit (such as brandy) is added to stop the fermentation process while substantial amounts of sugar remain. This fermentation process produces a sweeter, higher-alcohol wine, with roughly 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). The port wine is then aged for some time, generally in old oak vessels. Before bottling, many vintages are frequently mixed to give a distinct and complex profile.
Port is a medium-tannin wine with aromas and flavours of rich, musky berries such as raspberry and blackberry, bitter chocolate, and buttery, nutty caramel. Older ports have strong dried fruit tastes, whilst younger ports have lighter-bodied red fruits like strawberries.
Ruby, rose, white and tawny are the four main types of port wine.
Ruby PortRuby Port is fruity and has a bright garnet colour as the name implies. Most bottles contain more than 100g of residual sugar and have been matured in barrels for less than three years. It's an affordable drink that's bright, fruity, and made for immediate consumption.
Rosé PortRosé port is technically a ruby port, with somewhat less skin contact to obtain a lighter colour, just as regular rosés. As a result, rosé colour leans toward the lighter end of the red fruit spectrum, with flavours of strawberry, tart raspberry, and stewed cranberries lifting its sweetness.
White PortWhite port is made from a few white grapes such as Rabigato, Viosinho, Malvasia, and Gouveia. It has a strong flavour of stone fruits such as white peach, apricot, and lemon peel. It is typically topped with tonic or included in cocktails as an aperitif.
Tawny PortTawny port is a red wine port that has matured in barrels for a longer time, resulting in an amber hue and a more complex flavour profile. Aged tawny port is available in 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-year increments, displaying all of the taste hallmarks of oxidative wines: warm spices, hazelnut, and concentrated dried fruits such as date, fig, and prune.
The longer tawny ports age, the deeper they grow; a 40–year–old tawny, for example, leans into the strength of pure vanilla spice, transforming caramel into something more similar to butterscotch.
Since port is a dessert wine, there are a few different ways to serve it. Port is ideally served in a dessert wine glass or something equally little and charming. Because it is so lusciously thick and heavy in alcohol, a 3-ounce pour is usual. Port is ideally served at 60°F (15°C). This slightly cooler-than-room temperature helps you experience all of the flavours without having that hot-alcohol feeling in your mouth. Aged ports, like any other wine, require time to breathe.
Younger ports should be consumed within a few weeks after opening. Aged ports can be stored for up to a month. All ports, young and old, will have a somewhat longer shelf life if stored in the refrigerator or some other cool, dark place.
Port is mainly renowned as a dessert wine. It pairs best with similarly bold dishes, ingredients, and flavour combinations, most of which appear at the end of a meal. Funky matured cheeses, black forest cake, vanilla ice cream; anything that enhances or replicates the caramel and chocolate notes in an aged tawny is a winner.
Ruby port reductions pair well with roasted meats, bringing a fruity acidity to rich, smoky, or salty flavours. It can also be served with desserts such as crème caramel, chocolate truffles, or cherry pie. For something less sickly-sweet, combine a port with a cheese and fruit platter of fresh, ripe figs, Roquefort, warm, salted almonds, and Stilton.
Port wine can also be used for cooking. Port is a favourite ingredient in chocolate cakes, sweet gooey chocolate sauces, and even reduction sauces. Chefs frequently reduce Port wine to a thick sauce by simmering it. The Ruby Port is used in the majority of recipes. This red variety imparts red berry and cinnamon-like flavours to your sauce. Port is a flavourful substitute for brown sugar or maple syrup.
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