The regulation of the production and sale of Port is controlled by two bodies: the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (IVP), a government body, and the Comissao Interprofisional da Regiao Dermarcada do Douro (CIRDD), an inter-professional organization with representation of farmers, shippers, and the increasing number of producer-bottlers based in the vineyard area. The IVP is responsible for quality control of fortification spirit, ensuring that wines meet certain minimum organoleptic and analytical standards, research and development, and the establishment of shipping quotas designed to ensure that finished wines are sold with adequate minimum average ages, as well as the attribution of the denomination of origin, generic promotion of the sector, and defense of the authenticity of Port. The CIRDD, amongst other functions, is responsible for the vineyard classification, the annual overall authorization of production of base wines destined for Port, and distribution of this authorization amongst growers.
Recommended grape varieties for production of port:
Red varieties: Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional.
White varieties: Codega, Esgana Cao, Folgosao, Gouveio (Verdelho), Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Viosinho.
Port wine (also porto wine) is sweet, fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern part of Portugal; it takes its name from the city of Porto, the centre of port export and trading. Port has been made in Portugal since the mid 15th century. Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The continued English involvement in the port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers: Croft, Fonseca, Taylor, Dow, Graham, Symington. Similar wines, often also called "Port", are now made in several other countries, notably Australia and United States. In some nations, including the European Union and (after a phase-in period) Canada, only the product from Portugal may be labeled as "port."
Port wine is typically thicker, richer, sweeter, and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits to halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. It is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, or with cheese. It has an alcohol by volume content of roughly 20%.
Port comes in several varieties:
- Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV)
- Late-Bottled Non-Vintage (LBNV)
- Vintage Character
Vintage port is made entirely from grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro, only those when conditions are favorable to particularly flavorful crops of grapes. The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, and is based on several factors, most notably the weather and the ability of the marketplace to absorb a new vintage. While it is by far the most renowned type of port, from a volume and revenue standpoint vintage port actually makes up a small percentage of the production of a typical port house. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of 2 years before bottling, and often require another 5 to 15 years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered proper drinking age. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavors. Particularly fine vintage ports can continue to gain complexity and drink wonderfully for decades after they were bottled, and therefore can be particularly sought after and expensive wines.
"Port" produced outside of Portugal may be labeled with a vintage date, but is not real Vintage Porto and likely is meant for immediate consumption rather than extended aging.
Ruby port may contain wine from several vintages. Ruby ports are fermented in wood and aged in glass, which preserves the wine's red color. It is considerably cheaper than vintage port, and can be used in cooking or to make cocktails
LBV (Late-Bottled Vintage) port is intended to provide some of the experience of drinking a vintage port but without the decade-long wait. In contrast to vintage port's short time in barrel, LBV port is aged for several years in barrel to mature it more quickly. Typically ready to drink when released, LBV ports are the product of a single year's harvest and tend to be smoother and lighter-bodied than a vintage port. LBNV (Late-Bottled Non-Vintage) is similar, but made from a non-vintage year. The confusingly named Vintage character port is similar to LBV port.
Crusted port is a blend of port wine from several years; the "crust" refers to the sediment that it has in common with Late-Bottled and vintage ports; it is mentioned to distinguish it from the younger and inferior ruby port, which typically does not produce a sediment.
Tawny port is aged in wooden barrels, exposing it to gradual oxidation and evaporation, causing its color to mellow to a golden-brown after roughly ten years "in wood." Often they have pronounced "nutty" flavors. Most tawny port is a blend of several vintages, with the average years "in wood" stated on the label: 10, 15, 20, and 30 years are common. Tawny ports from a single vintage are called Colheitas (pronounced col-YATE-ah, meaning harvest or vintage). Tawny and Colheita ports are always ready to drink when released and do not typically benefit from aging in bottle, although they will not degrade either. Because it has already been exposed to oxygen, an open bottle of tawny resists oxidation the longest of all ports.
"Tawny" port produced outside Portugal is rarely aged long enough to develop a natural tawny color. Instead, it is the result of blending "ruby" and "white" ports, or possibly the addition of caramel coloring.
White port is made from white grapes, and generally served as a chilled aperitif.
While Porto produced in Portugal is strictly regulated by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, many wines in the U.S. use the above names but do not conform to the same standards. Thus each genuine port style has a corresponding, often very different style that you will find on wines made outside Portugal.
There is rarely universal agreement on the quality the wine produced from a given year, and in some years a single producer may be alone in declaring a vintage. However, occasionally the harvest of a year is so good that all the major producers declare a vintage, and it in is these years that the port is produced that will last for up to forty years or longer, commanding high prices at auction.