Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

WINE: Port

It's easy to remember where Port comes from - it comes from Portugal, of course. But Port is not a time honored traditional wine of the Portugues - it was invented by the British. Since Britain was always at war with France, they ended up purchasing wine from Portugal. To make sure the wine was stable enough to make it from Portugal to England, they fortified the wine with brandy and voila - Port was invented. The first Port house was opened by the British in 1670.

While Port comes from the city of Oporto, which is on the sea, the grapes are actually grown inland in the Douro Valley. The wine is also fermented and fortified there, and then sent to Oporto where it is finished and matured. There is no particular grape for Port, and it may be made from any of 80 different varieties. There are may imposter Ports from other parts of the world--the way to tell whether a Port is authentically from Portugal is to look for the word "porto" on the label.

There are several styles of Port, but unless you get seriously into Port you will probably only come into contact with a few. The most common styles of Port are:

  • Ruby Port: Ruby Port is the best-selling type of Port. It is only aged for three years and is low cost, maybe around $12 per bottle. Some ruby port, labeled "Reserve" or "Special Reserve" is aged for six years and costs a small amount more.
  • Tawny Port: Tawny Port is aged between 10 and 40 years. It gets its name from the fact that the wine fades in color during the aging to a pale or brownish red. Ten and twenty year old tawnies are only $30-$50 and are a good value for someone looking for a quality Port. A tawny port is best enjoyed before dinner as an aperitif or after dinner as a dessert wine.
  • Colheita Port: Colheita is vintage dated, but is not Vintage Port. Colheita is actually tawny Port that comes from a single vintage. Niepoort (pictured above) specializes in colheita. If you can find it for a decent price it's a nice buy, but you probably wouldn't want to pay more if you can get a good tawny.
  • Vintage Port: Vintage Port is the premium Port. It is the wine of a single year blended from the house's best vineyards. The wine is bottled at two years and then aged in the bottle for at least 20 years. Vintage Port contains a lot of sediment and absolutely mst be decanted first, so bear that in mind before opening one. It can be aged in the bottle for up to 70 years. The best way to get a Vintage Port is to purchase it when first released, and then let it age for many years before drinking. The price only gets higher the more mature a bottle gets. So if you buy a whole bunch now, you should have some great Port to drink when you are all old and retired! Sweet!
What to do with Port once you get it: Store a Port the same as you would any other red wine - on its side in a cool place. A non-vintage Port can be stored upright. Most Ports keep for about a week after opening and an age-stated tawny can keep for several weeks. Serve Port at room temperature, by itself or with nuts and cheeses. On a warm day, a tawny port can be served chilled.

When shopping for Port, you can't go wrong with the following: Taylor-Fladgate, Fonseca, Niepoort, and Sandeman. Alternatively, just look for that "porto" label. If it's a true Port from Portugal, then it's probably worth buying.


Back when you could still bring liquids on airplanes, I brought back a bottle of port from Lisbon. Sadly, I have to wait at least 10 more years to drink it to maximize the deliciousness.

said by Demery at 10:38 PM Delete

Nice Port primer! I've enjoyed it occasionally before, but recently found them to be a nice component in cocktails too! (of course, not using super-premo stuff to mix).

said by H. C. at 5:37 PM Delete

They also make a great addition to a braising liquid, especially for beef. Warre's Otima is what we have as the house porto. It has a good cherry flavor and is a bit nutty. Usually around $25, The BevMo has it for around $18 I think. Wish I was still down there to pick one up. Nice post. Always fun to learn more about the things we enjoy.

said by 2nd-favorite at 8:54 PM Delete

And now I have meme'd you. It's not even a foodie meme, either.

You have to write your own memoir in six words.

The official rules of the meme:

1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.
5. Don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

said by Demery at 10:30 PM Delete

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