Port 101: An introduction!

Did we mention that our big annual Christmas tasting is just around the corner? Join us, this Saturday, 25th November and Sunday 26th November to taste a huge selection that covers every element of the festive season!

But, the C-word got us thinking about the drinks that are most synonymous with it, and well is there any more greatly so, than Port?

But, what exactly is it? And why do the British have such an affinity for it? What do the various styles actually mean? Find out, here:

Port, put most simply, is a sweet, fortified wine from the beautiful Douro Valley in northern Portugal.

The production of wine in the Douro Valley dates back to Roman times. However, it was in the 17th century that Port as we know it began to materialise. During times of conflict with our favourite frenemies, France, British merchants were compelled to find alternative sources for wine, leading them to Portuguese producers. The fortification process via the addition of unaged brandy (called aguardiente in Portugal) was initially a practical solution to preserve the wine during long sea voyages, but sooner or later became the defining characteristic of Port, and the drink as we know it was born. 

Part of its entrenchment as s staple drink of Britain resulted from The Methuen Treaty in 1703- a trade agreement between Portugal & England, which stipulated lower import duties on Portuguese wine than for French wines. The treaty led to an influx of British merchants into Porto and the Douro Valley. If you have ever wondered why several of the big Port houses, bear British names, it is from those Brits that moved to Porto and the surrounds, and began to play a crucial role in the wine trade, influencing the styles of wine made and its distribution.

In Britain, Port became a symbol of status and refinements associated with formal social occasions, becoming a staple at dinners and social gatherings. Perhaps a particular part of its allure is this; the chunky crystal decanters, the dusty, cellared bottles, the heady liquid inside, all evoking a kind of luxurious feel. But yet, at the same time, it's a drink that is accessible for all in terms of its array of styles and price points; it's not simply the tipple available to the connoisseur. 

PORT STYLES

And here is a glimpse into that array of styles!

Ruby Port: A blend of several harvests, aged in large vats as opposed to foudres, to retain its freshness. As vivid in fruity character as it is in colour. An everyday port if there can be considered to be such a thing! 

Tawny Port: Is again a blend of several harvests, but aged in wooden barrels, it has gradual exposure to oxygen revealing a slightly golden-brown colour and dried fruit flavours, with nuts and caramel. Age designations such as 10, 20, 30 or 40 years indicate the average age of the wines in the blend 

Colheita Port: Single vintage tawny ports that have been aged in casks for long periods before bottling. 

Vintage Port: Made in the best years, and is comprised of the grapes from such a single, exceptional year. It spends a short time in bottle, but then by tradition spends years in bottle. Vintage ports are among the most ageworthy of all wines and can be comfortably cellared for decades

Late Bottled Vintage: From the harvest of a single year and is aged for 4-6 years before bottling. It is ready to drink upon release but can also be aged further

White Port: Made from white grape varieties, made in dry to sweet styles

Rosé port: is a more modern style, made from red grapes, but with only a small amount of exposure to grape skins, resulting in a pink colour and a lighter, fruitier flavour

NIEPOORT

Our widest range of Port focuses on the brilliant producer Niepoort. The house was founded in 1842, and is currently under the guidance of Dirk Niepoort, the fifth generation of the family. The house has a wide portfolio, from the younger released ‘everyday’ styles to highly sought after vintage ports; being particularly well-known for its Colheita styles.

Dirk Niepoort has also a keen interest in producing fine table wines from the Douro, bringing attention to the region’s potential beyond its fortified wines, with an approach that focuses on minimal intervention, creating fine, nuanced expressions of the terroir of the Douro. Beyond vinification, such an ethos begins in the vineyard, with organic and biodynamic methods practiced, to nurture the land on which grapes are grown. 

SEE NIEPOORT PORT & WINES

SEE OUR FULL PORT RANGE