White Port

White Port Overview ...


White port is a white wine fortified with grape spirit and is made in the Douro region of Portugal, the same region in which red port is made. White port ranges in style from dry to sweet, and even the driest styles are on the medium side. The sweet version is the traditional style of White Port and tends to be rich, with grapy.

The dry versions can be labelled as "Secco" while the sweeter styles may be labelled as "Lagrima", meaning tears, because of their viscosity. White ports bottled at 16.5% abv are known as "leve secco", meaning "light dry". Most other white ports are bottled at an alcoholic strength of between 19 and 22% abv.

Ernest Cockburn, a famous port shipper, commented in the early 1900s that "the first duty of port is to be red." This may have been the case in the past when the production of white port in the Douro was more of an afterthought and commenced only when enough white grapes had arrived at the winery to make their fermentation worthwhile. The grapes for white port may have sat around in bins for days before any thought was given to them. Oxidation and prolonged maceration on the skins produced harsh tasting wines that browned easily with age. In recent years, improved handling of the grapes and cooler fermentation temperatures have improved the quality of white port, and some can be very tasty.

White Port Grapes ...

Like red port, the grapes for white port are grown in the Douro Valley. The Douro Valley is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. In 1756 boundaries were drawn around the vineyards of the Douro in order to protect the authenticity of port wine. A certain amount of white grapes are planted in most vineyards and all port shippers produce at least some white port. Much of it is consumed within Portugal.

There are many white grape varieties used in the production of white port. A few of the favoured grapes are Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Viosinho, and Esgana Cao, which means "dog strangler" due to its extremely high acidity.

The Production of White Port

Grapes for the traditional style of white port are crushed by feet in lagares (large granite or cement troughs) and are aged in wood. Wood aging adds a degree of interest to the otherwise characterless wines produced by these indigenous white grapes. White ports aged in wood pick up a sharp, nutty tang and a deeper gold colour.

While there is still quite a bit of the traditional style port being made, the trend now is for a lighter, fruitier white port. Maceration time on the skins is much shorter and may be limited to the period of time before fermentation when the juice is run off the skins to be vinified separately. This style of white port does not typically spend any time in wood but may be matured for 18 months to two years in cement or stainless steel vats which enables it to retain more of its primary fruit aromas and flavours.

Enjoying White Port ...

White port can be served chilled as an aperitif on its own or poured over ice. A twist of lemon or lime may brighten up the flavour a bit. It can also be served with a bowl of salted almonds.

A number of different dishes, such as clam chowder, fish cakes, smoked salmon, and liver pate, pair well with white port.

It can also be used as the base in some tasty cocktails which can be very refreshing, especially in the hot summer months.

Cocktail Recipes ...


Blend equal parts white port and tonic together. Serve over ice with a slice of lime.


Blend one part white port with one part Cointreau (an orange liqueur). Serve over ice with a slice of orange.

Hi Ho Cocktail:

Blend 2 oz gin, 1 oz white port, and 4 dashes of orange bitters. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon, lime or orange.