Guide to Port Styles ...

Port Overview ...

In the past decade there has been a distinct move towards producing an earlier drinking style of Vintage Port to meet the growing demand, of Port drinkers who do not wish to store their wines for decades before being able to enjoy them.

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in non vintage Ports and the traditional LBV and Crusted styles, both of which are full of flavour and character, and have, quite understandably, found a new popularity, and best of all do not require filtering.

White Port is also increasingly popular, especially in the summer months, when it makes a lovely long drink.

Guide to Port Styles

White Port ... White Ports are made from classic white Port grapes, which are usually aged for two or three years in large vats and are available in sweeter or drier styles. Taylor’s Chip Dry, the first dry white Port first launched in 1934, and Fonseca Sirocco are two of the best known white Ports. White Port makes a fabulous Portuguese "G&T"!

What is the difference between Ruby and Tawny Port?

Ruby and Tawny are both Port wines. The difference is found in the amount of time both have spent ageing in casks prior to blending and bottling.

Ruby Port is younger, has spent less time in the cask, perhaps only a few years, and has retained more of its natural colour, and sweet, fruity characteristics from the grapes. As a result, its colours are more of a deep, ruby colour.

Tawny Port ... has aged longer in the cask, sometimes as long as 40 years, and as it matures, more of its colour fades to a brownish, tawny colour. In addition, its flavors are less sweet, have have deeper, more complex, characteristics.

Ruby Port ... is the most basic and least expensive style of Port. It is a blend from the produce of several harvests that spends two to three years in stainless steel or wood before it is bottled.

Reserve Port ... This indicates a higher quality version of Ruby Port which used to be called, "Vintage Character” Port. A Reserve Ruby is typically a Port which is made by blending a variety of vintages, with an average age of 5-7 years. They are still fruit forward Ports, but have more complexity and structure than a Ruby Port due to the extra time in cask. Examples of good Reserve Ruby Ports are Fonseca's Bin 27, Graham's Six Grapes, Quinta do Noval LB.

Fonseca Bin 27 75clFonseca Bin 27 is a quality example of a reserve Ruby Port

Late Bottled Vintage or LBV ... unlike Vintage Character, are actually the produce of a single vintage. A vintage not deemed good enough to make a Vintage Port, will go into the making of a LBV. It is left in wood for four to six years, then fined and filtered before bottling. It is ready to drink earlier than Vintage Port and they do throw little sediment in the bottle.

Crusted Port ... Crusted Port is a very small category, named because of the 'crust' of sediment that it forms in the bottle. Invented by the British-owned Port houses predominantly for the British Port drinker, it is intended to be a more economical alternative to Vintage or Late Bottled Vintage. Crusted is a blend of several harvests, which are bottled without being filtered and laid down to mature like Vintage wines. Using this approach allows the manufacturer to use some of the lesser harvests but still produce a good rich full bodied wine at an economical price.

Usually a year is stated on the label which, because the wine was made from a blend of harvests, is the year in which the wine was bottled.

Crusted Ports are not made from wines of a single year but, like Vintage Ports, are capable of maturing in bottle. Also like Vintage Ports, they are not filtered before bottling and will form a ‘crust’ (natural sediment) in the bottle as they age.

Tawny Port ... is aged a few years longer than ruby, at least six years in the cask before it is bottled. These are the port wines that the Portuguese most like to drink themselves and differ from ruby ports in that they are aged in smaller barrels. These allow the wine to oxidise giving it a "tawny" colour, their spicy, almost leathery smell, and a distinctive taste reminiscent of dried fruits and nuts.

The wines carry age statements which does not mean that all the grapes in the bottle come from the harvests of ten, 20, or even 40 years before, but reflects the average age of the grapes used which may be older or younger. This is heavily regulated by the DOC and all port wines must be submitted for evaluation before they are labelled. They are ready to be drunk the moment they are released.

Though some tawny is simply a mixture of ruby and white ports, the best tawny Ports have acquired their pale colour, an amber brown tawny hew, from the longer wood ageing. The flavour becomes drier and nuttier from the oxidation.

At its simplest, tawny Port has a characteristic caramel-like sweetness that people often love. Tawnies receive longer aging in wood than ruby Port. That not only adds flavour but helps make the wine longer-lived; an open bottle of 40-year-old tawny Port will remain fresher and last longer than a young tawny or a vintage Port, which is bottle-aged and spends relatively little time on wood. Other sweet red dessert wines are sometimes labelled as "ports," but true Ports are from Portugal's Douro region.

As with sparkling wine, each Port producer has a house style. Some are weighty and ripe while others are lighter-bodied with nuances of wood spice, pepper and more evident tannins. Because most tawnies are non vintage, they can be blended from multiple years' lots so the wines' flavors are consistent from year to year.

Aged Tawny Port ... Are the best tawny Ports. They give the average age of the wines that have gone into making the blends. They are available in 10, 20, 30 and 40 - year versions with a corresponding increase in price. A 20-year tawny may give you the most enjoyable experience for the price. Aged tawnies are made from high quality wines and are the by product of a master blender. A good strategy is to start with a fine tawny or 10-year-old tawny, then progress to richer, more complex, and more expensive older tawny and Colheita Ports.

Colheita Port ... Is a vintage dated Port, and they’re usually worthwhile, and sometimes brilliant. Colheitas are a bit of a rarity in the UK market, but they’re worth looking out for. They generally don’t improve much in the bottle, so you aren’t meant to put them away for decades, as with Vintage Ports. You may quickly become a fan. We definitely are.


Taylors 20 Year Old Port 75cl (image 1)Taylors 20 Year Tawny Port


Vintage Ports ... Vintage Port comes from a single harvest of exceptional quality, as stated on the bottle, and is bottled after two to three years of cask ageing.

Vintage Port display a richness not found in any other wine, with the smooth, sweet, warming black and red fruit combining elegance with power. Just as with any wine there are differences in both quality and style between the various houses.

The wine then spends many years maturing in the bottle. It may take 15 to 50 years for a good Vintage Port to be ready for drinking.

They are the finest and most expensive of the Port styles. At most, it accounts for about 2% of all production and is one of the most sought after wines in the world.

Single Quinta Vintage Port ... is a Vintage Port from a single estate (quinta) that is usually a producer’s best property (such as Taylor’s Vargellas and Graham’s Malvedos).

Single Quinta Vintage Ports are made in good years, but not in the best vintages, because then their grapes are needed for the Vintage Port blend.

They have the advantage of being readier to drink than declared Vintage Ports — at less than half their price — and of usually being released when they’re mature. You should decant and aerate them before serving, however.

What is a Split Vintage Port? The 1983 was an underrated vintage, and it has stood the test of time extremely well, and is now very highly regarded. In 1983, Winter was long and cold and spring was very late, with snow falling in certain parts of the Douro as late as 20th May. The weather then warmed up but still remained unsettled throughout much of the summer. What made the vintage was the burst of very hot weather at the start of September, with temperatures rising to 30 degrees centigrade. The harvest was one of the latest on record, starting on the 3rd October.

10 major shippers declared this year and thus 1983 is regarded in Port circles as a "split vintage".

In youth the wines were powerful yet austere, lacking the showy opulence of the 1985 vintage. However, in bottle they have developed marvellously, with the best examples being complex and harmonious. Excellent value for money Ports.

Cask or Bottle Aged Port? The biggest difference between cask-aged Port and bottle aged Port is the cask-aged Port is ready to drink as soon as it is bottled and it will NOT improve with age. Bottle aged Port on the other hand gets better as it matures in the bottle.

Grape types used in Port; There are around 40 different grape varieties permitted in the production of Port - however the vast majority of Ports are produced from a blend of 5 grapes - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cao.

Touriga Nacional produces small, dark-skinned grapes that produce opaque black wines of great extract and high tannins - it gives grip, body, and structure to the blend.

Touriga Francesca has a thinner skin and consequently produces wines lighter in colour and tannins than Touriga Nacional. It contributes fruit, aroma, suppleness and roundness.

Tinta Roriz is the Portugese name for Tempranillo and its high sugar content and low acidity contribute colour and fruit.

Tinta Barroca which is normally grown at highish altitudes and on north-facing slopes, is prized for producing wines of delicacy, finesse and with smooth, velvety fruit. It brings elegance and sweet, ripe fruit to the final blend.

Finally Tinto Cão produces fine and complex wines, though it is probably the least important of the 5 grapes as its painfully small yields have reduced plantings to almost insignificant levels.

Buy Port from The Cheese and Wine Shops wide range of Ports here!

Port House Styles ... For many people, Dow`s Ports are the firmest, driest style of Port, and Grahams the sweetest. Warre sits stylistically between the two, while Taylors is probably the most elegant. Fonseca is full and rich, and often produces the best vintage Port. Crofts and Smith Woodhouse are slightly earlier maturing, and offer excellent value.

Port Gifts; Port makes a wonderful gift; choose from our extensive selection of Port Gifts here, from entry level Rubys through to vintage Port and Port Gift sets, there's a Port gift for all budgets. Our selection of Miniature Ports make ideal gifts, and serve as a great introduction to the various Port Styles.

Taylors Century of Port makes a great Port gift