The question is...
What type of wine is Port?
The answer is 1. Fortified wine
So what exactly is a fortified wine? This is a wine that has had alcohol added during the production process. This addition of alcohol is called "fortification" as it increases the alcohol level by volume and thus helps to protect, or fortify, the wine for aging, travel, or whatever might cause harm to the wine. This is an old process used since at least the 1600s, when it was discovered that casks holding a bit of left over spirit/alcohol helped to preserve wine when it was added to the barrel. Plus the wine had a bit more "kick", which was always considered a good thing.
Wines such as Port, Sherry, Marsala and a whole host of other dessert-style wines rely on fortification for their particular style. Ports have a bit of residual sugar (therefore they are sweet) due to the fortification happening before fermentation is complete (this leaves residual sugar in the wine = sweetness).
With colder weather settling in, this presents an opportunity for anyone looking for a nice tipple to finish a meal or enjoy by the fire. Some great values that are on my favorites list include a core groupe of wines, such as the following:
Taylor-Fladgate 20 year Tawny port - a delicious and top selling port with flavors of toffee, hazelnut, and caramel.
Warre's Otima 10 year Tawny port - slightly more ruby in color than the Taylor 20, this wine has a generous red fruit and brown sugar feel to it, and people love the style.
Ramos Pinot Reserve Ruby Port The Collector - a great introductory port, filled with ripe, youthful black fruits
Fonseca Bin 27 Late Bottled Vintage port - a step up in seriousness from the standard ruby, this wine is all from one vintage, aged between 4 and 6 years to soften the tannins and allow the wine to come together. This is one of the best values for quality in the wine world, and Fonseca is a top producer.
Ports come in two over-all styles: Ruby and Tawny.
The ruby ports are rich and fruity as they have not been aged in casks for an extended period of time, thus retaining a lot of the natural fruit and deep color from the grape. These go very well with fruit, nut and chocolate oriented desserts.
Tawny ports on the other hand have been aged for an extended period of time in casks, and during this process shed some color, while the flavors take on more toffee, nut and caramel tones. Usually offered in 10 year, 20 year and sometimes 30 or 40 year versions, these are delicious values and go very well with pastry and cake style desserts, or anything with caramel, vanilla and similar flavors.
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.