The pinnacle of Duoro Valley wines
Twisting and snaking through the rugged terrain of northern Portugal, the Duoro River winds westward toward the Atlantic Ocean, cutting its way past steep-terraced hillsides where rapevines, supported by rows of stone terraces, grow in the schist and granite soil. This is the Duoro Valley wine region, the traditional home of the sweet, full-bodied, unctuous elixir known as Port wine, undoubtedly the most famous of all fortified dessert wines. And of all the styles of Port wine, from Ruby and Tawny to Late Bottle Vintage, the absolute pinnacle is Vintage Port.
Like all Ports, the production of Vintage Port begins with the hand-harvesting and crushing (by human feet in shallow, open granite vats called lagares) of indigenous grape varietals like Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Roriz, followed by a short fermentation period. When the residual sugar has reached peak levels, the winemaker adds a clear neutral spirit to the must to kill the yeast and stop fermentation, thus retaining the natural sweetness of the grapes. The resulting wine is then transferred to oak aging barrels or vats.
All Ports are blended wines, composed of many grape varieties harvested from different vineyards and normally from different vintage years. But Vintage Port is made from selected first-quality grapes from one exceptional single vintage year, (called a “declared” vintage), with sugars, tannins, and acidity all in perfect balance. The wines are aged for approximately two years in oak before being bottled and cellared for decades, allowing them to develop their signature complexity and remarkable layers of flavor and aroma.
Vintage Ports are wines of ultimate refinement and elegance, dark purple to ruby red in the glass, and opulent with the perfumed aromas and flavors of blackberries, cherries, plums, black currants, figs, violets, sweet spice and black pepper, with hints of chocolate, coffee, caramel and toffee. They are sweet, full on the palate, and balanced with silky, well-integrated tannins and mouth-watering acidity, ending with a long, lush, satisfying finish.
Since they are unfiltered and have built up significant amounts of bottle sediment during the aging process, these wines must be decanted before serving.
Vintage Ports are usually consumed at the end of a meal and pair beautifully with blue cheeses like Stilton and Roquefort, as well as with dark chocolate, figs and walnuts
Oenology 101: The Basics of Wine
Port wines derive their name from the northern coastal Portuguese town of Porto, located in the Duoro Valley. By law wines labeled “Port” can only derive from this region.
Like Sherry and Vermouth, Port is a fortified wine, meaning that a distilled neutral spirit is added to boost alcohol levels to 20 percent. Port came about when the British began to ship wine from Portugal in the late 17th century, adding brandy to preserve it for the sea voyage back to England.
All Ports are aged to develop their aroma and flavor profiles. Those aged completely in oak barrels or vats are Ruby (2 – 3 years); Tawny (5 – 40 years); and Late Bottled Vintage (4 – 6 years). Ports cellared first in oak that complete their maturing in bottles are Single Quinta Vintage (10 – 20 years) and Vintage (decades).
Approximately two percent of wine grapes are made into Vintage Port and a Vintage Port year is declared only two or three times in a decade.Edit Module