#DrinkPort. So what exactly is Port and how do you drink it?

Feb 25th 21

Port wine is one of the most emblematic Portuguese products and one of the country’s national prized jewels. Its quality and unique character are recognised the world over.

Our flagship property, Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias, where special wines have always been produced, has a long history of Port wine production. Today, 50% of the wine from this property falls in the Port category. Port wine is steeped in history and tradition, but how exactly it is made and even how we should drink it are still not widely known.  

What in fact is Port wine?

It is a fortified wine, made from the Douro's emblematic grape varieties in the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. The traditional viticulture and vinification processes are maintained and, in an initial phase, the Port wine process is similar to that of a table wine. The main difference is when fermentation is interrupted by adding grape brandy (aguardente) to the must. The high alcohol content of the brandy (almost always 77% vol.) means that the yeast and micro-organisms responsible for alcoholic fermentation do not survive. This halts the natural mechanism for transforming sugar into alcohol. The wine is then aged in wood. The addition of brandy means Port wine has a high alcoholic content (19 to 22% vol.). The sugar content is also higher than that of a table wine, for instance, because by interrupting the fermentation, the sweetness that is naturally present in the grapes is preserved.

What styles of Port exist?

There are essentially two Port wine families: Ruby and Tawny. There are also white and rosé Ports, although they are not as present as other types. Ruby and Tawny Ports result from distinct ageing processes.

Ruby Port: these are wines that age between 2 and 3 years in wood, meaning the oxidation period is very short, preserving the wine’s principal characteristic (an intense fruity aroma). In the case of LBV (Late Bottled Vintage), the wine is aged for between 4 and 6 years in oak. As a rule, Ruby Ports have an intense, deep colour, similar to young red wines. This category includes Ruby, Ruby Reserve, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and Vintage Port. Exceptional harvests give us the top end of this category, which is the case of the Vintage wines. Their potential for ageing is really only revealed in the bottle and the wine’s structure and the quality of fruit ensure the truly refined quality of the wine is maintained over years (decades and even centuries).

Tawny Port: these are wines aged in wood for longer periods, and there are several types of Tawny, such as blends with average ages of 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years... Then we also have “Colheita”, which is a wine that originates from a single harvest. After ageing, when bottled, a Tawny is ready to be consumed. Its levels of complexity are quite something, thanks to the slow oxidation process while ageing in the wood. The aromas evolve and are characterised by notes of nuts, honey and spices, varying in intensity and complexity according to the age of the wine. Tawny wine colours range from golden to a light golden red as a result of the oxidation process.

What makes Kranemann’s wines distinctive?

At Kranemann Wine Estates, we currently only make Tawny and Ruby Ports. We aim to produce Ports that essentially pay homage to the tradition at Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias and the terroir of the Távora Valley, where the cooler climate and the quality of the grapes ensure the wines are balanced and fresh. Refinement is key here. Our Ruby wines, for example, maintain the richness of the fruit and the typical structure of the Douro, but reveal the characteristic backbone of the Távora Valley, a very particular acidity that gives the wine its balance. This very balance between the sweetness and acidity, combined with the layers of complexity achieved through ageing in wood, leads us to produce some very unique wines.

When should you drink Port wine?

The answer is almost at any time! There is a common misconception that Port wine is only associated with a more classic and traditional environment, where it is served in large glasses, almost exclusively at times of celebration. However, the different types of Port have huge pairing potential: alongside a spread of cakes, with desserts and nuts (especially Tawny wines), with chocolates (Rubies, particularly Vintage or LBV...), or in pairings with the most diverse cheeses (depending on the type of cheese, the pairing possibilities are truly surprising). Port wines can even be paired with whole meals, from starters to main courses of fish and meat and even with desserts.

Try something new, honour the tradition and history behind Port wines.