Port, which originated in Portugal, is a type of fortified, usually red, wine which is characterized by its sweet flavor. It is typically served with the dessert course of dinner and is usually accompanied by cheese. Port comes in a variety of types which include white, dry, and semi-dry. The production of other wines similar to port have spread to various areas of the world such as Australia, Canada, the United States, Argentina, South Africa, and India. However, only the wines from Portugal can be labeled as port under the European Union agreement.
Port wine is produced in the region of Douro, an area of Portugal which was founded in the year 1756 and became famous for its production of this type of wine. The grapes are grown and harvested in this area and, once the grapes are processed, the wine is produced. Once the wine is attained, grape spirits are added to the liquid in order to halt the process of fermentation. This results in a higher concentration of sugar in the wine as well as a higher percentage of alcohol. Port has the highest alcohol content of any wine, with the percentage being between 19% and 20%. After the entire process is completed, the wine is either placed into barrels or bottles to be stored and then aged. The wine should be stored in a cool, dark area. However, the producer should ensure that the area is not too cold and that the temperature remains constant throughout the entire maturation process. The bottle should be laid on its side if the bottle is stored with a cork or stored upright if the bottle is sealed using a stopper.
Unlike other forms of wine, fortified wine lasts longer following the breaking of the seal than does other wine. However, it is still best that the wine be consumed within a relatively short period of time. Bottles of port which have bottled using corks typically last for a shorter period of time than those with stoppers. In addition, if the bottle of wine has been aged for a long period of time, also known as vintage, it is necessary for the wine to be consumed quickly. Port that has been matured using barrels will usually last longer as they have already been exposed to oxygen, which acts to deteriorate the wine. In other words, the more oxidized the wine, the longer it will last after being opened.
There are several types of grapes which can be used in the production of port. However, the majority of the wine is produced using five widely grown grapes. These include Tinta Cao, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Francesca. These grapes are grown in dense clusters of small fruits and are characterized by their rich, concentrated flavors. Most of the wines are red with the white port variety being made in a similar way except with the use of white grapes. Private growers and producers of port have been known to use a single type of grape in their wines. However, commercial port is always produced using a mixture of different grapes.
There are a variety of different styles of port which can be broken down into two basic categories. The first of these is port which is matured using glass bottles. Wines stored in this way become paler in color gradually over time. Bottled ports are also found to increase in smoothness. They can be bottled using either stoppers or corks. The second style of port is that which is matured within barrels. Barreled ports, similar to bottled ports, lose color but do so at a very rapid rate. Because they are somewhat open to the air, they also undergo evaporation over time meaning that the amount of fluid decreases. Because of this, the wine is thicker than other types of wine and alcohol.