Port wine is an age old style of fortified wine treasured by wine lovers for centuries. Typically a dessert wine, port can be enjoyed any time of day and is easy to make at home when following the correct steps. Here we’ll outline the process so you can get started making this delicious and unique type of wine on your own.
Port wine is specific to Portugal, as the types of grapes used in Port wine are grown in certain parts of Portugal and very rarely found in the United States. However, it is still possible to make a very good port wine with substitutions of berries or other American grown grapes.
The wine itself will be made from a few ingredients – yeast, fruit, and water. Many kits will contain pre-measured amounts of the additives that go into the wine. Using fresh fruit is also an option but it can be pricey depending on the amount needed.
For starters, you’ll need a wine making kit. These can be found at specialty stores or ordered online. The kit will provide you with all the basic equipment you’ll need to start with. There are two types of kits – one being the kit with the actual equipment, and others that contain the ingredients for certain types of wines.
You’ll need a large fermenting bucket with a lid, preferably the size of a few gallons or more. If using your own jug, make sure it is marked one or two for recycling. Because you are using the jug for fermenting, using anything otherwise allows more room for oxygen to get into the jug, making the wine stale.
Also needed is a rubber stopper, #9 or #10, with a ¼ inch hole drilled in it. An airlock will be attached to the stopper, so carbon dioxide can escape without letting oxygen in. The airlock is usually either homemade using a balloon, or the wine making kit will provide some sort of plastic tubing. You can also buy a commercial airlock, which is probably the easiest and most hassle free way.
The kit should also include a hydrometer, for measuring the specific gravity (the density of the liquid compared to the water) of the wine, a long plastic food grade spoon, long enough to reach inside the bucket for stirring, a siphon to siphon liquids from the jug, and a funnel and sanitizer. It’s very important that the equipment be sanitized before using. Be sure to have everything pre-rinsed and cleaned before beginning.
Most recipes agree that a few ingredients to making port wine are key. Amounts depend on the quantity of wine you will be producing, but below is a quick summary of the main ingredients:
- Red Grape Concentrate
- Granulated sugar
- Yeast energizer
- Acid blend
- Crushed campden tablets
- Port Wine yeast
- Brandy, for fortifying
It’s imperative that you get a port wine yeast. This will create the best port wine.
Also, port is fortified by adding brandy at the end of the wine making process, in order to stop fermentation. It’s why the wine is sweet. And what’s a port wine if it’s not a sweet, rich dessert wine?
The process would then involve adding the ingredients to the fermenting bucket and using a hydrometer to check the gravity once the mixture is made. The fermenting wine is then kept at a temperature of around 80 degrees F to get the yeast cells multiplying and fermenting. After a few days the yeast will be activating itself, and then the wine will be brought back down to around 70 degrees F.
After the wine reaches a certain specific gravity and sediment deposits begin forming it will then be “racked”, meaning the wine is drawn off into a fresh and sanitized container. After a few weeks of racking and siphoning while adding additional ingredients in, the wine should be matured for at least a year.
Making port at home is a time consuming yet rewarding experience. After you make your first batch, you’ll want to experiment with other recipes and techniques, branching out to different flavors and styles, so you can begin enjoying your port wine and sharing it with family and friends.