Portugal claims over 250 indigenous grape varieties grown throughout 14 wine regions. The UNESCO World Heritage site Douro Valley is arguably the most famous. Members will see why on the Club’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey to Portugal. This extraordinary travel experience is a wine lover’s dream, packed with special access port tastings and stays at luxury properties like Six Senses Douro Valley. Port, the country’s most iconic wine, is the star varietal of this region. Below, the experts at Six Senses break down what makes port so unique as well as some of the top producers to keep an eye out for.
WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF A PORT WINE?
Port is a fortified sweet wine. All ports have rich, intense, and very persistent aromas and flavors, as well as high alcohol contents averaging 19% to 22% volume. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from white to ruby, and sweetness levels. Ports typically have notes of chocolate, figs, dates, and raisins.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF PORT?
The main varietals include:
Ruby: A young, full-bodied wine with fruity aromas.
Tawny: A very sweet, barrel-aged port with nutty flavors and a golden-brown color.
White: Made from white grapes, it comes in a variety of styles ranging from dry to sweet.
Vintage: Produced from grapes of a single vintage year and aged for up to two and a half years before bottling and then aged another 10-40 years in bottle to gain complexity. This style is usually very dark in color and full-bodied.
ARE PORTS STRICTLY AN AFTER-DINNER DRINK?
The youngest ports are normally served at the beginning of meals, while the oldest ones have intense flavors and are traditionally served after meals as a dessert wine.
WHAT DOES THE TERM "ANGEL'S SHARE" REFER TO?
Port wine ages in casks or in vats and gradually evaporates. During the first years, the rate of evaporation can be as much as 2%. The water and spirit in the wine evaporates, which means that the wine becomes more and more concentrated in terms of its aromatic compounds, sugars, and acids. The tiled roofs and wooden beams of the port wine cellars are blackened by a sooty growth that results in this evaporation. This is generally identified as Angel’s Share.
PEOPLE OFTEN SWIRL GLASSES OF PORT BEFORE SIPPING. WHAT DOES THAT DO?
The swirling allows oxygen to react with the wine and open up all of the aromas. As the liquid runs down the side of the glass, it leaves streaks traditionally referred to as “legs” or “lágrima,” (which means "tears" in Portuguese). These legs come from the surface tension of the evaporation of alcohol, therefore higher alcohol wines will have more pronounced streaks. Also, the more sugar wines have, the denser the liquid, resulting in thicker streaks running down the side of the glass.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REGION'S TOP PRODUCERS?
Learn trip dates, in-depth itinerary details, and costs with the official OIAL Journeys announcement on March 16, 2022. Reservation requests will be accepted from March 16 – 29, 2022.
Learn more about our 2023 Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys and their not-to-be-missed moments here.