hist-brewing: Re: Port wine hist-brewing-digest V1 #686

WilliAM wmillett at fractal.com.br
Tue Sep 19 17:24:35 PDT 2000

I extracted some information regarding port wines, reproduced below. Excuse
me for the rather long posting, but I thought it would be worthwhile.

The authors of the first book give four recipes for port *type* wine. Let me
know if anyone is interested in them.

*Progressive Winemaking  by Peter Duncan and Bryan Acton*

The grapes [...]are mainly red varieties, and most growers plant several
different types of vine in order to produce a balanced wine. The principal
cêpages include the louriga which is similar to the Cabernet of Bordeaux,
the linta Francisca which resembles the Pinot Noir of Burgundy, the
deeply-coloured Souzao, the noble Mourisco, and so on. [...]
[...]the grapes are therefore crushed by the time-honoured method of
treading. The freshly-picked grapes are tipped into shallow stone lagares
which are usually constructed of granite quarried locally and measure about
18' x 15' x 3'.[...] Once the lagar has been filled with grapes, the
barefoot treaders begin their arduous work which continues until the grapes
have been thoroughly crushed.
The mass of skins, stalks, pips and juice is then left to ferment
spontaneously. Fermentation is allowed to proceed for 2-4 days during which
colour is extracted from the skins and about half the sugar in the must is
converted into alcohol. The cap which forms during fermentation is, of
course, periodically broken up to facilitate colour extraction and to
minimise the risk of acetification, while regular gravity determinations are
carried out to check the progress of the fermentation. As soon as the must
is judged to contain sufficient colour and alcohol, the pulp or marc is
strained off and the fermenting must is run into the fortifying vats which
already contain sufficient brandy to raise the alcohol content of the must
to about 18% to 20% by volume (about 100 litres of brandy per 115 gallons of
must). The brandy used for this purpose is comparatively low-proof spirit
distilled locally and thus adds some flavour of its own to the wine. The
distinctive aroma of fusel oil is often more pronounced in Port than in
other fortified wines for this reason.
All yeast activity is terminated within a very short time as a result of
this fortification so that the wine may contain up to 10% residual
unfermented sugar. The new fortified wine is then left in the fortifying
vats from some months to clarify before it is racked off its lees in the
spring into large narrow-ended 115-gallon oak casks called pipes ready for
transportation to the shippers' lodges in Oporto. [...] The wine is then
left to mature undisturbed except for periodic rackings every few months to
promote its final clarification and to provide the oxygen necessary for its
development. Persistent hazes are removed by fining, usually with gelatine
but occasionally with egg-white, and some tannin may also be added to
replaced that lost as a result of fining.

*Choosing Your Wine by John Patterson, Hamlyn Publishing*

Types of Port wine.

Crusted port.  Good quality port, not necessarily of a single vintage,
bottled early for laying down to improve in bottle. The crust is the
sediment that forms inside the bottle, and Crusted port, like Vintage port,
needs to be decanted. It has been superseded to a great extent by
Late-bottled Vintage port.

Ruby port.  The plainest, and usually the cheapest, style of port, kept in
cask for about five or six years before being marketed. These ports are not
designed to improve in bottle and are less refined than Tawny.

Tawny port. An elegant style of port which spends many years in cask
becoming lighter in body and in colour. True Tawny port produced in this way
is always expensive. A cheaper, far less meritorious style is made by
blending young Ruby with White port.

Vintage port. The wine of one exceptionally fine vintage. Unlike other port
styles, it is the wine of a single year, although it may be made from wines
produced on a number of different estates. [...] Vintage port is bottled
after two or three years in cask, and thereafter it requires anything from
10 to 30 years in bottle to become mellow. Late-bottled Vintage port is a
wine of one good year, or a blend of several good years, but spends between
three and six years in cask, which has the effect of accelerating its
development. Generally, Late-bottled Vintage port and 'vintage character'
are ready to drink as soon as they have been bought.

White port. Made only from white grapes, White port is light in colour but
not in flavour. Some is sweet, but there are dry versions on the market,
though they are never wholly dry.


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