Ports generally and somewhat simplified come in two main variants: The red bottle-matured ones and the brown wood-matured ones. In addition, white and rosé are also available. Each main category has different variants and quality levels – from the somewhat consumer-like standard styles to the finer specimens based on selected grapes from only the best years.
Made from green grapes and aged for 2–3 years in large barrels. Bottled ready to drink. Available in both dry and sweet versions. The former can be chilled as an apéritif, while the latter – often called Lágrima–are good companions for sweet desserts. Dry white Port also goes into drinks – try for example mixing it with tonic water and mint leaves.
White with age
Some houses have specialized in storing white Port in the same way as the brick red/brown colheitas. Wood-matured white Port intensifies in color and character over the years.
The newest addition to the world of Port. Used widely in apéritifs and drinks. Launched with the intention to win new consumers among women and young people.
Stored for 2-3 years in large casks or steel tanks. Ruby red in color – hence the name. Full-bodied with good fruit. Does not gain in quality by being bottle-stored.
Stored longer on barrel than ordinary Ruby, often 5-7 years. Therefore, these types sometimes offer more character, but they still have notable fruit notes. Previously Ruby Reserva went under the name Vintage Character.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
LBV is, as the name implies, stored for longer time than vintage (4-6 years) in large casks. This matures the wine and makes it drinkable earlier. LBVs are from a certain vintage, so only grapes from the same year are used. LBVs are generally produced in years when there is no declared vintage. They often offer good value for money. Available as both filtered and unfiltered, the latter will evolve further by bottle storage and ought to be decanted.
To many this is the most prestigious category. Vintage Ports are made from a blend of grapes from different fields and quintas from a single year only. Vintage Port is declared only in the best of years, when weather and harvest have been optimal, which happens 3-4 times in a decade. Vintages are only stored for 2 years on the casks, after which they can be stored in bottles for many years. Vintages can throw a deposit, so decanting is advisable. Single Quinta Vintages are Vintages, produced with grapes from only one quinta.
Tawnies are stored in casks for 2-5 years and are then ready to drink. Brownish in color from the casks – hence the name. Good companions for desserts or even chilled as an apéritif.
As for the Ruby you find tawnies in a longer stored version, 5-7 years in barrels. The Reserva is more developed and shows a more complex character.
Tawny with an indication of age
Available as 10, 20, 30 and 40 years tawny, which does not indicate the exact age of the wine, but a certain proportion of the blend must be of the age given on the label. Older tawnies are a blend of wines that have matured in a different number of years, so the blend corresponds to the character a given Port house aims for. An older tawny doesn’t deviate much in taste from bottle to bottle and is ready to drink when bottled. Where the British traditionally prefer Vintage, the Portuguese favorite Older Tawnies.
Colheita is Portuguese for harvest. As with bottle-matured Vintage Colheitas are wines from a single year. However, a Colheita must store at least seven years, preferably more in small barrels, pipes. The longer the Colheita is stored the more character it shows. Therefore, the specified bottling date is important. Colheitas are ready to drink when bottled, but many believe that they develop in character with storing.