Types of Porto


(Jason Brandt Lewis) #1

I originally wrote this post for Chowhound’s Wine Board more than five years ago. I’m re-postinghere for the following reasons: a) it seems to have been helpful for several people; b) it is my hope to encourage more wine discussions on Hungry Onion generally.

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There are many ways to categorize Porto . . . one version of an outline (hard to do when you can’t use tabs) of Porto would look something like this. Keep in mind, by the way, that there are many different ways to do this outline; also, this applies only to real (i.e.: Portuguese) Porto.

1. Ruby Porto (defined as red Porto wines bottled with less than seven years of wood aging).
A. No indication of age.
(1). True Ruby Porto, bottled very young.
(2). Vintage Character Porto (a fuller, “beefier” style of Ruby Porto).
(3). Crusted Porto (a non-vintage blend of between four-and-six years of age).
B. Ruby Ports with a Vintage date.
(1). Late Bottled Vintage Porto (by law, bottled between 4-6 years of vintage).
(a). “Regular” (fined and/or filtered; generally doesn’t improve with bottle age).
(b). “Unfiltered” (this will improve with further bottle aging).
©. “Bottle Matured” (released after a min. of 3 years bottle age).
(2). Vintage Porto (by law, bottled two years after vintage).
(a). True Vintage Porto (a producer’s “main,” showcase product).
(b). Single-quinta Vintage Porto.
©. “Second label”/Branded Vintage Porto.
2. Tawny Porto – red Porto wines bottled with 7+ years of wood aging.
A. No indication of age.
(1). Young Tawny (often a mix of Ruby and Tawny).
(2). True Tawny Porto.
(3). Tawny Reserva, a usually branded bottling, “older” than the “true” Tawny above.
B. With a general indication of age (blended from different years; the age is an average).
(1). 10-Year Tawny Porto.
(2). 20-Year Tawny Porto.
(3). 30-Year Tawny Porto.
(4). 40-Year Tawny Porto.
C. With a specific indication of age.
(1). Colheita Porto (long time aging in wood, then bottled and released for sale).
(2). Garrafeira Porto (long aging in wood AND bottle before released for sale).
3. White Porto.
A. Bottled young.
(1). Very Dry.
(2). “Dry” (in reality, off-dry).
(3). Sweet.
B. Bottled after 7+ years of wood aging.
(1). “Dry” (in reality, off-dry).
(2). Sweet.
C. With a specific indication of age.
(1). Colheita Porto (long time aging in wood, then bottled and released for sale).
(2). Garrafeira Porto (long aging in wood AND bottle before released for sale).
4. Pink Porto (newest style – bottled young, off-dry, served chilled or in cocktails.)


NOTES:

All of the Porto listed under “1B. Ruby Ports with a Vintage date” will carry TWO dates on the label. The date in the largest print will be the calendar year in which the grapes were harvested – in other words, the vintage date. The second date, appearing in much smaller print, will be the year of bottling. So, as an example, a true Vintage Porto will say “2011 Vintage Porto” (big print), followed by “Bottled in 2013” (small print). A label of Late Bottled Vintage Porto would similarly read “2009 LBV” (big print), and “Bottled in 2014” (small print). Actual requirements are that a Vintage Porto be bottles between July 1st of the second calendar year, and June 30th of the third – so that a 2011 Vintage Porto must be bottled between July1, 2014 and June 2015, and commonly referred to as “two years after vintage.” Similarly, an LBV must be bottled between July 1st of the fourth calendar year and June 30th of the sixth calendar year – so that a 2009 LBV must be bottled between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015, and commonly referred to as “4-6 years after vintage.”

Of the three categories of Vintage Porto, the largest is the shipper’s main, showcase product – think Fonseca, or Graham’s. Still small in terms of total output (Vintage Porto accounts for roughly two percent of all Porto produced), this is the wine upon which rests the reputation of the house. A single quinta Vintage Porto may come from a single estate owned by one of the large houses (e.g.: Fonseca’s Quinta do Panscal, Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos), or from a small, single estate producer (e.g.: Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Infantado, etc.). For the single quinta producers, this is their “showcase product.” For the major shippers, this is akin to a second label, but from one single estate. The second labels of the major Port shippers – such as Fonseca Guimaraens or Sandeman Vau – might be declared when the quality of the wine “just misses” true Vintage caliber (and so is not made into the showcase wine), but a lot/batch is indeed exceptional, and so that is declared under the second label.

The two types of wines shown under 2C and under 3C, respectively – Colheitas and Garrafeiras – are from a single year’s harvest (and indeed, some houses label these wines in English as “Single Harvest Tawny Porto”), but are NOT Vintage Porto, even though no wine from another year was blended into it. These age for at least 7 years in wood, and will also carry both the calendar year of harvest and the calendar year of bottling on the bottle. Thus you could have (for example) a 1981 Colheita bottled in 1988 – but you could also have a 1981 Colheita bottled in 1994 or in 2007 or in 2015. All Garrafeiras and White Cohleitas are extremely rare, with Niepoort being the primary “keeper of the flame” in this regard.


#2

Thanks for the reposting this article here. Now I need to try more good Porto to make up my mind if I like Porto or Pineau des Charentes more


Pineau des Charentes
#3

Yes, thanks for this–Colheitas in my experience are not easy to find,and I think I may have had but one in 40 plus years of boozing…


(Jason Brandt Lewis) #4

All depends on where you live/look . . . I rarely have trouble finding them . . . .