New Porto wines in Barcino, Philippines


Porto (or Oporto, or Port) is Portugal’s second largest city, located at the mouth of the Douro, the gateway to wine country. It is the center of Portuguese shipbuilding and trade, with a history that dates back to the Roman occupation, through the Moorish settlement of the area, and into a strong relationship with England, beginning in the 14th century and the marriage of John I of Portugal to Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John of Gaunt).

The English fascination with Portuguese wine began in the 14th century when their relationship with France became shaky and they had far less access to quality French wines. Their new friends, the Portuguese, had an abundance of wine in the Douro, but the English found it to be much more crude compared to what they were used to. So they began to add brandy to the wine to preserve it for shipment back to England, and thus, in a sense, the first Ports were born. But it wasn’t until the 17th or 18th century that this process became more refined. Someone, likely someone in the religious sector as these things tend to be, came up with the idea of adding brandy to the wine during fermentation, instead of after, preserving the wine’s sweetness and vitality.

In 1703, the Treaty of Methuen (Methwen) was passed between Portugal and England. This assured discount textiles to Portugal and discount Port trade to England. From here, the Douro region was subdivided and the quintas (estates) were founded. The Port trade began to boom, with further quality control measures set in place for both still and fortified wines.

British merchants then began to set up shop in Porto and buy vineyards for production. By the 19th century, wine-making in the Douro expanded to an unprecedented degree, with vineyards built right into the mountain and mass construction of wine storage centers.

In the 1730s, the Marques de Pombal created the Old Wine Company to regulate the production of Port, which had started to get a bit sloppy. Some vintners were adding excess sweeteners and juices, usually elderberry, to the wines, which were already suffering in quality and causing a big dip in sales. The Old Wine Company had control over the quantity of wine produced, the highest and lowest prices possible for trade and they arbitrated all disputes. By 1756 they set up the demarcated growing region for Port, and uprooted any vineyards outside of it along with the elderberry trees that were previously providing the juice to bulk out the wines.

By the 19th century, the major Port houses had been established: Robertson´s, Sandeman, Croft, Taylor, Warre, Graham, Dow, Cockburn and so on. Then the phylloxerra louse came to the Douro and did its damage, but this was turned around relatively quickly by grafting the root stock to American vines and most of the vineyards could be replanted. Business began to boom again by the 20th century. However, since the phylloxerra outbreak to this day, fewer vintages have been declared by the major Port houses.

Port Styles:

Tawny: essentially wines that have been aged in barrel long enough for it to take on an amber/brown appearance. Usually made from lesser quality grapes than ruby Ports.

Aged Tawny: left to age in casks a minimum of six years with age indicated on the label.

Colheita: tawny ports from a single year, with the date of the harvest on the label. Aged at least seven years.

Crusted: Blended from different harvests and years, usually younger wines. Wines develop in the bottle and sediment forms. Decanting is necessary for proper consumption.

LBV - Late Bottle Vintage: Wines from a single year and bottled four or five years after harvest.

Ruby (Branded): Blended wines aged in bulk and bottled relatively young before they can take on any color imparted from the barrel. The new trend for labeling is to drop the name “Ruby” altogether in favor of a brand name or style.

Garrafeira: Wines from a single year, which spend only a small amount of time aged in oak, then a much longer period in bottle. These wines are then decanted and re-bottled after a very long aging time, usually between twenty and thirty years or longer.

Single Vintage Quinta: Wines from one estate and a single vintage, which is displayed on the label.

Vintage: Wines from a single year, bottled after two or three years of wood aging, then aged in bottle for many years before release. These are the most sought after Ports, using the highest quality grapes, usually from the Cima Corgo subregion of the Douro.

White Port: Wines with little or no maceration time during fermentation so the wine takes on a minimum of color. Otherwise, it is made in the same way as red and always has a certain degree of residual sugar despite being labeled “Dry or “Extra Dry.”

Rose Port: Very short maceration time to take on a pinkish hue, and otherwise made the same way as ruby port

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