When in Rome, do as the Romans do…when in Porto, drink port!

Our first day in Porto was cold, rainy and blustery – not unusual for late May in northern Portugal. But dreary weather did dampen our spirits for visiting the famous Port Lodges in old town Porto. A short walk over the iconic two-tier bridge connecting Oporto (Porto in English) to Gaia, and we arrived on the promenade along Duoro River.  There are more than 50 port companies including every major port producer having a presence here.


Our appointment at Graham’s was arranged by Fedway,  their NJ distributors. Two Graham brothers founded the winery in 1820, built a world-famous port brand and then sold to the Symington family in 1970. Today Symington controls over 30% of port industry with their major brands of Graham, Dow, Cockburn and Warre.


The tour included a visit to the cellars which house millions of liters in barrels dating as old as 1860.


Our tour concluded with a tasting of Graham’s ruby, tawny and vintage ports. My favorites were the Vintage 2000 and 30-year Tawny.


Port is blend of red varietals including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (commonly known as Tempranillo), Touriga Franca and other lesser known varietals which are all grown in nearby Douro Valley.

Port wine has high alcohol content (19-22% for DOC rules). Grapes grow to full ripeness and picked with high sugar content. Alcohol is added to stop fermentation and leaves residual sugars for the sweet taste of ports.

Ruby ports (“Rubies“) mature in the bottle which impart little flavor during aging and remain fruit-forward after bottling. Rubies (except vintage ports) do not improve with aging and can be drank shortly after bottling 2-3 years after harvest.

Tawny ports (“Tawnies”) mature in large oak barrels that yield a more complex, brown/amber color and drier taste (less fruit-forward) than Rubies. Tawnies are blends of multiple harvests – i.e. 10-year, 20-year and 30-year ports indicate the average age of the grapes.

Vintage ports are Rubies that are only produced in exceptional vintages (called “classic vintage”) which typically occur 3 times in a decade.

Cheers, Bob the Wineguy
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