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How to Make Vintage Port

May 13, 2012
Question by: Alma, Perth, Australia


How is Vintage Port made?


Hi Alma,  Port wine begins much like any wine:  ripe grapes are crushed and then allowed to ferment.  Fermentation is a natural chemical reaction in which yeasts in the grape juice (or "must" in winemaking) begin to consume the natural sugars, converting them into alcohol.  To make a dry table wine, this process is allowed to continue until it comes to a natural end, when either all the sugars are converted to alcohol, or the alcohol level becomes so high - usually around 15% - that the alcohol level kills the remaining yeasts.  What is different about making Port is that we choose to stop the fermentation process about half way through, when there is still quite a lot of natural sugar in the must.  We stop the fermentation by adding aguardente, a 77% alcohol pure grape spirit, the high alcohol of which kills off the remaining yeasts, thus arresting the fermentation.  That leaves us with a wine which is sweet - because of its natural sugars - but high in alcohol (typically around 20%), due to the addition of the aguardente.  After harvest, the wine is aged in large wooden barrels, and if we wish to make Vintage Port we will blend several wines together, each of which have different characters to bring to the final Port.  The blended wine will be bottled approximately 18 months after harvest.  Although it can be enjoyed young, Vintage Port is most well known as a wine that can age for decades, even a century, and still provide an extraordinary drinking experience.  If we wish to make some other style of Port, such as a Late Bottled Vintage, a Ruby or Tawny, then we will blend, age and bottle the wines according to different regimes of blending and ageing.

That is an extremely concise answer!  To learn a little more detail, we suggest you start with the articles here on the Vintage Port Site.  Look under the Port Basics tab in the menu above, particularly the articles on Winemaking, Blending and Declaring a Vintage.   If you want to learn even more, the Graham's Blog reports the harvest in detail, every day, with reports from the Quinta dos Malvedos winery and our vineyards in the Douro.  The 2011 Harvest began 15 September  and the 2010 Harvest began 20 September.  Throughout both harvest coverage periods we included articles that summarised and explained the wine making process step by step.  The blog continues year round, however, with lots of information about our viticultural activities, blending, bottling, everything it takes to produce and market great Port wines.

Impresso em

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