When last I looked there were no less than nine different types of port, although some of the port houses such as the Symington group are experimenting to bring a more modern feel and attract a new generation. With rosé port and blends that are ideal for cocktails with a bit more sophistication than “Port and Lemon”!
The most straightforward and least aged style of port. Ruby ports are aged for a short time in large wooden vats and bottled young to preserve their vibrant red colour and fruity flavours. Typically they are a blend of grapes and vintages. Bottled after two or three years of the harvest. They are affordable, usually sub £10, and ready to drink upon purchase without any need for decanting
Made from white grape varieties, white port can be either dry or sweet. It is often served as an aperitif or in cocktails. If drunk on its own its best done so slightly chilled as an aperitif. Mostly bottled young to preserve the fresh and fruity character of the grapes. Prices are around £15.
Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV)
This sits between Tawny and Vintage Port. Just like it says on the tin. A wine from a single vintage that is matured for longer in barrels and therefore bottled later hence Late Bottle Vintage. Vintage port being bottled two years after the harvest.
The ageing is usually between four and six years before being bottled and released. Good value at sub £20 and again no need for decanting.
Although one type of port it comes in differing ages. Starting with Tawny and then with different age statements. 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old Tawny
All are aged in oak barrels and a blend. The first must be aged for at least two years. The others are average ages of the blend. The wines becoming more complex the longer they are matured for.
Again no need to decant. They vary in price, around £20 for a 10 year old and over £100 for a 40 year old.
A style that sits between Vintage and LBV in terms of ageing. Bottled around three or four years of maturing in oak barrels. Like vintage port it will continue to mature in bottle and will throw a sediment or crust, hence the name, and will need to be decanted. It carries no age statement, but may say when it was bottled. A young bottle will cost around £30 and older bottle can reach £400
A now rare style of port. It undergoes extended ageing in glass demijohns or garraferias before being bottled. Only really seen in auctions these day and costing over £100.
Also known as Single Harvest Tawny, Colheita port is a Tawny port made from grapes of a single vintage. It is aged in oak barrels for a specific period before being bottled, and the vintage year is indicated on the label. Generally doesn’t require decanting. Price ranges between £30 and over £400.
Single Quinta Port
Sometimes referred to as Single Estate ports These are wines produced from grapes sourced from a single vineyard estate and a single vintage and is often released every year. Mostly they are released in years not declared as vintage years.
The term "Quinta" refers to an estate or farm in Portugal. The wines bear the name of the Quinta on the label. They are approachable much earlier than vintage ports, but equally age very well. Require decanting. Price between £30 and £100.
The top of the port tree. Outstanding years are declared as a vintage year. Usually three or four times a decade. Matured for two years before bottling. Intense tannins ensure that they need a long time in bottle to mature. Usually best approached after twenty years and any time after that. Within 100 years for the best. Vintage port needs decanting. Price £40 on release when young and anywhere up to £300 plus when fully mature.
As a wine lover and fan of Port it is my saviour when it comes to birthday celebrations. I was born in 1963 which was a fabulous year for port, one of the best years of the 20th century, and one of the worst for wines. A 1963 Croft in July was sublime and I’m sure it will still be so in 2033!
We have a small selection of mature port that can be found here.
For help and guidance on opening older port and wine thesis available here.
Source - Port house websites.