A Summary of Port Styles
Prepping for a Douro River Cruise through wine, cuisine, culture & history with Peter & Betsy Spann
Aug. 20-27, 2022
For full information, pricing & registration click here.
The upper Douro, lined with steeply terraced vineyards, is rustic, unspoiled & beautiful.

For my blog describing these two cities and sites in-between them along the Douro click From Porto to Salamanca
When I started working for a wine importer and distributor in 1975, I was told that I should first learn about the 3 most collectible, age-worthy and important wines in the world; Bordeaux, Burgundy and Vintage Port. -Peter Spann
Grapes are crushed, then the juice macerates with the skins to extract color (sometimes involving foot-treading), then fermentation starts, all just like for table wines.
Fermentation continues until approximately 2/3 of the sugar has disappeared and the wine reaches 10% alcohol. High proof neutral grape spirits are added, which kills the yeast and arrests fermentation. This process is known as fortification, resulting in a wine high in both sugar and alcohol. White Port ranges from 16.5% to 20% alcohol by volume; most red Ports are 20%. 
Both families undergo ageing, from moderate to lengthy, depending on the style being produced. How long the wine ages and what it's aged in creates the differences between these families.
One way to describe the difference is the color of each (see photo). Another is to say that Rubies mature and gain complexity in bottle while Tawnies do the same in cask and won’t change significantly after bottling.
Tawnies spend more time ageing in oak, typically 60-gallon barrels that have more wood-to-wine ratio than large oak casks. Oxidation through the staves significantly lightens the color, changing it from bright red to tawny. It also changes the aroma and taste; while Ruby has ripe berry, Tawny is roasted nuts and caramel. 
Basic Ruby Port, named for its youthful color, is a multi-vintage blend aged for an average of 2 1/2 to 3 years in large oak casks or stainless steel tanks. The base wine is typically deep in color but from lesser vineyards than for the wines used for more expensive styles. 
Reserve is a multi-vintage blend of higher quality wines from better vineyard sites, and aged slightly longer prior to bottling; typically 4 to 6 years. These are richer in flavor and more “serious” than a basic Ruby. Shippers have their own proprietary names; well known ones are Fonseca Bin 27, Graham’s Six Grapes & Sandeman Founder’s Reserve.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is exactly what the name implies, from a single year but bottled later than is required for vintage Port. These may be the best wine from a year when no vintage Port was produced or the second best wine from a year when a vintage Port was also bottled. The longer aging of LBVs (4 to 6 years), than Vintage Port gives them quicker maturity and are considered good alternatives at a fraction of the price.

Vintage Port is made from the best lots from the finest vineyard sites and only in the best years. Shippers make their own decisions on declaring a vintage but since most build their reputation on their Vintage Port, they want it to be the best possible wine. Quantities are limited to ensure demand will equal or outstrip supply. On average, shippers declare vintages 3 or 4 times per decade with 500 to 15,000 cases, depending on the size of the producer, the amount of top quality wine available and the demands of the market.
These spend 2 to 2 ½ years in oak and must be bottled between July 1st of the second year and June 30th of the third year after the harvest. These evolve slowly, becoming smoother and gaining complexity in aroma and flavor over time, and are considered at their peak between 20 and 40 years after the vintage.
In Vila Nova da Gaia (left), are Port "Lodges" (aging warehouses), tasting rooms, the World of Wine Museum and the cruise port, across the river from Porto (right). An Eiffel-design bridge connects the two cities.
Basic Tawny Port is light amber-reddish in color and light in body with aromas of dried cherry, fig and toasted nuts.
Typically a blend averaging 3 years in oak, these retain some of the fruitiness of a young wine and lack the complexity that comes from longer cask ageing. The barrels have had most or all of their aroma and flavor leached out by previous wines, as the desire is not to impart an impression of oak but rather to promote slow, gentle oxidation. 
Tawny Port With Indication of Age are blends of wines with an average time in oak of either 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, which is specifically designated on the label. 
These are made from higher quality base wine and develop complexity from the many years spent slowly oxidizing. The older they are, the paler and more transparent (and expensive!) they become.
Aromas are often described as burnt orange peel, honey, praline, dried fruits and toasted nuts. These charm you with elegance rather than bowl you over with power.
Knowing the different styles helps but the next time foul weather strikes, remember what they say "any Port in a storm!"
White Ports are produced from a blend of indigenous white wine grape varieties and typically have a golden color and aromas of honey and nut. These range in style and are labeled as Dry (varying from dry to off-dry), or Lagrima (tears – very sweet and thick dessert wine). Although the vast majority are bottled at 2 to 3 years, a small amount is made with extended oak ageing and bottled with age or harvest year (Colheita) on the label.
A popular cocktail called a PortTonic is made from a 50/50 blend of dry white Port and tonic water poured over ice with either a squeeze of lime or a mint leaf garnish.

Pink Port, the newest style, is a cross between rose and Port. The juice from red grapes is macerated with skins for 8 to 18 hours, then drawn off for fermentation to begin. Partway through, grape neutral spirits are added, killing the yeast and stopping fermentation. This creates a fresh, fruity, sweet wine with 18 to 20% alcohol that is typically served over ice or used as a mixer.
This series of blogs is designed to enhance your cruise experience. Betsy and I have been wine educators for several decades and want to pass our knowledge on to you. The more you know about this region before you arrive, the more you'll enjoy it when you're there. Cheers! -Peter Spann
During all on-board meals on our cruise, wines from Vinho Verde and the Douro and beers of Portugal will be served at no extra charge. Daily land excursions and nightly entertainment are also included in the cruise price. Our cruise provider, Amawaterways, prides itself in having the finest cuisine and service on the water.

Special wine tastings and wine dinners comparing Douro and Sonoma County wines, exclusive to our group, are included. You must book through our tour operator Expanding Horizons of Tustin, CA to be part of the Spann Douro Group. Full information, pricing and registration is at: Toursandwine.com For full itinerary click here
Questions? Call Ruth Jelsma at Expanding-Horizons (714) 975-9946 or email ruth@expanding-horizons.com‬.
Know anyone else who might be interested? Please forward this to them.
Never been on a river cruise before? Click for our FAQs about River Cruises.
For my blog on Douro Table Wines click All About Douro Wines
For my blog on the history of how the Port Wine style began click Port & Politics
Betsy became interested in wine when her family moved to Bordeaux during her last year in high school. Since then she's owned two retail wine stores, worked for wine and beer importers, been a wine educator for almost 40 years, started one of the first chapters of Women On Wine, made wine at two Sonoma County wineries and one in South Africa.

Peter started recommending wines in French restaurants when he was 19 and now has 51 years of experience in all phases of the business; wine retail, wholesale, importing, production and marketing and has taught wine appreciation at colleges and universities. He first became involved with wines from Portugal in 1975 and spent 7 years as C.O.O. of a U.S. importing company specializing in Portuguese wines.

Together we've made wine at Spann Vineyards for the past 21 years.
QUESTIONS for Peter Spann? 415-215-9540 or reply to this email.
SPANN VINEYARDS, P.O. Box 1760, Bodega Bay, CA 94923 (415) 215-9540 www.spannvineyards.com