Travel & Wine Update

January 14, 2022

Learn about Port Wine

If Portugal is the mother of Port, then England is certainly its father.

The famous Port firms were begun by people with such properly English names as Sandeman, Croft, Graham, Cockburn, Dow, and Warre.

When was Port Wine first made?

As the story goes, English wine merchants were traveling through Portugal in the late 1670s, looking for new wines for the British market. Poor relations between Britain and France meant that, in England, French wines were increasingly met with great disfavor. The merchants found themselves at a monastery near the Douro River in Portugal. The abbot served a wine that was smoother, sweeter, and more interesting than any they’d tasted. When pressed to explain, the abbot confided that he’d added brandy to the wine as it had fermented.

The broader story of the English/Portuguese Alliance goes back to the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, which is the oldest treaty in the known history of the world that is still in effect.

To secure the Portuguese Alliance against the French/Spanish Axis, England's Duke of Lancaster arranged for his daughter Philippa to marry King John of Portugal. John and Philippa went on to have 8 children, the 5th of which became known as Henry the Navigator.

Henry the Navigator sponsored the development of the Caravel, a small highly-maneuverable sailing ship, whose lateen sails gave it speed and the capacity for sailing in to the wind. The Caravel launched the Portuguese Age of Discovery and enabled famous explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus to sail the world's oceans.

To be a "Port," the wine must come from the Douro River Valley in Portugal.

In making Port wine, fermentation is stopped when the ideal sugar level is reached, leaving some of the natural sweetness of the grape. The addition of brandy to the wine, a process called fortification, stops the fermentation with the alcohol killing the yeast. This process results in a wine that is both sweeter and stronger than a typical table wine. Winemakers add the brandy evenly into the Port wine so the yeasts “go to sleep” calmly. Most Port producers use about 30% brandy to reach the legal minimum of 17.5 ABV. Since ethanol is a natural preservative, another benefit of the fortification process is to preserve the wine for shipping and storage.

Port wine is made in several different styles, including White Port and Rose, but our focus is on the finer Port wines - Vintage, LBV and Aged Tawny Port.

Vintage Port is the most expensive and prestigious member of the Port family. A Vintage is "declared" in both the quality and quantity of the available fruit. Samples are submitted to the Institute of Douro and Porto Wine in January, two years after harvest. After being tested and tasted for quality assessment, vintage declarations are made by the end of June. Vintage Port spends a short time aging in barrel – only two to three years – before bottling. Vintage Port should then be aged in the bottle for about 15 years. The finest examples are capable of vitality even after 50 years.

“Late-Bottled Vintage” or “LBV” is a Port from a single year, chosen for its high quality and bottled after aging for four to six years in wood. It is a vintage Port in style, but not in price. LBV Ports spend about twice as long in wood as Vintage Ports, and so they’re usually more accessible at an early age. If you’re looking for LBVs made more like Vintage Ports, look for the word “Traditional” on the label.

As refined as Cognac but with half the alcohol content, tawny port is full of delicious flavors and is often regarded as a dessert wine. Top tawny ports are released in 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-year-old versions with the age referring to the time spent in small wood barrels. At 10 years, Tawny starts to come into itself, and the flavors continue to evolve the longer Tawny ages. It has been said that Tawny lovers often prefer the 20-year-old, believing it strikes the right balance between aged character and vitality.

The Best and Most Fun Way to Learn about Wine is to Experience the Wine Where it is Made


Beyond just Port Wine and the Douro River Valley, Portugal offers an array of unique and interesting Wine Regions.

The most well-known wine region in Portugal is the Douro River Valley, which was recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Start in Porto, Portugal's second largest city, to sample the best Port Wines, before boarding an elegant small ship river cruise through the Douro River Valley. Once you leave Porto, you'll be stopping at places like the tiny town of Pinhao, which lies at the heart of Douro's wine country. The scenery and vista will remind you of a cross between California's Napa Valley and Italy's Tuscany. It's simply gorgeous country. Coggin Travels recently sailed on a Douro River cruise from Porto for 7 days. Our experience in the Douro River Valley means we can create a custom itinerary featuring the best wines and most interesting sights along with unique local culture and cuisine.

The Vinho Verde wine region, just to the north of Porto, is home to the young "green wine" created from grapes grown on the cooler slopes of northwest Portugal. Coggin Travels can send you along the Vinho Verde Wine Route which leads travelers through the entire Minho region. There are many different itineraries to follow including cities and towns, the mountain route, the quintas route, the route of the monasteries, and the beach route.

Alentejo, just beyond Lisbon, is an ideal destination for lovers of culture, wine, and cuisine. From day-trips to week-long tours, Coggin Travels can guide you along the Alentejo Wine Routes and their many wineries. Alentejo's slow paced vibe is a big draw for visitors seeking to unwind. Away from the busy coastal resorts, it's a timeless, uncrowded, beautiful place, and has confidently taken its place as an area of outstanding wine production. 

How about a Wine Cruise that's Close to Home and on a Small Ship?

Last Call to Join Us for

A Taste of Burgundy

on the Lewis & Clark Trail

May 11, 2022

A Taste of Burgundy

on the Lewis & Clark Trail

8 days from Clarkston, WA to Portland, OR

on the Columbia and Snake Rivers

May 11, 2022 aboard the AMERICAN HARMONY

Includes 5 Exclusive Burgundy Wine Dinners with Premium Wines from Chateau de Pommard

This cruse is filling quickly with main deck accommodations already sold out. Call us now to make a deposit and hold a room.

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See Previous Editions of the Travel & Wine Update

Of Castles & Wine

The Loire Valley of France

The Wild West of Wines - Paso Robles

The Valpolicella Wine Region of Italy

The Istria Wine Region of Croatia

Chenin Blanc in South Africa

The Ribera del Duero Wines of Spain

The Dalmatia Wine Region of Croatia

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