Port Terminology

Ruby: Ruby port is the least expensive and most extensively produced type of port. After fermentation, it is stored in tanks of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative aging and preserve its bright red color and full-bodied fruitiness. The wine is usually blended to match the style of the brand to which it is to be sold. The wine is fined and cold filtered before bottling and does not generally improve with age, although premium rubies are aged in wood from four to six years.

Reserve: Reserve Ruby is a premium ruby port approved by the IVDP’s tasting panel, the Câmara de Provadores. In 2002 the IVDP prohibited the use of the term “vintage character”, as reserve ruby port had neither a single vintage (usually being a blend of several vintages of ruby) nor the typical character of vintage port.

Rose: Rose port is a very recent variation on the market, first released in 2008 by Poças and by Croft, part of the Taylor Fladgate Partnership. It is technically a ruby port, but fermented in a similar manner to a rosé wine, with a limited exposure to the grape skins, thus creating the rose color.

Tawny: Tawny ports are wines usually made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result of this oxidation, they mellow to a golden-brown color. The exposure to oxygen imparts “nutty” flavors to the wine, which is blended to match the house style. They are sweet or medium dry and typically consumed as a dessert wine, but can also pair with a main course. When a port is described as tawny, without an indication of age, it is a basic blend of wood-aged port that has spent time in wooden barrels, typically at least three years.

Reserve Tawny Port (produced by Borges, Calem, Croft, Cruz, Graham, Kopke and other houses) has been aged about seven years.

Above this are tawnies with an indication of age, which represent a blend of several vintages. The target age profile, in years in wood, is stated on the label, usually 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. These ports are produced by most houses.

Colheita: Colheita port is a single-vintage tawny port aged for at least seven years, with the vintage year on the bottle instead of a category of age (10, 20, etc.). Colheita port should not be confused with vintage port: a vintage port will spend only about 18 months in barrels after harvest and will continue to mature in bottle, but a Colheita may have spent 20 or more years in wooden barrels before being bottled and sold. White Colheitas have also been produced.

White Port: White port is made from white grapes, such as Malvasia Fina, Donzelinho, Gouveio, Codega and Rabigato, and can be made in a wide variety of styles, although until recently few shippers have produced anything other than a standard product. Ordinary white ports make an excellent basis for a cocktail while those of greater age are best served chilled on their own. Sweet white port and tonic water is a commonly consumed drink in the Porto region. There is a range of styles of white port, from dry to very sweet. Taylor’s introduced Chip Dry, a new style of white aperitif Port, in 1934. Made from traditional white grape varieties, it is fermented for longer than usual to give it a crisp dry finish. Lagrima, meaning “Tears”, is the name for the sweetest style of white Port. In addition to this type of wine, there is the White Port Colheita, which is obtained from a single harvest and ages in huge tanks acquiring a straw color, has mature and elegant aromas and flavors, featuring fruity and wooden notes, and the White Port with an indication of age, which is an elegant, full-bodied and rich Port, obtained from the blend of different wines with the same average age. When white ports are matured in wood for long periods, the color darkens, eventually reaching a point where it can be hard to discern (from appearance alone) whether the original wine was red or white.

Late Bottled Vintage: Late bottled vintage (often referred to simply as LBV) was originally wine that had been destined for bottling as vintage port, but because of lack of demand was left in the barrel for longer than had been planned. Over time it has become two distinct styles of wine, both of them bottled between four and six years after the vintage, but one style is fined and filtered before bottling, while the other is not. LBV is intended to provide some of the experience of drinking a vintage port but without the need for lengthy bottle ageing. To a limited extent it succeeds, as the extra years of oxidative ageing in barrel does mature the wine more quickly.

Vintage Port: Vintage ports may be aged in barrels or stainless steel for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling, and generally require another 10 to 40 years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered a proper drinking age. Since they are potentially aged in cask for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavours. Particularly fine vintage ports can continue to gain complexity for many decades after they were bottled. It is not uncommon for 19th-century bottles to still be in perfect condition for consumption. The oldest known vintage port still available from a shipper is the 1815 Ferreira. A tasting in 1990 described it as having an “intensely spicy aroma – cinnamon, pepper and ginger – hints of exotic woods, iodine and wax.” Vintage port is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. While it is by far the most renowned type of port, from a volume and revenue standpoint, vintage port accounts for only about two percent of overall port production. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made early in the second year following the harvest. The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, often referred to as a “shipper.” Much of the complex character of aged vintage port comes from the continued slow decomposition of grape solids in each bottle. These solids are undesirable when port is consumed, and thus vintage port typically requires a period of settling before decanting and pouring.

Single Quinta Vintage Port: Single Quinta vintage ports are wines that originate from a single estate, unlike the standard bottlings of the port wine houses which can be sourced from a number of Quintas. Single Quinta bottlings are used in two ways by producers. Most of the large port wine houses have a single Quinta bottling which is only produced in some years when the regular vintage port of the house is not declared. In those years, wine from their best Quinta is still bottled under a vintage designation, rather than being used for simpler port qualities.

At Madrona Wine Merchants we have access to a large library of Vintage Ports and Colheitas. A reminder that not all years are “declared” vintage years. At the time of this post we have access to these years:

  • Kopke LBV 2015 375ml
  • Kopke LBV 2014 750ml
  • Kopke Vintage 2012 750ml
  • Kopke 2008 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2008 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2008 White Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2008 White Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2007 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2007 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2005 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2005 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2005 White Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2005 White Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2004 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2004 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2003 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2003 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2002 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2002 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2002 White Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2002 White Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 2001 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 2001 Colheita 750ml
  • Rocha 2000 Port 750ml
  • Kopke 1999 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1989 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1989 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1985 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1985 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1981 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1981 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1979 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1978 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1978 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1976 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1976 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1975 Colheita 750ml
  • Rocha 1975 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1967 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1967 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1966 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1966 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1965 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1965 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1961 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1961 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1958 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1957 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1957 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1951 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1951 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1941 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1941 Colheita 750ml
  • Kopke 1937 Colheita 375ml
  • Kopke 1937 Colheita 750ml
Resource materials: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_wine