In case you weren’t aware (and I certainly wasn’t), the Douro Valley where port wine is produced was the first officially demarcated viticultural areas in the world in 1756, although Chianti and Tokaji were regionally defined but not regulated before this. The actual viticulture and initial fermentation is no different to any other red wine, but the fruit can tend to be a little riper with more natural sugar in it. After the fortification the wine used to travel down the river on boats in barrels, but today the wine travels on the road in climate controlled tanks. When you visit Vila Nova de Gaia on the left bank of the Douro in Porto, you can still see the barcos rabelos moored and floating, and now they are only used for racing and tourism. British merchants were permitted to import port at a low duty in 1703 which led to the wine gaining much popularity, partly because the war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The English involvement in the port trade grew much like in sherry, and still remains today in the names of many port shippers such as Cockburn, Croft, Gould, Osborne, Offley, Sandeman, Taylor, Graham, Dow and Warre, the last three of which are owned by the same family and I had the chance to taste on my second day in Porto.
|Port boats docked in Villa Nova de Gaia|