A sweet fortified wine whose name derives from the fact that such wines are shipped out of the Portugese city of Oporto. Today, there's a specific region in northern Portugal's Douro Valley that has exacting regulations for producing quality port wines. there are four basic categories of port—Vintage, Tawny, Ruby and White. Vintage ports, the best and most expensive, must be made from grapes of a single vintage and only from the best "declared" (those considered superior) vintages. A port producer won't make a traditional vintage port in undeclared years but will make other types of port wine. Vintage ports must be bottled within 2 years; the very best can age 50 years or more. Tawny Ports, tawny in color and ready to drink when bottled, are made from a blend of grapes from several different years and can be aged in wood for as long as 40 years (labels typically indicate the number of years); low-priced versions are blends of white and ruby ports. Ruby Ports, generally the least expensive, are made from lower-quality wine, wood-aged for about 2 years and bottled while still youthful, fruity and bright red in color. White ports are those made from white grapes (the dry versions undergo a longer fermentation). Within the four basic port categories are many types. Single quinta ports are essentially vintage ports made in nondeclared years—they are still considered excellent. Second label vintage ports are produced when the vintage is quite good, but not quite good enough to be declared. Late Bottled Vintage Ports (LBV) and Colheita ports (also called Single Vintage Ports or Dated Ports) are made from single-vintage grapes that aren't as high quality as those for vintage ports. LBVs are aged in wood from 4 to 6 years and are considered high-quality ruby ports; Colheita ports have been wood-aged at least 7 years and fall into the tawny port category. Both are ready to drink when bottled and don't have the aging potential of Vintage Ports. Crusted Ports—a blend of two or three wines from different vintages—are aged for 3 or 4 years before being bottled and, like vintage port, improve with bottle aging. Vintage Character Ports—the lightest and fruitiest and ready to drink when bottled—are essentially high-quality ruby ports, blended from several vintages and wood-aged. In countries other than Portugal, port is a generic name for wines created in the image of the Portuguese originals. Inexpensive "ports" will generally label their wines simply Ruby or Tawny port. There are some nonPortuguese vintage ports that are made either from native Portuguese varieties or often zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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