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Basic Wine Dictionary

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AC, AOC: Short for “appellation controlée”, part of the French system that classifies wines according to their geographical origin; each AC has a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties and yields, and sometimes alcohol and sugar levels. For some ACs, a tasting panel must approve wines before they are sold. The system provides a guarantee of authenticity for the consumer while protecting the producer from competition.

Acetic: Tasting term indicating an undesirable vinegary smell.

Acidity: One of the basic flavours which can be detected by the tongue and an essential component of all wine. Contributes to the fresh crispness of white wines; high acidity can make a wine taste tart, while low acidity wines can be flabby.

Acids: Essential component of all wines; several different acids are found in grapes and wine. Grapes are one of the few fruits to contain tartaric acid, the major wine acid and the most important source of acidity in wine. Smaller amounts of malic acid, citric acid and lactic acid can also be found, as can acetic acid.

Aftertaste: Sensation left in the mouth after wine is swallowed. A long aftertaste is a sign of a complex, high-quality wine.

Ageing: Complex process of change which take place in wine over time. Simple wines require little ageing and can generally be enjoyed within a few months of the harvest. More complex wines will typically improve progressively over time, reaching a peak after several years or even decades, and then begin to decline. This is mainly done by oxygen exchange.

Aggressive: Tasting term, usually indicating a wine with high or excessive acidity or tannin; wines that are aggressive in their youth may improve with ageing.

Alcohol content: Amount of alcohol present in wine, normally expressed as percentage by volume (% vol. on the label). Most table wines fall between 9% and 15%. Fortified wines such as Port and Sherry are around 20%. Spirits are usually bottled at 40-43%.

American oak: Species of oak much used to make barrels for ageing wine. It is cheaper than French oak and generally considered inferior.

Anbaugebiet (Ger.): Term used to indicate the 13 major wine regions of Germany. Each Anbaugebiet can be further subdivided into one or more Bereich, Grosslage (or Ursprungslage) and Einzellage.

Approved Viticulture Areas: (AVAs) US appellation system, defining regions entitled to a geographical designation  for their wines.

Aguardiente (Spanish):, aguardente (Portuguese) or augardente (Galician) is the generic name for alcoholic drinks between 29 and 45 percent alcohol, meaning "firewater", or, literally "burning water". The word itself is a portmanteau of "agua" and "ardiente.

Aroma: Tasting term used to indicate the smells of a wine, particularly those deriving from the grape & fermentation.

Astringent: Tasting term used to indicate a sharp bitterness. Usually a fault, a wine may become less astringent with ageing.

Auslese: (Ger.) Quality white wine category, meaning late/selected harvest; Grapes are picked at least a week after Spatlese.

Balanced: Tasting term, used to indicate a wine in which all the elements (fruit, acidity, tannin, etc.) are in harmony.

Barrel: Vessel used for ageing, and sometimes fermenting. There are many different shapes and sizes, but the most popular are the barrique of 225 liters and the hogshead of around 300 liters. Nearly always made of oak; New barrels impart an oaky flavor to the wine whereas old ones simply allow a controlled oxidation.

BATF: - United States Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms; the Federal agency that regulates the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.A.

Beerenauslese (Ger.): Quality white wine category, meaning 'selected grapes'; individual berries, usually botrytis affected, are cut from bunches. Minimum must weights are laid down according to variety and region; sweet, luscious wines.

Bite: Tasting term used to indicate a powerful initial sensation of acidity or tannin, which grabs attention immediately the wine is tasted.

Bitter: One of the four basic flavours which can be detected by the tongue. Bitterness is a fault in excess, but is normally balanced by fruit and sweetness.

Blanc de Blancs (Fr.): White wine made from white grapes.

Blanc de noirs (Fr.): White wine made from black grapes

Bodega (Sp.): A wine-making cellar or winery.

Body: Tasting term used to indicate the weight of the wine in the mouth.

Botrytis: Fungus which attacks grapes; it is essential for the finest sweet whites, where the fungus ('noble rot') allows water to evaporate from the berries leading to a concentration in sugar content.

Bottle age: Period that a wine has spent ageing in bottle, which may be months, years or decades.

Bottle fermented: Sparkling wine in which the second, bubble-forming fermentation took place in bottle (rather than in tank); always the case for Champagne.

Bouquet: Tasting term used to indicate the smells that develop with ageing.

Bourgogne: French for the Burgundy region.

Brut (Fr.): Label term used mainly for Champagne and other sparkling wines to indicate 'very dry'.

Cantina (It.): A winemaking cellar or winery.

Carbon dioxide (CO2): Gas generated during fermentation. Normally most is allowed to escape into the atmosphere. For sparkling wines the CO2 is trapped in the bottle and is responsible for the bubbles. Winemakers often use CO2 to protect juice and wine from oxygen at various stages in the winemaking process.

Cellar: Literally an underground room. Much winemaking was traditionally done underground, though the term cellar is now used to indicate anywhere that grapes are processed and wines stored and aged.

Champagne: - Sparkling wine, specifically the type made in the French region of the same name using a traditional process in which the wine gains its sparkle by a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes. Some U.S. wineries still appropriate the name for their sparkling wines, a practice illegal in Europe; but as with Chablis, above, and Burgundy, this practice is dying out.

Chaptalization: Enrichment of grape juice with sugar or concentrated must; it is authorized  (within limits) in cooler regions where grapes do not achieve adequate natural ripeness.

Château (Fr.):  Castle; wine-producing estate (even if it doesn't have a real castle).

Claret: Anglo-Saxon term for any red wine of Bordeaux.

Classed growth: English translation of the French 'cru class', meaning a wine-producing  estate that has been ranked in an official classification (particularly in Bordeaux).

Classico (It.): Label term appended to several Italian wine names, to indicate the original  heart of the zone (e.g. Chianti Classico is the centre of the larger Chianti region).

Clos (Fr.): a walled or “closed in” vineyard.

Co-operative (co-op): Group of winegrowers who commonly share winemaking equipment and cellar facilities; large co-ops often employ a team of winemaking and sales professionals. The winegrowers bring their grapes to the co-op for processing, are paid according to the quantity they deliver, and later share in the profits generated by sales. The system is particularly useful in regions where there are many growers with small vineyard holdings, and it is not economically viable for each to have winemaking facilities.

Cork: Bark of the cork oak tree, and the substance traditionally used to stopper wine bottles. Natural cork stoppers have excellent qualities of elasticity, keeping the wine in the bottle while not allowing air to intrude. It is only quite recently that synthetic substitutes have been developed to try to combat the problem of corked wine.

Corked/corky: Fault in wine caused by a contaminated cork; corked wine is easier to recognize than to describe: it is woody, moldy, stale and mouth-puckering.

Côte (Fr.):Some of the finest vineyards are found on hillsides rather than on the plain. The term forms part of many French (and some foreign) regional names.

Crémant (Fr.): Sparkling wine, bottle fermented, produced in France but outside Champagne.

Cru bourgeois (Fr.): Bourgeois growth; Level of classification in the Bordeaux region coming immediately below cru class, often very good quality wine at an affordable price.

Cru classé (Fr.): Classed growth; the top level of classification in the Bordeaux region. Wines of the Médoc and Sauternes were classified in 1855, and the top wines were divided into league tables from First Growth (the best, or rather the most expensive) down to Fifth Growth. The classification has scarcely altered since, and so some Second Growths, for example, rival their First Growth neighbours ;in quality if not in price.

Demi-sec (Fr.): Medium dry.

Disgorgement: The process of removing the yeast sediment resulting from the secondary fermentation in bottle of Champagne and other quality sparkling wines. This normally involves plunging the neck of the bottle into freezing brine, so that the sediment forms a solid plug that is ejected under pressure when the bottle is opened.

DO (Denominacin de origen): Spanish system for quality wines produced in a specified region (QWPSR). Each DO has a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties, and sometimes alcohol and sugar levels.

DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata): Italian system for quality wines produced in a specified region (QWPSR). There are more than 200 DOCs, each with a set of rules defining the region of production, permitted grape varieties and yields, and sometimes ageing requirements. The system provides a guarantee of authenticity for the consumer while protecting the producer from competition. A higher level also exists, DOCG.

DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita): the highest quality wine designation in Italy; the promotion of DOCs to DOCGs has generally involved the imposition of more stringent rules on yield and grape varieties.

Dolce (It.): Sweet wine; sweeter than amabile or abboccato.

Dosage (Fr.); Dose of sweetness added to Champagne (and other sparkling wines) just before the final cork is put in place. Almost all sparkling wines have some added sweetness, even if they are labelled brut.

Double magnum: Bottle of 3 liters equivalent to 4 normal (750ml) bottles; in Champagne this size is called jeroboam.

Dry: Tasting term used to indicate an absence of detectable sweetness. Many wines contain a little residual sugar, while still tasting dry.

Eiswein (Ger.): Ice wine; sweet wine style made in Germany and Austria (and Canada). Grapes are left on the vine until much later than usual (sometimes after Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere) in the hope that icy conditions will prevail. The water content in the grapes then freezes and they are quickly picked and pressed to yield a juice rich in sugar. The resulting wines are rich and luscious, though without the botrytis flavour of other sweet wines.

Espumoso (Sp.): Sparkling; most Spanish sparkling wines come under the Cava DO, but a few are simply classed as vino espumoso.

Estate bottled: Mainly New World term, used to indicate that the wine was bottled on the property where the grapes were grown.

Extra sec (Fr): Extra dry; mainly used in Champagne but in fact it is a sweeter style than brut.

Fermentation: Complex process in which sugars, naturally present in grape juice, are transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of yeasts. Heat is the other main by-product.

Fortified wine: usually sweet wine, in which the alcoholic fermentation is stopped before all the sugar has been consumed, by the addition of brandy. The alcohol kills the yeast, leaving a sweet wine with high alcohol. Examples include Port and Vin Doux Natural. Sherry, by contrast, is fortified after fermentation, and so it is naturally dry.


Frizzante (It.): Gently sparkling. Fully sparkling wines are spumante.

Fruity: Tasting term used to describe the attractive flavour of wine made from ripe grapes, which may be reminiscent of a wide range of fruits including citrus fruits, red and black berries.

Grafting: Technique of joining fruit-bearing vines, usually Vitis vinifera, to rootstocks; usually of other Vitis species. Since the outbreak of phylloxera in the nineteenth century, most of the world's vineyards have been planted with vinifera vines grafted onto rootstock of vines native to America, which are resistant to phylloxera. Different rootstocks are chosen to suit soil type and to manipulate yield and vigor.

Grand Cru (class) (Fr.): Literally '(classified) great growth'; the meaning varies by region. Within Bordeaux, grand cru class refers to the top estates of Medoc, Graves and Sauternes, and the top wines of St Emilion. In Burgundy and Chablis the very top vineyard sites are referred to as grand cru (which is a higher classification than premier cru). Alsace also has vineyards classified as grand cru (fairly recently), and in Champagne this designation is used for the most highly rated vineyard sites (and by extension the wines made exclusively from them).

Gran Reserva (Sp.): Literally 'great reserve'; wine that has fulfilled certain (lengthy) ageing requirements (5 years min) and in theory, comes from a good vintage; in practice, such wines are often too old, and reserva is more likely to appeal to modern palates.

Halb-trocken:"Half-dry" in German; wines intentionally made with less than the typical amount of residual sugar.

Hectare (ha): Unit of area; equal to 10 000 m2 (2.47 acres). Vineyards in Europe are normally measured in hectares and yields expressed in terms of hectoliters of wine produced per hectare of vineyard.

Hectolitre (hl): a unit of volume; equal to 100 liters.

Hybrid: Vine variety produced by crossing two parents of different species, normally with a view to achieving earlier ripening or improved disease resistance. Not to be confused with a cross (two parents of the same species).

IGT (Indicazione geografica tipica): Italy wine designation, roughly equivalent to French Vin de Pays. Used for some up-market wines that falls outside the local DOC/G regulations.

Kabinett (Ger.): German and Austrian quality wine designation, the base level in the Pradikat system; usually dry or medium dry.

Kosher wine: Made according to the traditions of the Jewish faith under the supervision of a rabbi.

Late harvest: Label term used to indicate a wine made from grapes harvested later than usual, normally therefore at a high degree of maturity and possibly affected by botrytis, always sweet.

Lees: Dead yeast cells, which form a deposit at the bottom of a tank after the alcoholic fermentation. Winemakers may age the wine in the presence of the lees, to protect from oxidation and provide a more complex flavour.

Legs: Tasting term used to describe the pattern formed when drops of wine trickle down the inside of the glass after the wine has been swirled. Good or persistent legs indicate a high viscosity and are sometimes associated with higher glycol.

Length: Tasting term used to indicate the duration of the aftertaste, once a wine has been swallowed. Good length is a sign of a high-quality wine.

Liqueur de tirage (Fr.): Mixture of wine, sugar and yeast, added to the base wine to induce the second, bubble-forming fermentation in Champagne and other sparkling wines.

Liqueur d’Expedition (Fr.): Mixture of wine and sugar added to Champagne and other sparkling wines after disgorgement and just before the final cork is inserted.

Maceration: Process of steeping grape skins in their juice, to extract flavour and, in the case of reds, colour and tannin. Essential for red wines, the maceration may last between a few days and a few weeks; optional for whites, and usually limited to a few hours.

lMagnum: Bottle of 1.5 liters, equal to 2 normal (750ml) bottles.

Malolactic fermentation: Transformation (not technically a fermentation at all) in which the tart tasting malic acid present in young wine is transformed into the softer lactic acid. Normal for reds but optional for whites; whites that have undergone Malolatic can have a distinctive buttery taste.

Marc: Solids, such as dry skins and pips, left after pressing; also used to describe the spirit made by distilling the marc.

Méthode Traditionnelle (Fr.): Traditional method (of making sparkling wines); sparkling wines made by this method undergo the second bubble-forming fermentation in the actual bottle in which they will be sold. The term is widely used on labels of sparkling wines from outside Champagne.

Méthode Champenoise (Fr.): The Champagne method. Sparkling wines made by this method undergo the second bubble-forming fermentation in the actual bottle in which they will be sold. The term was formerly used on labels of sparkling wines from outside Champagne, but has now been replaced by “méthode traditionnelle”, and local equivalents.


Mis(e) en bouteille au Château (Fr.): Bottled at the chateau (where the wine was produced).

 Moelleux (Fr.) Sweet; much used in the Loire Valley for fully sweet, rich wines.

Mousseux (Fr.): Sparkling; usually indicates that the wine was made by the Charmat method rather than the method traditionnelle.

Musky: Tasting term used to indicate a floral, perfumed aroma, typical of aromatic grapes of the Muscat family.

Must: In winemaking, the mixture of grape skins and grape juice that results after crushing but before fermentation has transformed it into wine.

Non-vintage: Wine with no specified vintage on the label.

Oak: Family of trees much associated with wine. Oak is considered the best material for construction of barrels for fermenting or ageing wine. It has the necessary mechanical properties for cooperage and, when new, imparts a pleasant flavour to the wine. A by-product of barrel-making is oak chips, and recently some winemakers have started to use these to impart oak flavour to wines without incurring the high cost of buying barrels. Finally, the bark of the cork oak is the source of the traditional closure for wine bottles.

Oaky: Tasting term indicating the presence of oak flavour on the nose or palate, typically a smell of freshly sawn wood or vanilla. Well-integrated oak may not be detectable, giving added complexity without dominating the flavour. Excessive oakiness is considered a fault by many wine lovers.

Oenology: Scientific study of wine.

Organic wine: Made from grapes grown without use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and with a minimum of additives in the cellar.

Oxidation: Group of chemical reactions which occur when wine comes into contact with air. Slight oxidation results in a loss of fruit and freshness and browning in white wines. More severe oxidation results in a high level of volatile acidity and, eventually, transformation of the wine into vinegar.

Oxidized: Tasting term indicating that the wine has suffered from contact with air & resulting in browning in white wines, loss of fruit and freshness and possibly a high level of volatile acidity.

Petillant (Fr.) Semi-sparkling; used on labels and also as a tasting term to describe any wine with bubbles evident in the glass or on the tongue.

Phylloxera( Greek): Vine disease caused by an aphid which attacks the root system. Phylloxera devastated Europe’s vineyards in the nineteenth century. The solution was eventually found: to graft European vines onto resistant American rootstocks. More recently, California has suffered from phylloxera, owing to the use of non-resistant rootstocks. A few privileged areas are free from phylloxera, notably much of Chile.

Premier cru (Fr.): In Bordeaux, this means one of the wines at the very top of the classification. In Burgundy, premier cru is the next level down from grand cru; such wines are labelled with the village appellation plus the name of the premier cru.

Racking: Winemaking term for the process of separating a wine from its sediment, by moving the liquid from one container to another it is also used for aerating wine.

Recioto: Italian term for sweet heady wines made from grapes that have been concentrated by air drying. The most commonly found is the red Recioto della Valpolicella but white Recioto, also made in some regions, as are sparkling version.

Reserva (Sp.): Reserve; wine that has been aged for a minimum specified period (according to the DO) normally including a period in barrel; many of the best red wines of Rioja are bottled as reserva, while the older gran reserva category can be rather too old for modern tastes.

Residual sugar: Is sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation and once it is ready for bottling. The level of residual sugar determines whether the wine will be dry, medium dry, sweet, etc, though even the driest wines contain a little residual sugar.

Riddling: Winemaking term for the process of gradually turning and shaking bottle-fermented sparkling wine (such as Champagne) so that the sediment of dead yeast cells moves to the neck, for subsequent removal by disgorgement; riddling can be done manually or using a machine.

Riserva: Label term used in Italy to indicate a wine of superior quality which has normally also fulfilled a minimum ageing requirement.

Sec (Fr.): Dry. Still wines labelled sec should taste completely dry, but sec Champagne is relatively fruity (sweeter than brut).

Second wine: Second-quality wine from a property (particularly in Bordeaux), often blended from wines not considered appropriate for the first wine (or grand vin); it can represent good value for money.

Spatlese (Ger.): German and Austrian quality wine category, meaning late harvest; grapes are picked after Kabinett and certain minimum must weights are laid down. Spatlese wines can be dry, medium and even quite sweet.

Sur lie (Fr.): On lees; the practice of ageing wine, normally white, on its lees or dead yeast cells, to give more complex flavour and protect against oxidation. Sometimes found on labels, notably in Muscadet.

Tannic: Tasting term used to describe the quality and intensity of tannin in red wines. Young wines may have harsh, bitter tannins, reminiscent of stewed tea that will mellow with age. Ideally, the tannin is well integrated and in balance with the fruit and acidity.

Tannin: Group of compounds found naturally in grape skins, which contribute importantly to the structure and ageing potential of red wines. Extra tannin is sometimes added during winemaking, and oak-derived tannin comes from ageing the wine in new barrels.

Tartaric acid: Naturally occurring acid found in grapes and almost nowhere else and the most important acid in wine. A good level of acidity is essential for balance, the refreshing taste of crisp whites and ageing potential in all wines. In hot regions, extra tartaric acid is added to 'correct' the acidity.

Terroir: French term for the notion that the complex combination of soil, climate, exposition and local tradition define the style of wine; all that makes the wine itself.

Trockenbeerenauslese: German and Austrian quality wine category, meaning 'selected dried berries'. Individually selected, shrivelled, over-ripe grapes are cut from the bunches. High must weights are laid down, and the resulting wines are normally lusciously sweet and rich. The best are made from the Riesling grape.

V.D.Q.S.( Vin délimité de qualité superieur): French quality wine designation coming just below AC in the hierarchy. Regions are generally awarded VDQS status in the expectation that they will eventually be promoted to AC. As with AC, there are rules to define the vineyard area, permitted grape varieties and yields, etc.

Vieilles vignes (Fr.): Old vines.

Vin (Fr.): Wine.

Vin de Pays (Fr.): Country wine. French wine category which, like AC, lays down designated areas permitted grape varieties and yields, etc. The rules are generally more flexible than for AC and importantly, varietal designations may be used. Vin de Pays may cover entire regions (e.g. Vin de Pays d'Oc), single French departments (e.g. Vin de Pays de l'Aude), or smaller areas.

Vendange tardive (Fr.): Late harvest. Usually implies ripe fruit and hence sweetness or high alcohol.

Vin de table (Fr.): Table wine.

Vino da tavola (It.): Table wine.

Vino de la tierra (Sp.): Country wine; Spanish equivalent of the French Vin de Pays category.

Vino de mesa (Sp.): Table wine.

Vintage: The year in which the grapes used to make a wine were grown; also used to describe the harvest period.

Vitis vinifera: Species of vine from which most wine grapes are grown. In most regions, the vinifera vine is grafted onto rootstock from other Vitis species to protect against phylloxera.

White Zinfandel : Blush wine, usually California, usually simple and often slightly sweet & made by removing red Zinfandel grapes from the juice before they impart significant colour.

Wine: Fermented juice of the grape.

Winery: Place where wine is made.

Yeast: Living substance responsible for the production of the enzymes that permit fermentation, the conversion of sugar into alcohol, with heat and carbon dioxide as by products. Yeast occurs naturally on grape skins, but many winemakers today use specially selected cultured yeasts to allow better control of the fermentation.

Yield: Quantity of grapes harvested from a given area of vineyard. Received wisdom is that low yield equals high quality, though in practice there are many factors at work, including density of plantation, local climate, etc. Yields are normally expressed in weight per unit area (tons per acre) or volume per unit area (hectoliters per hectare).

Zinfandel: is a variety of red grape planted in over 10 percent of California wine vineyards. DNA fingerprinting revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski, and also the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in the 'heel' of Italy (Puglia).

It is typically made into a robust red wine, but in the USA a semi-sweet rosé (blush-style) wine called White Zinfandel has six times the sales of the red wine. Zinfandel has such high sugar levels that it was originally grown for table grapes in the USA, and this sugar can be fermented into high levels of alcohol, sometimes 15% or more.

Port Wine :

Only after the British discovered Port Wine at the end of the 17th century, did the fame of its fine quality start spreading all over the world. In the middle 1750's, the Portuguese authorities started controlling all the aspects of Port Wine production, including the demarcation of the boundaries of the Douro region

Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Oporto, Porto, and often simply

Port: is a Portuguese, fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet wine, but comes as dry or semi-dry too. It is often served as a dessert wine. Wines in the style of the Portuguese product called port are produced around the world in several countries—most notably Australia, South Africa, India, Canada, Argentina and the United States. However, under European Union guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labelled as Port. In the United States, Federal law mandates that the Portuguese-made product be labelled Porto or Vinho do Porto.

Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified with the addition of a Brandy (distilled grape spirits), in order to stop the fermentation leaving residual sugar in the wine and to boost the alcohol content. The wine is then stored and aged; often in barrels stored in case(Portuguese meaning "cellars") as is the case in Vila Nova de Gaia, before being bottled. The wine received its name, "Port," in the latter half of the 17th century from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe from the Leixões docks. The Douro valley where Port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region or appellation in 1756 — making it the oldest defined and protected wine region in the world.

These are the different styles of Port Wines:


Tawny Ports

Tawny ports are wines made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels, exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result, they gradually mellow to a golden-brown colour. The exposure to wood imparts "nutty" flavours to the wine, which is blended to match the house style.

Tawny Reserve port (without an indication of age) is a basic blend of wood aged port that has spent at least seven years in barrels. Tawny with an indication of age is a blend of several vintages, with the average years "in wood" stated on the label, the official categories being 10, 20, 30 and over 40 years. For each category, the average age of the various vintage is at least that of the given category.

The cheapest forms of Tawny Port are young wines made from a blend of red and white grapes. Unlike Tawny Reserve and Tawnies with an indication of age, they may have spent little or no time maturing in wood.  Tawny ports from a single vintage are called Colheitas (pronounced col-YATE-ah, meaning harvest). Instead of an indication of age (10, 20...) their actual vintage year is mentioned. However, they should not be mistaken with Vintage port .The term colheita is also applied to madeiras produced from grapes of a single vintage


Ruby port

Ruby port is the cheapest and most extensively produced type of port. After fermentation it is stored in tanks made of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative aging, and preserve its rich claret colour. 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. It is aged for about 3 to 5 years from wines of two or three different vintages.


Vintage port

Although it accounts for only about two percent of production, vintage port is the flagship wine of all Portugal. Vintage port is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro; only those when conditions are favourable to the production of a fine and lasting wine. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of 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'. The port industry is one where reputations are hard won and easily lost, so the decision is never taken lightly. During periods of recession and war, potential 'declarations' have sometimes been missed for economic reasons. In recent years, some shippers have adopted the 'chateau' principle for declarations, declaring all but the worst years. More conventional shippers will declare, on average, about three times a decade.


Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

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 rather 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.

The filtered wine has the advantage of being ready to drink without decanting, and is bottled in a “stoppered” bottle that can be easily resealed. This is designed to exploit the extended shelf life such wines enjoy by comparison with vintage port, once opened. However many wine experts feel that this convenience comes at a price and believe that the filtration process strips out much of the character of the wine.

The term Late Bottled Vintage was first introduced by Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman in 1969, for the 1965 vintage, and the improved shelf life of the filtered and stabilized wine over vintage port was designed to appeal to the restaurant trade.

Storing Port

Port, like other wine should be stored in a cool, but not cold, dark location (as light can damage the port), with a steady temperature (such as a cellar), lying the bottle on its side if the bottle has a cork, or standing up if stoppered.

Serving Port

With the exception of white port, which can be served chilled, port should be served at between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Tawny port may also be served slightly cooler.

Opened Bottles

Once opened, port wines must be consumed within a short period of time. Those with stoppers can be kept for a couple of months in a dark place, but if it has a cork it must be consumed sooner. Typically, the older the vintage, the quicker it must be consumed.

Decanting Port: Why?

Port wines that are unfiltered (Such as Vintage ports, Crusted and some LBVs), form a sediment (or crust) in the bottle and require decanting. This process also allows the port to breathe; however, how long before serving is dependent on the age of the port (particularly in the case of Vintage ports, which, once decanted are recommended to be consumed within 3-4 days).


Process of Decanting

If the bottle was lying on its side, stand the bottle upright for some time before opening it (an hour or two is best, but at least 30 minutes.); then, taking care to leave the sediment in the bottle, slowly pour the port into a clean, dry decanter, stopping as soon as any sediment is seen. If the cork has disintegrated, then a filter, such as a piece of clean muslin will be required.




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