Port wine is traditionally made in Portugal although Port style wines are now made in other areas of the world including Washington and California.
Port is a type of Fortified wine. Fortified wines are “fortified” during the winemaking process with the addition of liquor. In the case of Port, brandy is added to the wine blend to fortify the wine. As a result of this fortification, Port and other fortified wines, have a higher alcohol content and shelf-life than regular table wines. There are three basic, typically sweet, categories of Port:
Full bodied, fruity red Ports, made from a large variety of traditional Potugese grape varietals, which age for a relatively short time in large oak vats. These include Ruby Ports, usually aged in vat for two or three years, Reserve Ports which are generally of higher quality and age for slightly longer and Late Bottle Vintage Ports which remain in vat for between four and six years. Although offering different degrees of complexity and sophistication, these wines share a deep red color and intense fruity flavors like cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant.
Tawny Ports age for longer periods in oak casks making them rich and mellow. These include the sumptuous 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old Tawny Ports whose delicious nuttiness and aromas of butterscotch and fine oak wood intensify the longer they spend in wood.
White Ports, made from classic white Port grapes, which are usually aged for two or three years in large vats and are available in sweeter or drier styles.
Dessert wines are typically the most flavorful and aromatic of all wine categories. While most we see are sweet, dry dessert wines are available.
Dessert wines are sweet because they do have more sugar in them. For the most part, the higher concentration of sugar in Dessert wines is due to the grapes being allowed to ripen on the vine for far longer than would be used for regular table wines. “Late Harvest” Dessert wines are truly harvested later in the season when ripe grapes have more sugar in relation to water inside the grape as they ripen on the vine. “Ice Wine” is a style of Dessert wine where the grapes are left to ripen on the vine for the entire growing season and then into a long frost where the grapes actually have frozen on the vine. This process basically freeze dries the grape which vastly increases the ratio of sugar to water inside the grape. Wine is made from these more sugary(ripe) grapes providing the necessary sweetness for Dessert wines. Most any grape varietal could be made into Dessert wine but the most common would be Riesling, Muscat and Sauternes.