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The Best Port Wine and History of Wine Portugal

Updated on December 29, 2017
Anita Hasch profile image

I live on a homestead in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Writing and reading are my passion.

Best Wineries of Portugal

The house of Ferreira traces its roots back to 1751 when it was founded by the Ferreira family in the Douro valley. The ‘House of Ferreira,’ started by Antonia Adelaide Ferreira.. This lady has become a legend. She was widowed in her thirties and planted new vineyards, as well as organizing the construction of new wineries along the Douro River.


Port is a Blend of Different Grapes

Port is a sophisticated blend of different grapes. Some port is blended from red wines that were produced from different harvests. These wines are matured for up to 25 years. At harvest time ten liters of double-strength brandy gets added to every fifty liters of wine. This is done to sweeten the port. The brandy arrests the fermentation and prevents the sugar of the sweet Douro grapes to change into alcohol, which would produce dry, claret like wine.


Port was Discovered While Wine Merchants Experimented

Port was ‘invented’ by British wine merchants while they were experimenting with brandy, in the early nineteenth century. The English port merchants arrived in Portugal during the late seventeenth century, after England’s wars with France. They had travelled to Portugal to find new sources of wine to replace those sources that were no longer available, due to the war.


Port Received Its Name From The City Of Oporto

Port received its name from the city of Oporto, the capital of Northern Portugal. Also well known and respected for their prized vintages, is the Quinta do Noval, where meticulously tended terraces speak of generations of loving care. At the Vila Nova de Gaia’s are the famous riverside wine warehouses, The Douro valley is about 100 kilometers eastward . The best customers are France, Britain, Belgium, West Germany and Luxemburg.


Not All The Grapes Will Yield Port

Not all the grapes of the region will yield port, however. Whether a farmer can sell his grapes for port or merely for table wine is decided by an institution known as the Casa do Douro, it also assigns each farmer a port quota and buys wines from small growers to resell the wine to the larger shippers and exporters. Its purpose is to protect the production of port wine. Casa do Douro was founded in 1932. It is based in Peso da Regua, Portugal.

At Terra Feita, a vineyard tucked away deep in the heart of the port country is part of the Taylor vintage. This used to be four properties until they were joined. The vineyards are located on the west bank of the River Pinhao, the narrow stream which winds from the north through a steep-sided valley before flowing into the Douro at the village of Pinhao. A collection of low, whitewashed cottages and a large vineyard were spread neatly along wires on steep slopes that formed a sheltered corner in the hills.

Mrs Bridges Cranberry Sauce with Port, 8.8-Ounce (Pack of 3)

A gourmet jellied sauce that is so tasty and delicious, cranberry sauce with the addition of port which is ideal for any special occasion where celebration will include a bottle of port. Cranberries contain resveratrol which is known for its health benefits and is anti-aging. It is produced in Scotland with traditional recipes and methods. I love cranberries and any recipe that includes this delicious healthy fruit.


Blend For Perfection

For the pickers at Terra Feita, the work is hard. The day starts at dawn with a quick breakfast of corn bread. After the grapes are picked and placed in baskets, the grapes are taken to the farm and emptied into granite troughs. They are then trodden into a thick, crimson must by lines of men with linked arms. When the men climb wearily out of the troughs hours later, the must from the grapes is left to ferment. When enough sugar has been turned into alcohol, which takes about three days, the wine is drawn off and piped with brandy into storage casks.

Mechanical methods have been adopted by some of the big shippers as it saves time and money. At a brand new winery in Regua, vast auto fermentation vats have been installed. Each vat doing the work of 80 men in a granite trough.

Blend For Perfection

A taster has to decide whether one wine might help another become sweeter or more richly colored or fuller bodied. He looks at the color first, but all the blending gets done through smelling the wine and then confirming it by taste.

In the tasting room the decision is made whether to proclaim a vintage port, when the entire production will be made from the grapes of one particular harvest.

Madeira-The Islands and Their Wines

Madeira-The Islands and Their Wines ( the Classic Wine Library)

By Richard Mayson’s 284 pgs.

The author shares his knowledge and passion for the wine. It is an informative book and a must have for Madeira wine lovers. This book includes everything about the vineyards and how the wines are produced, the history of the wines and the Island. There is also a list of their range of wines.

Madeira’s wine is one of the world’s most popular wines. Such an informative and well written book about Madeira history, Madeira was first produced in the fifteenth century. The travel guide at the end of the book will be appreciated by anyone that plans to visit this wonderful Island.

White Port

Mellow Wine

The vintages are the exception. All ports are fully aged in the barrel, before being bottled and ready to sell. Ruby port is obtained from young red wines. These wines are left a little longer in the barrel, and change color through oxidation to a deep mahogany and then to the burnt gold of the tawny. Taste and aroma vary as widely, the dry tanginess of a white port is vastly different from the raisin fruitiness of a ruby.

Whites made from white grapes darken in the cask from their pale straw color to a rich gold. Portuguese drink a chilled dry white, sometimes with a twist of lemon, also as an aperitif.

In the port cellars of the House of Ferreira, there are some 50,000 bottles. This is wine that represents the best of many generations of wine. At one section tagged ‘1815,’ is the famous vintage known simply as Waterloo to connoisseurs of wine.

Vintage port gets auctioned off at Christie’s in London, it has become a good investment. A vintage like Noval 1931, produced by the Quinta do Noval, is a collector’s item.

© 2017 Anita Hasch


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    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 11 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Hi Spanish Food,

      I must admit that I do not have any expert knowledge on port wine. My interest in the research I did for this hub is that my grandmother was Portuguese and her surname was Ferreira as well. However, I do believe that 'cockburn's vintage porto 11,' is popular.

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 11 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I know more about sherry than port, so this was a really interesting read for me. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for some port wines for a sherry-lover to try?

    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 13 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Hi Nadine,

      Thank for reading my hub. I actually have some grape pips that I want to try and grow.

      I have been successful with bananas, and guavas. I also have a apple tree that I grew from a pip. I do not know if it will ever grow apples, although they grow apples at Hankey, not so far away. My raspberry plant is coming on nicely as well. Unfortunately figs do not want to grow here, although I had two beautiful trees at Despatch when we lived there. Think we have too much clay here. One of my favorite fruits, the 'martingolo,' don't know if I spelled it right. It is a red fruit with white juice inside. Sour but delicious. Green when unripe. The bush they grow on has little white flowers as well as thorns. They grow wild in Kwa Zulu Natal but here I have not been successful. At Makro and Metlife Plaza they use the plant all along the fence, because of its thorns, to keep unwelcome guests away. Every time I go there I look for the gardener to ask his advice but never see him.What fruit have you planted.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 13 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting wine story you have written. Have you tried growing grapes in PE?