Wine Culture Magazine

Photo courtesy of Port and Douro Wines

Port wines are liquid history captured in amber

Port is unique in the world of wine.

The world’s most famous fortified wine is produced in Portugal’s Douro River Valley, the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. The valley’s steep, wildly beautiful slopes are traced with ancient terraces, kilometre upon kilometre of meticulously handmade walls that support the vineyard soils and cellars. This man-made transformation of the natural landscape has justly earned the Douro UNESCO World Heritage status.

But it’s not just the land that makes Port so remarkable. The other key element is time.

These wines cross generations and anticipate the future. They have the capacity to age gracefully, capturing decades of history in their amber-tinted depths and the aromas of honey, spice and dried fruit. Intense, elegant and lively, Port are liquid history, concentrated albums of memories.

Each harvest is unique. The wines are a reflection of what nature provided that year, and that year alone. Sometimes they tell special stories: the sublime vintage of 1945 recalls the end of one of humanity’s greatest nightmares; the excellent 1963, 1966 and 1970 vintages sold so well on the international market they supported the Douro’s mechanization. Later, the 2000 and 2011 Vintage Ports became viewed as a stepping stone into the future and a promise of exciting things to come.

Referring to Port through dates, decades and centuries is not a marketing strategy; the essence of this great wine is expressed in the passage of time. Age is one of the defining factors of what is in the glass. In the case of Port, one could almost redefine the unit of time—the 365-day range is too short for such long lives.

Each bottle is an almost perfect time capsule. Tawny Ports, which are kept in barrels, undergo slow oxidation that creates voluptuous wines of enormous generosity, even when they’re relatively young. Vintage Ports, on the other hand, are undrinkable for many years, stored in an oxygen-free environment that allows only a very slow merger of alcohol, fruit and sugar that—eventually—creates robustly complex wines.

Just as reading a book requires rhythm, and wisdom requires a life journey, with Port, the passage of time cannot be altered in terms of the final goal. These treasured wines are a testament to time. History shows us we must wait, and the pleasure we seek in Port can only be found with its evolution, knowing that someone before us looked after them with care and love so that they could reach our glass.

Sponsored by Port and Douro Wines
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