What You Need to Know About Port Wine

Portuguese Food & Wine Tips from locals


This post is also available in: pt-ptPortuguês

If you are a wine enthusiast, you probably already heard about Port Wine – one of the Portuguese pearls. This is Portugal’s most exported wine and one of the most traditional drinks as well.

By the way, my name is Cristina, I live in Porto and I’m a specialist in the Port Wine history and its styles.

I’ve decided write this article to explain some curiosities about this drink, so whenever you’re doing a wine tasting, you can fully experience its flavors.

Actually, part of its magic is in its story. Not many people know this but, although Port is a Portuguese wine, produced with 100% Portuguese grapes, its most famous producers are British and Scottish. Big “wow” – right?

First, the Port Wine's Brief History

The wine that we now know as “Port Wine” was discovered in the 17th century, by the sons of an English merchant who came to Portugal to study wine production. They stayed overnight at a monastery in Douro region. It was here that they found out about the “Vinho dos Padres” (the priest’s wine”).

Wondering the origin of the name? It’s very simple, since the British used Porto’s port to ship the wine, the wine barrels were labeled “Port Wine”.

Did you know that Port Wine has an official date? It’s September 10th, just because, in 1756, the first demarcation of the Douro region was made with 335 stone marks with the designation “feitoria”.

Even today it is possible to find some of these landmarks in the original route of the region. This is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world – quite a fantastic reason to visit it.

The Port Wine Styles

Port Wine can be very confusing with all its categories and subcategories.

It’s currently divided into 4 styles: Ruby, Tawny, White and Rosé. In each style, except for the Rosé, there are several categories of Port Wine. From Port wines with a short period of time to wines with 40 or more years of aging, and the Vintage (wines declared of extraordinary quality).

Tawny, Ruby and Vintage are the most common ones, but what are really its differences (beside the price)?

Tawny and Ruby are the two main categories, while Vintage Porto is a subtype of Ruby Porto made from the harvest of a single year. Its name results not only from being “old” but mostly for being so superb and exceptional.

People from Douro, its demarcated wine region, usually say “A Tawny is made by man with the help of God, a Vintage is made by God with the help of man.”

The difference between “Tawny” and “Ruby” is its ageing process. Both are made with red grapes in the same way, but Ruby wines are normally aged between 2 to 10 years, while Tawny can be aged from 5 to 150 years! Their names are a direct result of their color.

There are still two other categories for Porto wine: White Port, made with white grapes and Porto Rosé, also called Pink Porto, made with peeled red grapes. This last one is said to be an invention of the 21st century, so it’s not recognized by everyone.

My tip as a local and expert

Want to make Porto wine even more delicious? Drink it as if it was a dessert.

Tawny is a great pairing for nuts, soft cheeses, caramel, fig or dried fruit flavors, while Ruby is great with desserts, dark chocolate, strong cheeses and spiced aromas. White Porto and Rosé Porto make a good combination with fish and seafood.


If you want to know more about this Portuguese Wine or to taste it in different ways, join my Port Wine Cocktail Workshop.

We will taste Port Wine without any mixings, and you will learn how to make Port Wine Cocktails.

That’s something new right? I’ll teach you to do the cocktails step by step and I can also customize it to your own personal taste.

In the end you will be able to do these cocktails back home and surprise your friends and family with unique styles of this exquisite wine. We will also pair the Port Wine Cocktails with traditional Portuguese “petiscos”, as there’s lunch included in my experience (vegetarian options available).

I hope you enjoyed my article, see you in my Port Wine Cocktail experience!


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About the author


I am a very enthusiastic person. Although I am reserved person, I share everything in a very passionate way. I love to travel and to experience what each place has to offer.

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