A beginners guide to Port Wine by @TaylorsPortWine

Sunset at the Douro Valley, Portugal

Sunset at the Douro Valley, Portugal

Port Wine for Under 70s? You bet! I have recently fallen in love with this special grape juice, which comes in many shapes and colours. Obviously, I didn’t know much about it, and always keen to learn. A big thank you to Richard Bowden from Taylor’s who has volunteered to explain to Mrs O and her friends a bit more about Port – here is a beginners guide to Port Wine. Should we raise a glass? xx Mrs. O

With a variety of different styles, Port is the perfect aperitif, a delicious after dinner dessert wine or a fruity addition to a summer cocktail and, as one of the world’s great wines, Port is a must have for any wine lover’s cellar.

If you’ve never tried it or you’re not sure what you’re missing out on, here’s a 10 point beginner’s guide to enjoying Port.

Porto and the Ribeira area seen from Vila Nova de Gaia

Porto and the Ribeira area seen from Vila Nova de Gaia

1.       So what is Port wine?

Port is a sweet, fortified wine which begins its life much in the same way as other wines do, with the crushing of grapes. But it’s distinctive, sweet and fruit-filled taste comes from the way that grape spirit is added during fermentation process, which stops the yeast from turning the natural sugars present in the grapes into alcohol and at the same time, increases the alcohol content of the wine to around 20%.


2.       What are the different styles of Port?

Port comes in 4 main styles which suit a variety of occasions and different foods and it is the diversity of these different styles that is one of its greatest attractions:


Port goes well with fruit

Port goes well with fruit

Ruby Port

These full-bodied and fruit-laden Ports age for a relatively short period of time in large wooden vats (2-6 years), maintaining their deep red colour and intense flavours which are reminiscent of black fruits and cherry. Ruby Ports, which include Reserve Ports and Late Bottled Vintages, are the ideal partner for a cheeseboard, chocolate dessert and can be used to make a scrumptious Port wine sauce.

Tawny Port

Aged in wooden barrels, sometimes for decades, rich and mellow Tawny Port is lighter in colour and has a delicious nuttiness with aromas of butterscotch and mellow spicy aromas;  characteristics which intensify with age. Served chilled, a 10 year old tawny is a sumptuous aperitif. Alternatively, drink as the perfect accompaniment to crème brûlée, honey and almond cake or hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Manchego.


Fancy a bit of Vintage Port?

Fancy a bit of Vintage Port?

Vintage Port

The very best Port wine from a single year and only produced in years when the wine is deemed to be of excellent quality. It’s kept in barrels for only 2 years, and then bottled, unfiltered, where it continues to age and mature over time. The most long-lasting of Port, Vintage can be enjoyed when young and full of red fruits and tannins, or allowed to mellow to a subtler, more elegant finish. Pairs superbly with  Stilton or other salty blue cheeses.

White port on ice? I dare you!

White port on ice? I dare you!


White Port

A crisp, fresh Port made from white grapes.  Serve chilled or mixed with tonic water. The perfect aperitif or relaxer  on a hot summer’s day. Try it with almonds or olives for the perfect palate match.


I love Rose Port sangria!

I love Rose Port sangria!

Rosé Port

A relatively new style of Port, lighter in style and full of deliciously ripe cherry & raspberry fruit flavours. Serve chilled, straight up, on the rocks or mixed in a variety of refreshing cocktails. Superb with any fruit based dessert!


3.       At what temperature should I serve Port?

White and rosé Port should be served chilled (6ºC to 7ºC). Tawny slightly chilled (12º to 16ºC), whilst Ruby should be served at cellar temperature, or 16ºC to 18ºC. At temperatures higher than this, you will start to lose the elegance of the wine and the alcohol will become more noticeable.


4.       What’s the difference between Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage?

Both Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV, are made with grapes from a single year. However, whilst Vintage Port is bottled after spending only 2 years in the barrel, LBV stays in the barrel for between four and six years before bottling, or in other words, it’s  bottled late, and hence the name. It is this extra maturation in the barrel that makes LBV more suitable for immediate drinking, whilst still maintaining some of its superior Vintage quality. Vintage Port, on the other hand, will continue to improve with age for years to come.

Taylor's Vargella Estate in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Taylor’s Vargella Estate in the Douro Valley, Portugal

5.       How long can I keep an opened bottle?

With the exception of Vintage Port, all other Ports once opened can be kept for between 2 and 6 weeks, although it’s unlikely you will be able to resist drinking it before that long! Keep it in a cool place out of direct sunlight, or even in the refrigerator to prolong this period and help keep the Port at its best. A young Vintage Port, on the other hand, should be drunk within 2 days to enjoy it at its best and an older vintage on the same evening. It is perfectly safe to drink after this period, but it will lose some of its vintage character.


6.       Where does Port come from?

Port only comes from Portugal, and more specifically, the mountainous Douro Valley in the north of the country. It takes its name from the beautiful and historic city of Porto, where Port has been traded for centuries.


7.       So it’s been around for a while then. How did it all start?

Wine has been made in the Douro Valley since Roman times, but the first records of the wine which we know today as Port began in the late 17th century. Thanks to the some trade disagreements between England and France, England started sourcing more of its wine from Portugal. To prevent the wine from spoiling on the long journey, shippers fortified it by adding grape spirit. To say the English liked the sweeter style of Port is an understatement and Port sales grew quickly. Port is now sold all over the world and is most popular in the UK, USA, France, Portugal and Canada.


8.       Do I serve it in a special glass?

Special glassware isn’t necessary, but do use a – quality glass to get the full Port experience. Giving the Port room to breathe in a glass will enhance the aromas and the taste of the Port. If you don’t have any specific Port glasses, a normal sized white wine glass is fine.


Taylor's Tasting Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Taylor’s Tasting Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

9.       Porto sounds great! Can I visit the Port cellars?

Many of the Port cellars run tours, where you can get the full story on how Port is made, and try some Port too. If you’re looking for more information on Porto, check out this post, ‘Glass of Porto, anyone?


10.   I’ve heard enough, where can I get some Port!?

Check out the following sites for more details on Port, where to buy it (Taylor’s Port has a store locator) and further tips and information on how to enjoy Port wine:

Taylor’s Port:

Fonseca Guimaraens:

Croft Port:

Croft Pink:

By Richard Bowden, Taylor’s Port

Article was posted on
View Comments (41)


  1. Ryan

    November 3, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Great summary of all things Port. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Ryan recently posted..Guide to Wine Serving TemperatureMy Profile

  2. Shae

    March 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I was just recently introduced to port wine. There is no other wine for me now. Love it!

  3. Jasper

    October 2, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Nice and clear story, good quality pictures to.
    Liked reading it.

  4. Hugo

    September 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Nice post here with very inviting photos. Being a port lover, it’s good to get to know about the preparation steps alongside all the great tips that this post came with. Very informative piece. keep more of this coming.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      September 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you, Hugo. Recently had one on champagne. Hope you enjoy it!

  5. lola

    August 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    mmmm i loved that Croft Rose Port!
    lola recently posted..Relative Threads – Tying Together Festive & Fun!My Profile

  6. Malin

    August 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Great article! And yes, my thoughts were on Christmas, however, I do like the taste so maybe it is just a good idea to get started making Port an all year around treat!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      I keep a bottle of 10-hr tawny in the fridge.. its lovely and it keeps!

  7. Duncan

    July 11, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Nice article. Most people seem to think Spain when you say port wine but I think Portugal is overlooked.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 13, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Really? Port is from Portugal and none comes from Spain!

  8. Normy

    May 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Oh… very nice pics showing the beautiful scenery. Just wish we could be there in person to see and taste it.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Now that is an idea!

  9. Pingback: A biginners Guide to Port Wine by Mrs O Around the World | Porto and the North

  10. Hadleigh Wines

    December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Great post thank you very much for sharing – good to hear from all your readers about their own explorations in the world of Port tasting too!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      December 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

      My pleasure!

  11. Maria

    November 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I always thought Port was for older people and this summer I tried a Port caipirinha. Was delicious! I have now ventured to White Port and Tonic and Rosé Port with Sprite and love it!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      November 28, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Oh I love those!! Now it’s time to try red port! I would suggest a bottle of 10 year old Tawny straight from the fridge!

  12. Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    November 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    I’m a port fan too. Maybe because I’m a fan of sweets in general. 🙂
    Gerard ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Seeing Prague on SegwayMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      November 28, 2012 at 8:21 am

      That’s great 🙂 I love it too!

  13. Tawny of Captain and Clark

    November 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Tawny port is obviously my favorite but only for biased reasons. I love how you broke down each different kind of port. I’m one step closer to becoming an aficionado. Now I’m a little thirsty… 😉
    Tawny of Captain and Clark recently posted..Our Travel Christmas Wish List.My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      November 28, 2012 at 8:22 am

      Excellent, now get yourself a bottle of 10 year old Tawny and put it in the fridge!

  14. D.J. - The World of Deej

    November 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    MJ is a huge port fan, and I’ll have to pass this on to her. The white port and tonic sounds intriguing:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Where Should We Stay in Las Vegas – You DecideMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      November 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      Hey it is an acquired taste! I started drinking it recently.. now hooked!

  15. robert adico

    June 26, 2012 at 11:31 am

    fine…It is truly a great and helpful piece of information.
    I am satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  16. restlessjo

    March 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Hope to make it to Taylors for a wine tasting some day soon. Haven’t come across the pink yet but raspberries are good with me.

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      March 14, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Joanna! It will be great in the summer 🙂 be sure to try it!

  17. Pingback: Funny travel incidents: Mr P, “Figura” and the lion… « avatarofmrbean

  18. Pingback: A beginners guide to Port Wine – Guest Bloggers | Wine in Tuscany |

  19. CJ

    March 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    LOVE this post, so full of information and beautiful pictures. I’m new to wine and I have had a glass or two of port before. Never knew about Rose port! It’s only 830a but I’m ready to head to my wine store. Thanks!

  20. AbsolutelyFaaabulous

    March 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Great great great post! I learned so much.. I did not even know there were 4 different types ;(( Now, I will look a bit less stupid in “society” next time and might even be able to impress my bf. Thanks so much. Really enjoyed reading this article.

  21. Pingback: A beginners guide to Port Wine – Guest Bloggers « Mrs. O Around … | A Beginner's Guide To

  22. Matt

    February 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I love port and always have done and as you so rightly point out the different styles suit different foods and occasions. Great drink though though by many to be for old people; maybe its the social etiquette which puts people off, but I hope rappers never get hold of it and ruin it.

    what about Crusted port, or am I getting too anglo-saxon here?

    • mrsoaroundtheworld

      February 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Matt 🙂 no idea what you are talking about! I think there is different etiquette for different types of Port.. I love a caipirinha made with white or rose port 🙂 and port and tonic is a good gin replacement in the summer!

  23. César Castro

    February 29, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Really nice post! A good way to start learning about Port! Congratulations!

  24. Mira

    February 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

    A lovely presentation of the history and production of Porto wine, documented with pretty photographs. Makes me want to travel to Porto and sample the original 🙂 Job well done Ana ~~~

  25. sedimentblog.comhe Sediment Blog

    February 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    There is this gentlemanly thing surrounding vintage port. The great port houses were founded by English merchants, who established a unique relationship with the English aristocracy. When the ladies left a dining room, it was port which emerged to lubricate an Englishman’s serious discussions. And like any English social activity, there are a whole set of rules and rituals surrounding the “proper’ drinking of port. Just the sort of historical baggage to lure someone like myself…

  26. Andrew Petcher

    February 29, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Great post that reminded me of my visit to Porto in 2007 and a long and enjoyable day around the port wine lodges – thanks for the memory nudge!

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