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Port Wine

"The most famous fortified wine"

"O vinho fortificado mais famoso"

Learn all about the most famous fortified wine

This post tells you everything about the most famous fortified wine: the Port wine, o Vinho do Porto. So, we travel to the north of Portugal to arrive in the Douro valley. Learn everything about this special wine, which is a protected product. In Portugal, you have different types of wine and you have Port wine. We delve further in the Port wine below.


#portwine, #vinhodoporto, #douro, #dourovalley, #wineterraces, #fortifiedwine

Estimated read time: 20 minutes

From the origin to a protected famous wine

In this post you read from a lot of the background of the Port wine to discover it is a protected product. The final words are to help you tasting this wonderful product the best way. Because, make no mistake. Port wine is a separate world on itself and it is not a product to be seen as a simple sweet alcoholic drink.

"Find your topic"

Scroll down to read the whole post or select here your specific topic.

What was the start of Port wine?

"The origin of British merchants"

Most of the brands of the Port wines have an English name. From where does this come? Read the paragraph below to learn about the origin of this.

Wars between France and England

"No French wines anymore for the English drinkers"

There were a lot of wars between England and France in the 17th and 18th century. A lot of English people loved to drink wine and especially the French wines. But due to these conflicts, this became no option anymore. A lot of English merchants moved more southwards for new wines. They found a new opportunity in the north of Portugal. When they arrived back in England with the Portuguese wine, it wasn't anymore able to drink due to the new longer route over sea. The English merchants needed to find a solution for this.

"Fortify the wine with extra alcohol"

Between the English merchants, there also were Scotch merchants. These already had a lot of experiences with distillation and making whisky. They knew that when you have a higher alcohol percentage, it is possible to store your product longer. Some of these merchants located themselves in the Douro Valley to fortify the Portuguese wine with extra alcohol before they transported it. When these fortified wines arrived in England and Scotland, the people over there loved it. It was a huge success and this was the start of a new type of wine, wines with a higher alcohol percentage as normal. Port wine has an alcohol percentage between 19% and 22%.

From vineyard to the lodge

"Crafted aside the Douro river"

Grapes aside the Douro river

port wine vineyards famous fortified wine douro river valley region north portugal

Porto is the city of the Port wine and Vila Nova de Gaia the location of the lodges. But the grapes on the vineyards are located a around 70 km further inside the country aside of the Douro river. Over there you find the famous terraces at the both sides of the river with the Quinta's. The famous wine is made over there and prepared for transport to the lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Transport to the lodge

"Rabelo boat"
port wine douro river vila nova de gaia rabelo boat transport barrel north portugal

In the past, the wine from the Quinta's in the Douro Valley was placed in small barrels and afterwards transported by boat over the Douro river to the lodge. It were small flat-bottom boats, called a Rabelo. You still can discover these wonderful typical and famous boats in Vila Nova de Gaia. These days, the brands use tanker trucks to transport the famous wine downwards the river.

porto douro river port wine rabelo boats most famous fortified valley boat
port wine douro river rabelo boats ribeira vila nova de gaia porto valley transport north portugal

3 Famous wine regions

"Further upwards the river"

The vineyards of the grapes for this famous Port wine are separated in 3 regions. Discover them all in this paragraph below.

port wine most famous fortified douro river valley vineyards regions vineyard portugal north

Baixo Corgo

Firstly, the westernmost zone and nearest to Porto itself, is the Baixo Corgo. This is the lowest region of the Douro Valley and also the wettest. The grapes here grow in the coolest average temperatures.

Cima Corgo

Further upwards, in the center, you find the Cima Corgo. It is the region around the famous place in Pinhão, one of the most important in the world of Port wine. The grapes of this zone are considered of higher quality due to the more average temperatures and fewer rainfall.

Douro Superior

Finally, the latest region and most upwards is the Douro Superior. Here we are in the easternmost region of the Douro Valley and the nearest to Spain. It is the warmest of the 3 and also the most flat. Using machines to harvest to grapes is possible over here, while it is not in in the other 2.

Most famous wine styles

"Aging and maturing makes the difference"

What are the styles of Port wine?

In the world of the Port wine, their are a lot of different styles with each his own typical taste. It's all about aging and maturing in tanks, large barrels, small barrels or bottles. Do you want to know the differences? Go further with the list below to learn the most famous styles of Port wine.

"Color, multiple or one year"

How are the Port styles divided? Firstly, there is a difference by color. There is white, red and rosé Port wine. Secondly, they make a difference by aging and maturing process. The final difference is in the fact of the grapes are from one harvest year or not. Each style is explained in more detail below.

Divided into 2 basic styles

Red Port wines can be divided in 2 basic styles: Ruby and Tawny. These both have separate subcategories according the aging and harvest process. White Port wine follows the same as the Tawny Port wines. Select your style below t o find out more.

port most famous fortified wine ruby tawny winho bottle difference douro valley
  • RUBY

Harvest from many years

The standard Ruby Port wine is a young wine aged for 2 years in large tanks of steel to prevent oxidative aging. Afterwards it is bottled and ready to drink. This is a blend of the harvest from many years.

"Reserva after 3 years"

When the wine is aged for 3 years in the large tanks, we speak of a "Reserva" Port wine. Also the Reserva is a mix of many years.

Harvest of one year

The most famous Ruby styles are of the harvest of one unique year.

"The special Vintage Year"

When the young wine is bottled after 2 or at least 3 years, it can be declared as a Vintage. The IVDP has to declare that the wine has a very high quality and meets the quality restrictions to be a Vintage. All the wines of that year may be called Vintage. Normally, this happens around 2 years after the harvest year. It also is only possible for aged wines of one year, so it may not mixed with other harvest years.

"LBV bottled after 6 years"

Stays the wine of the harvest of one year in the large tank for 4-6 years before it is bottled? In that case, it is possible to make a Late Bottled Vintage Port wine, the LBV. It is the same process as the Vintage port. Here the wine is aged longer in the tank and the year of harvest is not known as a Vintage year.

"Lay down for many years"

Bottles of LBV and Vintage Port wine must lay down horizontally and can be stored for many years. The reason to lay down is that the wine still has contact with the air and cork stopper of the bottle. When you open a bottle of one of these Port styles, you have 2 weeks while the wine stays at his top quality. Vintage Port wines are the most expensive Port wines you can find.


Harvest from many years

All the Tawny Port wines are aged in oak barrels and most of them are a mix of different harvest years. Basic Tawny Port wines are aged for 3 years in large barrels. Afterwards, it is bottled. To age the wine further, it is stored in small barrels to have more contact with the wooden barrel and the air.

"Reserva after 6 years"

Again after 3 years of aging, now in the smaller barrels, the Port wine becomes a "Reserva". The Port wine now has aged for a total of 6 years in wooden barrels before it is brought into a bottle.

"10, 20, 30, 40 Years"

The most famous Tawny Port wines are these with a year label. Also here the wine is aged in small wooden barrels and is bottled at a specific year after the wine fragmentation: 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years. The year on the bottle is of the oldest harvest year.

port wine lodge barrels cellar porto vinho fortified famous north portugal douro valley river
port wine famous fortified wine large barrels tawny vinho many litros liters lodge douro valley
porto port wine lodge cellar different barrels vila nova de gaia

Harvest of one year


Finally it also is possible to make a Tawny port from one harvest year. This wine is aged for 7 years in wooden barrels, 3 years in large barrels and 4 years in small barrels. We call this style of Port wine "Colheita". Colheita is the Portuguese word for "harvest".

What are the ideal drinking temperatures?

For White Port wine it is known to be drunk cool. Many people think that Red Port wines are OK when they are at room temperature. This is a huge mistake. Also the red Port wine variants have their specific ideal temperature to drink.

"Lower as 20 degrees"

For each Port wine, the ideal drinking temperature is lower as 20 degrees Celsius. The ideal temperature for white and rosé Port wine is even much lower.

Port type





LBV & Vintage

Drink at °C







Temperature of the fridge

Low fridge temperature

Place in a cool room

Place in a cool room

A little bit warmer room

Who are the most famous wine houses?

"Every house has his own style"

There are a lot of Port houses in Portugal. Most of them say they have "the finest port". Every brand, or better Port house, has his typical style and taste. And about taste and color, you can't discuss.

From authentic wine houses to the most famous

"A lot of family traditions"

You already learned a lot about the background of the Port wine. Now it is time to discover some of the most famous fortified wine houses who produce Port wine. By everyone it is a long family tradition and they are very proud on it.

6 Most famous Port houses to visit

Here is a short list of the most famous port houses to visit.

1 - Kopke

"The oldest first"

But first things first. What do you think if we start with the oldest port house still alive? Let's do this. The first port house we talk about is Kopke.

port wine logo kopke famous oldest house vinho do porto


Founded by



Nicolau Kopkë

Quinta São Luiz


Nicolau Kopkë came from Hamburg, Germany, to settle himself in the north of Portugal as a Consul General. 2 Years later, in 1638 the first wine bottles were shipped from Portugal to the north of Europe by Kopke. Kopke was a transport company in his first period. They bought wines and exported these wines to other countries.

"From exporter to wine house"

The changed their main business from an exporter to a major wine producer in 1781. So, Port wine became the main focus of Kopke. Now the real port wine house was born. They became a famous wine house who brought new innovations, producing techniques and ways of shipping the wines.

porto vinho do porto kopke oldest port wine douro

Why to choose Kopke?

Maybe simply because it is the oldest house still alive. Isn't that a good reason as such? Also Kopke has a great tradition and nice wines in special bottles.

2 - Taylor's

"The finest Port"

Taylor's call themselves the port house of "The Finest Port". I only can tell you, it is up to you to compare with others and discover it by yourself. A certainty is that they have a very long tradition and still are one of the most traditional Port houses out there. They also still have a typical English style.

port wine logo fortified famous taylors brand porto taylor porto douro


Founded by



Job Bearsley

Quinta de Vargellas

Quinta de Terra Feita

Quinta do Junco


Job Bearsley arrived as an English merchant in the north of Portugal. The first trade of his company was of the typical austere red Portuguese wine out of the Minho region. Afterwards, Bartholomew Bearsley bought his first property in the the Douro Valley to have better relationships with the farmers.

port house douro river vila nova de gaia taylors lodge famous historical
"Work together with others"

Joseph Taylor again focused more on Port wine. But because his health begun to fail, there was a need to address new investors in the company. This fact brought the 2 new partners Morgan Yeatman and John Fladgate in the company. From this moment on they often call about Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman or only Taylor Fladgate. They still trade under Taylor's.

porto taylor's port lodge taste wine portugal travel

Why to choose Taylor's Port?

There is no doubt about one aspect. Taylor's Port is indeed one of the finest Port and they still have a typical British tradition. When you visit the lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, you discover this directly. Their Vintage Port is known as one of the most expensive in the world. It is up to you to decide for yourself, it is worth the price or not. This is out of the scope of this article.

3 - Graham's

"2 Families through 3 centuries on a mountain"

Graham's is located higher on the hills in Vila Nova de Gaia. To visit this lodge, you have to make a huge climb. But when you arrive at the lodge, you get a wonderful view over the Douro river and Porto itself. Aside of making a guided tour through the lodge, this is a good reason to make the trip upwards. Further Graham's is a Port house of 2 families through already 3 centuries.

port famous fortified wine house grahams porto logo douro river


Founded by



William & John Graham

Quinta dos Malvedos

Quinta das Lages

Quinta do Vale de Malhadas

Quinta do Tua


The 2 brothers William and John Graham started their family company in the north of Portugal to trade in textiles. In 1820, they accepted 27 barrels of Port as a payment of a debt. For the 2 brothers, this was the sign to start their own Port house. Their goal was to make the best Port wine of he Douro Valley. This moment was the start of the famous Graham's Port house.

port wine lodge cellar grahams fortified famous porto vila nova de gaia scotish
"Vineyards owned by themselves"

Graham's is one of the first Port houses who invested in his own vineyards at the end of the 19th century. Now they have 4 Quintas with the vineyards under their wings. They only work with vineyards owned by themselves.

"The Symington family"
port wine symington family estates fortified vinho famous portugal north

Already from the very beginning period, since 1882, the Symington family already had a connection with Graham's. Andrew James Symington traveled to Porto to work in the company. The harvest of 1970 was the first year under the Symington family. Today the company is led by 5 Symington cousins who are personal responsible for all the aspects of the company and the high quality. Graham's is part of the Symington Family Estates, as well as 3 other Port houses.

Why to choose Graham's Port?

Graham's is known for its high quality and have the whole process in his own hands. From the grape cultivation, to storing the wines in the lodge and finally ship the wonderful famous wines to the clients.

"Six Grapes"

One of the most famous and special Port wines in Graham's range is "Six Grapes". The Six Grapes-Port is a young bottled Vintage-style and it also is needed to drink young.

4 - Ferreira

"Always stayed Portuguese"

Ferreira is the only Port house that always stayed Portuguese. Founded by Portuguese winemakers from the Douro Valley itself and it is famous for Dona Antónia Ferreira. At this moment, Ferreira is the main reference in Port wine and a symbol of quality, tradition and knowledge.

port wine ferreira porto house fortified logo douro river valley


Founded by



Ferreira family of Régua

Quinta do Porto


A family of winemakers out of Régua founded a wine company in 1751, the Ferreira family. They were a producer and trader of Port wines in the Cima Corgo. The family always had a focus on high quality wines.

port house ferreira port famous wine portuguese house lodge vila nova de gaia
"A Ferreirinha, Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira"
porto port wine dona ferreira antonia house famous fortified most popular douro river valley

In the 19th century, the Douro Valley was confronted with a lot of difficulties. The Portuguese businesswoman Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira introduced some important innovations to fight against these difficulties. She was known for her strength and this gave her the nickname "a Ferreirinha".

"Sogrape Vinhos"

Since 1987, the Sogrape Vinhos Company acquired Ferreira. They respected the tradition, family culture and increased the Ferreira brand. Today, it is known as "The Portuguese Brand" and a huge reference in Port wines.

port wine tawny small barrels ferreira logo vinho

Why to choose Ferreira Port?

Ferreira is the reference in Port wines and a symbol of quality. This already is a very good reason to give Ferreira a try. Also a wine tasting tour in this traditional house is a good idea. That is the ideal way to discover it all by yourself and create your own opinion.

5 - Sandeman

"Most famous name"

Sandeman is the Port house with the most famous name in the world of Port wine. A Scottish family who started a wine company in the Douro valley at the end of the 18th century. It is one of the most leading houses in fortified wines and Sherry. But, Sandeman is not the brand with the most sales. That honor belongs to another Port house.

port wine logo sandeman house famous fortified douro valley


Founded by



George Sandeman

Quinta do Seixo


The history of Sandeman started by a young ambitious man of 25 years old son of a Scottish cabinetmaker. His name was George Sandeman. George Sandeman asked his father a loan of 300 GBP to start a wine merchant company. From the beginning, George specialised his company immediately in the most famous fortified wines of Portugal. This led to the start of the Port house Sandeman. Very soon, he gained an important reputation, which still is very characteristic for the house of Sandeman these days.

port wine famous fortified wine sandeman house lodge cellar logo douro river valley portugal
"Name the barrels"

It wasn't always normal to ship the Port wine in bottles. There was a time that they were shipped in barrels. Sandeman was the first brand who marked these barrels with the initials of their name. With a hot iron the letters GSC, of George Sandeman and Co., were marked as a pioneering signature in the barrels. This was to give a guarantee of the quality and origin.

porto wine port taste sandeman tour travel portugal vila nova da gaia

Why to choose Ferreira Port?

The reputation of the brand is a very good reason to choose for Sandeman. Sandeman is a big name in the world of Port wine. But of course, they also bring a very high quality of their product.

6 - Gran Cruz

"Number 1 in selling Port wine"

Gran Cruz is the house of the famous Porto Cruz. At this moment, it is the house which sells the most Port wine worldwide. They are known for their knowledge, different styles of Port wine and they are very popular in Porto itself.

port house fortified wine gran cruz porto 1887 douro


Founded by



No information

Quinta de Ventozelo


Gran Cruz is the house of the famous Porto Cruz. This house has a unique quality and creates special ports of very high quality. Gran Cruz also is known for his Pink Porto. Gran Cruz is the largest seller of Port wine worldwide. These days, they are part of a french group La Martiniquaise.

port house gran cruz porto vinho wine famous fortified brandy terrace douro river
"Famous in Porto"

In Porto itself, this is a very famous Port house. For many locals, it still is the real Port house of the city. Because his long Portuguese tradition and experience, high know-how and very high quality. With the Quinta de Ventozelo, Gran Cruz also has one of the oldest Quinta's in the Douro Valley.

"Visit in Vila Nova de Gaia"

Unfortunately, Gran Cruz is one of the Port houses where you can't visit the lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia. But, a visit at the Gran Cruz House is a must do on your Porto trip. Here you can visit the museum and enjoy a drink and good food at the rooftop with a wonderful overview over the Douro river, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Finally, there also is the Hotel Gran Cruz House. So, stay a little bit longer over there also is an option.

Why to choose Gran Porto Cruz Port?

Like the others, Gran Cruz has a large family tradition. They also have a very high level of know-how and make Port wines for everyone: from the cheaper ones, to the highest expensive and even a pink variant. The last reason is because it has a unique connection with the city Porto itself.

These 6 houses are just some of the many wine houses of Port wine to visit. Other famous wine houses also are Ramos Pinto, Niepoort, Cálem, Vasconcellos and Cockburn's.

A protected famous fortified wine product

"Call not every fortified wine a Port wine"

Port wine, the famous fortified wine out of the Douro Valley, is a protected product. You may not call every fortified wine a Port wine. Even if it also is made in the Douro Valley. The wine house has to follow some important rules. The list below summarize these rules.

Regulation of the trade of the famous Port wine

"Regulation since 1756"

Under the influence of the Taylor's Port house and the Marquês de Pombal, there came a regulation in the Port trade in 1756. They started with a monopoly company to set high quality requirements for the trade of Port wine. Marquês de Pombal is known as the father of these regulations. This was the start of the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, which is now known as Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP).

Rules to make the most famous fortified wine

"Rules to be a Port Wine"

There are important rules so that the fortifited wine of the winemaker can be called a Port wine. In this list, we give you 5 important rules of becoming a legal Port Wine.

1 - IVDP

First of all, the wine house has to be member of the IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto). At the top of the bottle, you will see the seal of guarantee with the member number of the wine house. If this label is not present on the bottle,you don't have an official Port wine.

2 - Douro Valley

Maturing of the grapes must take place on vineyards in the Douro Valley. More specifically in one of the three regions mentioned earlier in this post. This determines a specific taste and quality of the final Port wine.

3 - 19% to 22%

When the ideal sugar level is reached, a brandy is added to stop the fermentation process. This process makes it a fortified wine. It is important to reach a final alcohol percentage between 19% and 22%.

4 - Vila Nova de Gaia

The lodge, the cellar, to store the wine for aging has to be in Vila Nova de Gaia. The town at the other side of the Douro river as the city center of Porto.

5 - Aged for 2 years

In the lodge, the fortified wine must be aged during a minimum of 2 years in barrels before release. Additionally, the wine house isn't allowed to sell mare than 30% of their wine after 2 years. With this rule, they are "encouraged" to age their wines for more years.

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