Port – Ruby or Tawny?
I gotta be honest here…. I know (I knew!) virtually nothing about port wines so when I got the invitation from Oscar Quevedo to join a group of select wine bloggers for a tour of Porto, the Douro valley and their wineries I send him a note first asking if he was sure he had the right person. But he confirmed that yes, he did and if I wanted to come. Obviously I said yes and was quite eager to learn something more about port and how it is made….
I met two of the other bloggers already at schiphol airport; Bart from wijn-blog en Mariella van wijnkronieken. Both – you guessed it – are wine bloggers…. The fourth member of the team was Irene who flew in from Rome and whom we met in Porto.
And what can I say? Did I learn a lot? Yes, I did. Did I fall in love with the region? Yes, I did. Will I know also be a wine blogger? Noooooo, I will not… I’ve come to realize that blogging about wine or blogging about food are two different things. They complement each other but the set of skills necessary to do wine blogging well is totally different.
Anyway back to the port; I’ve seen so much that I will be splitting this post in two or three part; one about the ports we tasted on the first day and our breakfast, lunch and dinner experiences and one about the rest of the trip.
The schedule that Oscar made was very flexible and very relaxed which was fantastic as the weather was on our side this weekend. If only I had brought the sunscreen!
We arrived really early in Porto which meant we had the whole day ahead of us, starting with a delicious breakfast at the Majestic in down town Porto. The Majestic is beautiful and even though we sat outside (yes it was that good weather) we took a couple of shots of the interior and obviously of the food itself…
From there we roamed around Porto, taking in some of the beautiful old buildings to end up at the Port and Douro Wine institute (IVDP) which is where all the quality control for all the 75 Port producers in Portugal that bottle their own wine, are being done. I was quite impressed with the whole setup as it is no simple task. Have you ever wondered how that works? What steps are being taken before you can enjoy a glass of that gorgeous dark ruby colored drink? I never wondered but maybe that made the realizations all the more shocking. Each and every port is tested before coming on the market. They first run through a taste testing team, which consists of 7 professional testers of which each can do no more then 20 ports per day. In theory that maybe sounds like a dreamjob but I would not want to be in their shoes.
Have you ever thought about how you experience wine? Or port? I can drink a delicious merlot one day and love it, but then the next day I might totally hate it for the simple reason that I am in a different mood. Drinks, more then anything else, are like that, as least for me. Imagine then having to be consistent in your test results every single time! No easy task!
That is only one part of the testing process as after that it goes through various lab tests to get the final seal of approval. The IVDP controls the amount of Port produced as well as the quality and are an integral part of the whole port production in the region.
Ruby vs Tawny
For years I have been looking at bottles of ruby and tawny ports in the supermarket and I have never understood the difference between the two. I am quite pleased I now finally know! In the afternoon on Friday we went to the Quevedo lodge in Gaia (next to Porto) to have a full explanation on vintage ruby ports and ofcourse a delicious tasting. I had never done a proper tasting before and boy, that was hard!
But let me first explain what a ruby port is. I always figured it might have something to do with the color and in a way that is still true, as a ruby port will be more ‘ruby’ in color then a tawny, which can be more ‘rusty’ in color. Ruby port is held in stainless steel (after fermentation) tanks to prevent oxidation and is bottled on average between 18-24 months. Once in a while the harvest of a certain year might be so good that a ruby port is declared a vintage port. The IVDP has to declare it to be a vintage. A vintage ruby will continue to age in the bottle and will improve over time.
Now a tawny port on the other hand is aged in oak barrels which means that it is into contact with oxygen much more resulting in a rusty color. A tawny from a single harvest year is called Colheita and is aged at least 7 years. Opposed to the ruby ports, a tawny stops aging as soon as it is bottled, which means that it stays in oak barrels until ready.
Ofcourse I am a total amateur when it comes to wine and port so this is the very simple explanation… Go to any of the other three bloggers, who know so much more then me, for a much better explanation! More to follow later!
O and if you want to know which one of the ports ended up being my favorite; it would have to be the Quevedo 20 yr old Tawny. Love at first taste, so to speak. The good news is that you can buy Quevedo ports at the Jumbo supermarkets (usually the bigger ones) here in the Netherlands!
We were on the trip through the Douro valley and Porto by invitation from the Quevedo family. All opinions expressed are my own.