Port (Vinho do Porto) is a “fortified” wine that comes from the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal. The Douro Valley was established as a protected wine area (or appellation) in 1756 making it the oldest wine region in the world. The wine received its name from the port city of Oporto – hence “Port.”
Port became popular in England in the early 1700’s when England and France were at war – thus depriving the Brits of French wine. Merchants tried importing wine from Portugal but the long, rough ship journey – in extremes of temperature – would often cause the wine to spoil. A bit of brandy was added to “fortify” the wine before shipping and voila (or I should say ai esta) the wine arrived in good order and with a slightly higher alcoholic (about 20%). Today, aguardente (like brandy) is added to this classic dessert wine (best served with cheese).
The ongoing British involvement in the Port trade can be seen in the names of many of the shippers (Cockburn, Dow, Warre, Taylor, Croft and so on). There are different kinds of Port (white, ruby, tawny, crust) but the king of Ports is the Vintage Port. Do not expect to enjoy a Vintage Port if it is less than 15 years old and you are less than 21. . . .