Port history

"Every wine would be a Port, if it could." 

Rich, sweet and intensely flavoured, port is arguably the world's greatest fortified wine produced from the demarcated region of the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. To create these majestic wines, the fermentation process is stopped by the addition of grape spirit or "brandy" before all the natural sugars have been converted to alcohol. The resulting creation is port - a powerful, rounded and full-bodied wine delicious on its own, as an aperitif or at the end of a meal with cheese and dessert. 

The first experiences of drinking port can be likened to entering a whole new world of flavours and taste sensations with a myriad of different styles of port to be savoured and appreciated. From the complexity and finesse of a fine Vintage Port to the nutty, rich flavours of an Aged Tawny or the light, young fruity wines of a Ruby Port - one can never tire of the immense diversity. 

For the British, port is traditionally drunk after dinner in the evening with cheese and pudding or just on its own like a liquid dessert. While the French and other Europeans are known to enjoy the lighter styles like Ruby Port or White Port as an aperitif. Today, people enjoy port at anytime and the fashion of having a glass of chilled port before a meal is becoming increasingly popular. Port is also an excellent complement to many sweet and savoury dishes, such as chocolate, walnuts and rich cheeses like stilton and  adds depth and flavour to many recipes. 

The British have had a long association with port and it is regarded historically as a British drink especially at Christmas time. Today, though port is appreciated all over the world and was very popular in the USA in the 1990's when it was fashionable to enjoy a cigar with a glass of young Vintage Port. The image of port only being drunk at Christmas by the older generation is slowly changing in the UK and a younger market is being attracted. Many brands, such as Quinta de La Rosa, are rejuvenating the perception of port with smaller, 50cl, modern looking bottles and a philosophy that you can drink port at any time of the year.


The origins of port as a drink are unclear.  It is widely believed that in 1678 two English gentlemen were dispatched to Portugal and the Douro region to secure some wine supplies for the English market.  During their travels they happened to be entertained by an abbot near Lamego.  He offered them a drink called Pinhao which was sweet, smooth and alcoholic.  The Englishmen were so impressed by this drink that they purchased all of it and shipped it back to England.  The English adored it and the trade in port, as it became known (being shipped from O Porto the Port), flourished. 


The Institute dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP) was set up in 1933 to coordinate the activities of the Casa do Douro and the Guild of Port wine Shippers (Grémio dos Exportadores de Vinho do Porto, replaced in 1974 with a free association of Port shippers called AEVP).  The IVDP was set up as an official body above specific interests of the wine growers and shippers.  It is a government body which reports to the ministry of agriculture.  The principal responsibilities are:

•                approving quality of all Port styles

•                approving Port names (vintage, tawny etc…)

•                authenticating origin status of the Port, producing seals

•                marketing Port worldwide (in conjunction with ICEP the Portuguese                 Tourist board)

•                approving label design

•                setting shipping (sales) limits for Port shippers

•                verifying stock levels held by shippers

•                provides technical help

•                maintains a scientific research service

•                approving quality of “brandy” purchased for making Port

In 2003 the IVDP also took over responsibility of table wine grown in the Douro region with the merging of the CIRDD and the VQPRD. For further information please refer to the IVDP website www.ivdp.pt


In 1932 the wine growers formed guilds and the overall body that controlled them was the Federação dos Viticultores da Região do Douro, more commonly referred to as the Casa do Douro. Responsibilities include:

•                grading vineyards

•                controlling Beneficio (production quotas) set by IVP

•                purchasing excess Port production from farmers

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