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Do the grapes used for port have to be portuguese?

There are 115 different grape varieties authorised for Port production, which are classified as "recommended" or "authorised". The vast majority of them are indigenous Portuguese varieties, which makes sense as they are well-adapted to our local terroir. Portugal has the third highest number of identified indigenous grape varieties of any country in the world, and many of these varieties are from the Douro.

What is the updated total of hectares and producers in the Douro Valley?

According to the IVDP (the Port Wine Institute), in 2019 there were 43,500 hectares of vineyard in the Douro Valley farmed by 20,370 individual farmers. The exact number of registered producers depends on how you interpret the different types of 'operators' legally classified by the IVDP (including bottlers and warehouse operators). The 2019 report shows there are 1121 registered operators in the Douro, 239 of them for specifically for Port. You can check out the data yourself at ivdp.pt > statistics.

What about going into organic port?

We are the largest organic vineyard owners in the Douro Valley and although the majority of grapes grown in them are used for table wines (like the Altano Douro Organic Red), some are also used for Port production. Graham's Natura Reserve Port is made from organically farmed grapes grown on 10 hectares which are fully organically certified at Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos. Furthermore, all other vineyards are managed under an environmentally friendly minimum intervention regime called Integrated Crop Management.

What is the «benefício»?

Essentially, the benefício is the proportion of the total wine produced each year in the Douro Demarcated Region that may be made as port. The industry's governing body, the IVDP (Port and Douro Wines Institute) sets an annual cap (expressed in pipes — port barrels of approximately 550 litres) on how much of the region's total wine production becomes port, thus establishing the benefício. Grapes with the benefício generally fetch a higher price than those for Douro (dry) wine and growers are therefore keen to hold on to their benefício. Criteria for setting the annual benefício range from quality considerations (some vineyards have higher gradings than others); stock levels, market conditions, and so forth.

Which ports count for the «law of the third»?

All ports held in stock by a producer — irrespective of their particular style or quality — are considered together when calculating the (maximum) one third of that stock that they are allowed to sell each year. In other words, in any one year, a Port producer may only sell up to one third of the total stock of wine ageing in wood or bottle in the lodges. This ´lei do terço' (law of the third) was introduced almost a century ago to ensure that Ports were aged for a minimum period of time and also to safeguard the industry's stability (dissuading speculators who would think twice about the huge capital commitment of having to keep back two pipes of port for every pipe sold).

40 YO tawny: is it a minimum or average 40 YO?

Aged tawnies with an indication of age of 10, 20 and 30 years are blended wines, made up of high quality production from different harvests and aged solely in seasoned oak casks. The age indication of 10, 20 or 30 years refers to the average age of the wine in the bottle and in almost every case the wine is actually a fraction older than indicated, as port producers err on the side of caution by ensuring that the average age of the wine is actually a little above the age shown on the label. With 40 year old tawnies, the Port Wine Institute (IVDP) lays down more specific regulations, requiring that the youngest wine in the blend is at least 40 years old. That's why on the label of a 40 year old tawny you will often see the term "More than" preceding "40 Years of Age”.

Is the «benefício» outdated?

The benefício is the proportion of the total wine produced each year in the Douro Demarcated Region that may be sold as Port. Quantities are reviewed and set annually and this system, which is closely linked to the rating of individual vineyards, ensures that only very good grapes can be used for the port wine production, safeguarding the quality of the finished product. As the main objective of the benefício is protecting Port’s reputation we wouldn't say it is outdated but, on the contrary, a necessary tool for winegrowers in the Douro.

When are old casks sold (i.e. whiskey producers) and why are they at the end of their life?

There is a greater demand from Whiskey producers for seasoned ('old') port casks than port producers are willing to part with. They provide Malt Whiskeys with wonderful aromas, flavours and colour. The tawny family of ports (wines aged in wood which take on a tawny colour) are aged in seasoned oak casks (called 'pipes' in the port trade) for several decades and the older the wood the better, because well-seasoned wood gradually and slowly imparts complex aromas and flavours to the maturing wine. This is why port producers still rely heavily on the art of cooperage to maintain and repair oak casks for as long as possible. The average age of a seasoned oak cask used for ageing premium port ranges from 70 to 90 years and they are only at the end of their life (often over a century old) when it is no longer feasible to maintain them.

Can port also be available in can?

No, it can't. Currently the only legally permitted format for port is glass bottles. Port, like all fine wines should be placed in glass bottles. Due to its neutral nature, glass is the ideal material for prolonged ageing of port because it doesn't influence in any way its characteristics (aroma, flavour, longevity).

What are the major differences between sherry and port?

Port and sherry are both fortified wines, meaning a distilled spirit has been added during the fermentation process. But that's where the similarities end. Here are some of the main differences between them: Port is made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and other grape varieties, while sherry is produced from varietals such as Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel - each of these varieties determines the type of sherry that is produced, which is not the case for port. Climate conditions in the two demarcated regions are very different. For example, the Douro has very hot and dry summers while in Jeréz de la Frontera summer temperatures are balanced by the Atlantic. Port can be aged in seasoned wood (vats or barrels) or bottle which determines its style, whereas sherry ages through a unique system called solera. The solera system consists of stacking barrels up, putting the younger wines in the upper rows and older wines in the lower ones. As the wines ages, it goes down the 'steps' until the ageing is complete.

Does single varietal port exist?

Technically, the short answer is no. The Port and Douro Wine Institute, port's official regulatory body, stipulates that ports must be made from at least four grape varieties. Even if this wasn't laid down as a legal requirement, the fact is most — if not all — producers would always use more than one variety in the composition of their port blends. There are just over 100 officially recognised grape varieties that can be planted in the Douro Valley.  The region is characterised by a wealth of micro-terroirs, influenced and shaped by varying altitudes, aspect (vineyard orientation), climate, soil — and grape varieties. Specific grape varieties are best suited to certain locations and port has always been about blending several varieties to achieve the complexity, depth and breadth for which ports are prized.  Perhaps the closest one may get to a single varietal port is when the wine is made from a field blend (vineyards — usually older ones — where all the varieties are planted together in the same parcels). In some field blends there is sometimes a predominant variety.

Is Tawny blended to taste the same?

Yes and no (!?) — depending on the category. Tawny Ports with an age indication — 10, 20, 30 and 40-Year-Old —, are blends of wines from different harvests, whose average age is shown on the label (10, 20, 30 or 40 years). These are indeed blended following a house style so that, over time, a customer can always return to his/her favourite old tawny port in the knowledge that it will have the same, constant profile. The other old tawny category — aged tawnies from a single year — are quite the opposite. These are the Colheita (Portuguese for 'harvest') ports, also known as Single Harvest Tawny, and are wines from a single year, aged in oak casks for prolonged periods and not blended with wines of other years. Therefore, they reflect the characteristics of the year in which they were made, rather than being an expression of the house style. These wine are unique, in that once the batch is bottled the wine will never quite be replicated.

Can the 'benefício' of a year be tranferred from one producer to another?

The Benefício is attributed to each Douro farmer in accordance with a grading system which classifies his/her particular vineyard into different quality categories, rated from a descending scale from A to I. This is based on a set of criteria which include site, altitude, aspect, gradient, exposure, etc. The higher the letter ranking, the higher the proportion of grapes that a farmer is allowed to make into Port. This system is therefore an individual authorisation based on the specific attributes of each vineyard and it is therefore, by definition, non-transferable between farmers. In exceptional circumstances, the Interprofessional Council of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP), Port’s governing body, may authorise a transfer of production rights from one farmer to another. This is extremely rare and is only considered in extraordinary cases, for example, in the event of a farmer losing his crop through natural causes such as a severe climatic event. These instances are rigorously analysed and decided on a case by case basis by the IVDP.

How many grapes are permitted in the Douro?

The Douro Demarcated Region has an impressive number of mainly indigenous grape varieties, and this diversity is undoubtedly one of the region's greatest assets. For all wines officially certified as having been produced in the demarcated region, there are 115 different varieties that winemakers can work with. For port wine specifically, the total number of permitted grape varieties is 116. Of these, 29 are indicated as 'recommended' (16 classified as very good and 13 classified as good) and 87 are considered 'authorised'.  There are other wine categories from the region such as ’Vinho do Douro’ or ’Vinho Regional’ which can include a few additional varieties, but broadly speaking it is a very similar list.

Is yeast inoculation a common practice for port?

As port has a relatively short fermentation (usually 36 to 48 hours), winemakers find no real advantage in using dry selected yeasts, so yeast inoculation is not commonly employed in port winemaking. Port winemakers prefer to use the ambient 'indigenous' yeast in port fermentations, as they believe that these are better suited for achieving complexity in the wine. For dry Douro wines, where fermentations are much longer, yeast inoculation is commonly used (dry selected yeasts).

Any specific conditions under which port must be during exportation?

First and foremost, port must be bottled at source in Portugal, so no other type of container — other than the original bottle and corresponding transport case — is allowed for port destined for export (and indeed, for domestic shipment in Portugal as well). All ports have to be previously certified by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP), which approves ports' quality, classifications, labels and other elements, and issues the guarantee seal for each individual bottle. During transport, freight companies must ensure stable temperatures during transportation and during temporary storage — before and after the transportation itself.

School of Port is an educational initiative from Symington Family Estates, premium port producers in the Douro for five generations since 1882.

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