Port winemaking

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Rapid extraction of colour and tannins is the crux of the various vinification methods used to produce red port. Because fermentation is curtailed by fortifying spirit after just two or three days, the grape juice or must spends a much shorter time in contact with the skins than in normal red winemaking. The maceration process should therefore be as vigorous as possible.

Until the early 1960s, all port was vinified in much the same way. Every farm had a winery equipped with lagares, low stone troughs, usually built from granite, in which the grapes were trodden and fermented. Some are still in use, mainly at the small, privately owned quintas, and some of the finest ports destined for vintage or aged tawny blends continue to be trodden in lagares. The human foot, for all its many unpleasant associations, is ideal for pressing grapes as it breaks up the fruit without crushing the pips that would otherwise release bitter-tasting phenolics into the wine.