Ruby port is a blend from several harvests, different years and different quintas.
It spends a minimum of two years in very large vats before being bottled. The large vats minimize the amount of air that comes in contact with the wine, which reduces oxidization so the wine retains its bright red hue. Ruby is ready to drink when it is bottled and has a rich red colour and a full fruity taste.
A Tawny port is also a blend from several harvests but is aged for two to seven years in casks. The smaller storage vessels allow more oxidization than the vats used for Ruby ports. It is ready to drink as soon as it is bottled. As its name implies, Tawny port has a deep mahogany colour, with a drier and nuttier taste.
Aged Tawny is the best Tawny port. It can have an age of 10, 20, 30 or more than 40 years. The age will be indicated on the label and describes the average age of the wines in the blend. In a twenty year old aged Tawny, there may be some ports 100 years old to add a complexity to the wine. Aged Tawny port has a refined, subtle taste.
A Colheita (pronounced "call yay ta" which means "harvest") is a Tawny port made with grapes from a single harvest. It is aged at least seven years in casks - or "in wood" - but is usually aged much longer. Some port wine houses have Colheitas for almost every year, dating back to the past two centuries. The label indicates the year of the harvest.
White ports have a lighter taste and vary from quite sweet to very dry. The sweetest are called lagrima. These wines are made from a blend white grapes from different vineyards and different quintas and may have a small amount of juice from red grapes. The wine spends two to three years in casks and is ready to drink when it is bottled. White port is usually served as an aperitif and makes a very tasty and refreshing drink called a Portsplash or Portonic (mix of half white port, half tonic water, ice and a twist of lemon)
Crusted port is a type of Ruby and spends three years in a cask but most of its ageing is in a bottle. It is a blend of wines from several different years and gets its name from the sediment that appears in the bottle as the wine ages, since the wine is not filtered. This crust is mainly tiny pieces of grape skin plus bits of seed and stems that settle in the lowest part of the bottle. Sediment does not taste or feel good so the port must be decanted.
Single-Quinta ports are made with wine from one vineyard. They may be Tawny or Vintage styles. After aging two years in wood they are bottled and spend from 5 to 50 years maturing. The label will indicate the Vintage year and bottling date. Single quinta port has a complex, and refined taste.
Late-Bottled Vintage port (LBV) is made from grapes grown in a single year.
The port is aged four to six years in wood before bottling. The label will indicate the Vintage and bottling date. The LBV port is ready to drink earlier than Vintage port and when labeled "Traditional", it may have some sediment. For this reason, L.B.V "Traditional" ports, like Vintage ports, need decanting.
Vintage port comes from a single harvest of exceptional quality and is bottled after two years in wood.
The wine then spends many years aging in the bottle (in glass) and the label will show the year of the Vintage and the year the wine was bottled. This is one of the most sought-after wines in the world.
Types of Port