Making Port Wine at Home
Port Wine is a fortified wine from Portugal that is often served as a dessert wine due to its sweetness. It is enjoyed all around
the world and has numerous different styles depending on which region it came from. In these days where making wine at home has become a popular hobby, making Port is not seen as often, which is a shame.
The purpose of this article is to discuss Port, first by discussing its history and then giving a recipe that can allow you to make a large quantity of great wine that your dinner guests will appreciate and talk about for years to come.
History of Port Wine
Port has been produced in Portugal for hundreds of years. It is a fortified wine that originated from the Duoro Valley in Northern Portugal. It became particularly popular in England when the Methuen Treaty was signed in 1703, which allowed merchants to import it at a low duty. This was done because English wine drinkers were deprived of French wine, with whom they were at war with at the time.
There are 3 main regions where Port is produced in the Duoro Valley. Baixo Corgo is the western-most region and is the most downstream along the Corgo River. This region normally produces inexpensive styles of Port (such as Tawny), which is due to the region having the most rain. Cima Corgo is upstream from Baixo. This region produces higher quality Port, such as Vintage. Duoro Superior is the eastern-most region and is also the driest region.
Port Grape Varieties
There are over 100 varieties of grapes that can be used in Port. However, only about five varieties are widely grown and used in commercial production. These grapes are the Tinta Barroca, Tinat Cao, Tinat Roriz (or Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and the Tourina Nacional.
Homemade Port Wine Recipe
Although Port generally isn’t and expensive variety of wine, it can be made at home. Ask any home winemaker and they will tell you nothing beats the feeling of producing a great wine at home from scratch, and port isn’t any different. Here’s a recipe that will make approximately 12 gallons, which will produce enough to enjoy for a long time (after being cellared for a suitable time!)
1) 1 gallon of California Red Grape Concentrate (or equivalent)
2) 12 lbs of fine sugar
3) 5 gallons of warm water
4) 6 oz of dried elderberries
5) 16 oz of dried banana chips (non-glazed!)
6) 2 tsp of yeast energizer (ie yeast nutrients)
7) 3 oz acid blend
8) 5 Campden tablets (crushed)
9) 1 sachet of Port wine yeast (very important!)
Prepare the yeast starter according to the instructions on the yeast sachet about 3 days prior to making the wine. Separate the banana chip in primary, add the grape concentrate, 6 lbs of sugar, elderberries, yeast energizer, the crushed Campden tablets, and the acid blend. Stir vigorously to ensure the sugar is fully dissolved, cover the fermenter and wait for at least 24 hours. Add the yeast starter and then stir gently once a day. When the specific gravity has dropped to 1.040, remove 4-6 cups of the must and then slowly dissolve another 3 lbs of sugar and stir into primary. When the specific gravity is at 1.030, strain out the banana chips and elderberries and siphon into the secondary fermenter. Attach the air lock and monitor the specific gravity every day.
Once the specific gravity has dropped to 1.010, remove another 4-6 cups of must and stir in the remaining 3 lbs of sugar. Once this is done, add this carefully back into the secondary fermenter. Once sediments start appearing, rack the secondary accordingly, but not more often than once every three weeks.
Once deposits have stopped forming, allow the wine at least one more month to clear fully. If this isn’t happening, stabilize the wine and add finings. Wait 10 more days, rack it one more time, add sugar to sweeten to taste, then add 60 oz of brandy and bottle. The last step may be the hardest, but you must then age the wine for a year before tasting or using for cooking. However, if you wait this long, you can be assured of a great supply of fantastic Port that will only get better with age!
There you have it. A sure-fire recipe for making Port wine at home that will produce a large quantity that can be further aged. By following the recipe, you will amaze your friends at your next dinner party when you have them drinking your own special Port vintage!