The definitive wine of Portugal — the one with which the very name of the country seems imbued — is port, also known as porto (not in fact in honor of Portugal but because it is shipped from the Douro River port city of that name). Widely imitated around the world, true port is made only in the Douro Valley. Table wines were produced in the region hundreds of years ago. When imports of French wines into England were banned in the early 1700s, Portuguese wine became popular there, but over the long sea voyage, the wine often spoiled. Someone had the idea of dosing it with brandy to preserve it, and thus port was born. (English families long predominated in the port trade, as reflected by the names of producers like Cockburn, Taylor, Osborne, Graham, Croft, and Dow.) At least 100 grape varieties are permitted in port, with touriga nacional, touriga francesa, tinta cão, tinta barroca, and tinta roriz (which is Spain's tempranillo) among the most prominent. The main types of port are: tawny (aged in oak barrels, sometimes for 40 years or more, and bottled medium-dry or sweet), ruby (younger and aged in stainless steel or concrete), vintage character (particularly good ruby), late bottled vintage (partially barrel-aged and developing some of the characteristics of vintage port), and vintage port. The last of these is the ultimate, port made only in certain "declared" years, aged in wood for no more than two-and-a-half years, then developed in the bottle into rich, dark, complex wines of great quality. (There are other types and sub-divisions of port, and white port, made from white wine grapes, is a popular apéritif in France.)

Serve With

Blue cheese (especially Stilton), walnuts, or chocolate, or enjoy alone.