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Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 22

During the wars with France (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), Great Britain boycotted French wine and decided to purchase Portuguese wine, which unfortunately could not stand the long journey by sea. 

The production process of Porto wine was accidentally invented by two brothers who strengthened the wine by adding grape distillate, around 3% at that time, to maintain the quality during the trip to England. 

In 1756 in Portugal, the Marquis of Pombal delimited the production of Porto wine in the Douro region, Europe’s first appellation of origin with a regulated production, as is the case of Champagne produced in this specific region of France. From that point on, true Porto only comes from that region. Farmers and landowners were traditionally Portuguese and sold to the English their wine, which had been aged in Porto. But at the end of the nineteenth century the scenario changed, when the plague of an insect of American origin called phylloxera reached Europe and spread rapidly throughout all the vineyards, ruining irreparably the production of wine.

The fields were treated with chemical substances which polluted the land, turning it not suitable for the cultivation of wine grapes. As the wine production stopped for more than a decade, the Portuguese ceded their lands to English societies which awaited the solution to the plague of phylloxera: the grafting of European vineyards in the stem of the American vine that provided the whole plant with an intrinsic tolerance to phylloxera.

The Porto production improved, but it did it in British lands.

At the beginning of 1700 the grapes harvested were sweater than normal and the wine of that vintage was very successful in Great Britain. After this, Douro winemakers produced sweater wines and added a greater amount of distillate: those wines were the forerunners of today’s Porto.  

Porto wine is a blending of grapes coming from different vineyards, using different wine-making techniques and different vintages: a wine which is not produced like most of the wines whose grape-juice is allowed to ferment. Porto wine is a very sweet grape-juice to which the wine expert adds the distillate to stop the fermentation and obtain a wine with high alcohol content (17-21% by volume) and a marked residual sugar level (around 7%) because the yeasts could not completely transform it into alcohol, since they were inhibited from the high concentration of ethanol. The result is a wine with body, succulent and sweet.

There are two different types of Porto wine: the one aged in wood and the one aged in glass. The Vintage is the only Porto wine aged exclusively in glass bottles and it is named vintage because it has only been kept in the bottle for one year; it is the most prestigious Porto, produced with grapes from a single vintage, aged in barrels initially for about two years and then put in bottles for a second aging process which can last much longer (up to 40-50 years, and in the best vintages even more than a century).

The Ruby ages in big barrels only for a period of two or three years, then it is moved to small barrels of about 550 liters where contact area with wood and the air (in this last case through the wood) is bigger.
It is a very fruity wine, with an intense ruby color and flavored with berries and plum. 

The Tawny ages for much longer in wooden barrels, sometimes up to 40 years and as it rusts away it ages faster ran Ruby.