b'P ort is a sweet, red, fortified wine from Portugal. Port is most commonly enjoyed as a dessert wine because it is rich and sweet. There are several styles of Port, including red, white, ros and an aged style called Tawny Port. While much of the Port we see in the supermarket is of average quality, there are fine Ports that are highly treasured for sipping and can cost several hundred pounds.Have a look through the essential information about this fantastic drink!I n 1880 Henry Vizetelly, the great nineteenth century authority and writer on wine, wrote,it has been said that there are as many styles of Port wine as shades of ribbon in a haberdashers shop. Even in Vizetellys day this was probably something of an exaggeration.However, the diversity of different styles offered by Port is certainly one of its greatest attractions. The grapes used to produce Port are grown in the upper Douro Valley in north eastern Portugal, one of the worlds most beautiful wine regions. It was the first wine region to be demarcated and regulated by law, in 1756, making Port the oldest controlled denomination of origin. The upper Douro Valley lies about 100 kilometres inland from the coast and is protected from the influence of the Atlantic winds by a range of mountains called the Maro. Consequently it is cold in Winter and very hot and dry in Summer. Because the region is mountainous, most vineyards are planted on terraces, many supported by ancient dry stone walls.As elsewhere in Portugal, a vineyard estate is known as a Quinta. The vineyard soil of the Douro Valley is very stony and is made up of a flaky ochre-coloured rock called schist. This soil is rich in nutrients but is free draining, obliging the vine to push its roots deep into the soil and down through fissures in the bedrock in search of water. The hot dry climate and the rocky soil mean that yields are very low - not much more than half a litre per vine in top estates like Quinta da Roda - and the juice extremely rich and concentrated. The diverse combination of climate, soil and grape requires generations of human skill and dedication that has allowed to express itself as great wine. Like other classic wines its appeal is timeless, as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago when the first Ports were made.T here are Ports for all occasions and budgets, from rare Vintage Ports for the fine wine collector to delicious and affordable wood aged styles for relaxed entertaining. Port, with its wealth of different characters and aromas, offers almost limitless opportunities for pairing with food and few wines can compete with it in richness of flavour.Thirty or so grape varieties may be used to make port, but nowadays only five or six of the best varieties are used in new plantings.Most of these are native to the Douro Valley and are specific to Port. They include the dense and concentrated Touriga Nacional, the full bodied and aromatic Touriga Francesa, the firm and finely-constituted Tinta Roriz and the rich and fragrant Tinta Barroca. The grapes are picked by hand and the harvest generally begins in the second half of September, although it may start earlier in the hotter eastern areas.Although they may be planted separately, the varieties are normally harvested and fermented together. Each grape variety contributes its own particular charactersuch as the intense flavours of woodland fruit, delicate floral scents, exotic spicy notes or the wild resiny aromas of gumcistusto the nose of the wine. The grape varieties work together like instruments in an orchestra to create a subtle, complex and multi-dimensional harmony. 174'