Choosing the BEST Port!

Port can be confusing….there’s Ruby, Tawny, Vintage, Late-Bottle Vintage (LBV), Colheita, Single Quinta, White; all these terms mean something, but do you know what? Let me try to sort it out for you, and with your next trip to the store, hopefully you’ll have no trouble picking out the best Port for you!

Basically, we can put Port into three basic categories:

  1. Ruby Ports 
  2. Tawny Ports
  3. Vintage Ports

1.  Ruby Port – inexpensive, young, non-vintage, full-bodied and ready to drink.  Very rarely do they benefit from more ageing in the bottle.

  • Reserve Ruby – a blend from one or more vintages that are matured in cask for up to FIVE years before bottling.  No decant necessary, as they are filtered before bottling.
  • Late Bottle Vintage Port (or LBV) – what most restaurants serve as it is the most common. Like Reserves, they are matured in cask from 4-6 years and also filtered before bottling, so they will not mature further.  Unlike Ruby, these will have more complex fruit flavours and have a more noticeable tannins. Labels on LBV’s have not only the vintage year, but the year of bottling as well.  There are no secrets with LBV!



  • Bottle Matured LBV – less common, but also matured in cask for 4-6 years.  Unlike regular LBV’s, they are bottled unfiltered, so they will continue to mature in the bottle.  It then cannot be released for sale until it’s aged for another three years in the producer’s cellars.  Because it’s unfiltered, it would need to be decanted.

2. Tawny Port – like its name, these are paler and more brown or caramel in colour.  Like Ruby’s, they are bottled ready to drink.

  • Reserve Tawny– like Ruby, it is also a blend of several vintages, but unlike Ruby, it is aged for longer, at least SEVEN years in cask. They are typically softer, smoother and far more complex than their Ruby cousin.  They can be identified by their caramel or russet colour(s).


    Tawny’s with indication of age

  • Tawny w/Indication of Age – These are the ports you see labelled as 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old.  In order for a producer to use this label, they must register the stock of their wine of that age in the Port Lodges.  The wines would also have to have the characteristics typical for that particular age.  That being said, the age that is stated is simply an average age of the wines in the bottle. These are known to be the finest of the Tawny Port category.
  • Colheita – Wines of a single vintage that have been aged in wood for a minimum period of eight years, although most are aged longer. And like a LBV, the label must indicate the vintage as well as the year of bottling.  None of the Tawny’s need to be decanted, as they are all bottled ready to drink.


    Colheita Ports

3.  Vintage Ports – are intended to age further in the bottle. Usually they are only in cask for between 18 months and 3 years.  They are not filtered before bottling, and will throw a significant amount of sediment upon pouring, therefore, they must be decanted.


Vintage Port

They are typically a blend of the finest wines from the BEST vineyards only. In those good years, the Port Houses will “declare” a vintage.  Patience is a virtue with Vintage Ports, as they may not reach their full maturity for 20 years or more. When enjoyed young, they can be full, rich and super tannic, but will be mellow, smooth with developed flavours as they mature.

  • Single Quinta Vintage Port– made as a Vintage but from a single estate or quinta, which is sometimes the producer’s “flagship” vineyard.  The name of said quinta must appear on the label and are made more frequently than Vintage Ports.
White Port

And just to throw a curveball, there is also WHITE Port.  Made from white grapes, it ranges in style from dry to sweet.  It has flavours of toasted nuts and honey due to oxidation.  It is released between 1-3 years, is non-vintage, and bottled ready to drink!

Yeah…lots to choose from, but these are good choices to make!  Whatever your style, colour or price range, there is a port out there for you!

Why not have a Port tasting sometime?  Whether it be for your next corporate event, or in the privacy of your own home, taste the different styles of Port, and find YOUR next favourite!  CALL (780-691-1200) or EMAIL me to book your Port tasting!

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