There are actually a wide variety of fortified wines in the world, for which Port is just one kind. But it is a special one, and of the fortified wines, it is the oldest. Fortifying means that a grape spirit, or brandy, is added to the wine to help preserve it. The brandy is added during fermentation, which then kills the yeast as the yeast can only survive in an environment that is just so high in alcohol. This means that wine retains its sweetness. From here, the wine goes into a series of ageing containers. Depending on how long the ageing process is, the wine maker is making Ruby or Tawny port.
Portugal is home to over 250 native grape varieties. These are referred to as “Autochthonous Grapes,” since they are indigenous to the place where they are found. Most of the grapes found in Portugal are not found or planted in other regions of the world.
Winemaking in Portugal comes from the traditions that were introduced by ancient civilizations. Exports of wine to Rome started during the Roman Empire and modern exports developed with trade to England in the early 1700s. Portugal boasts of over 250 indigenous grape varieties, along with some imported vines that were suited for the Portuguese climate and terrain.