Making amazing port wine at home is often simpler than making most red table wines. As port is a fortified wine, stability and antimicrobial protection is provided by the added alcohol, this makes spoilage less of a concern. Many wine makers don’t feel the need to use a recipe when making port wine and instead rely on sheer experience and taste however, if you are new to wine making it is recommended that you follow a recipe or method.
While there are many new methods used to make Port wine, the classic Portuguese method is considered almost ancient and is rarely used anywhere else in the world. Over the last two millenniums, most of the port wine-making process has been mechanised. But! There is one thing that machines are unable to do, actually pick the grapes! This is because Portugal’s renowned Douro Valley’s ancient terraces are protected by UNESCO and are actually too narrow for tractors.
After the grapes have been picked they are placed in lagers, open-top wine fermenting tanks made from stone or neutral concrete, where they are crushed. The process of crushing the grapes can be done by both machinery and manual labour. In traditional methods, a process called “foot treading” is used. This process takes around three days before the wine is transported to fermentation tanks where it continues to ferment until the desired sugar level or Baumé is reached.
After the wine has fermented to its desired sweetness spirits are added in order to stop the fermentation process by creating an environment where yeast is unable to survive. Winemakers add the neutral grape spirits evenly into the port so that the yeast is able to deactivate in a calm manner.
Although Port stabilises after the brandy is added it still needs time to develop. It’s actually illegal to sell port wines that have not been aged for over two years.
While wine making at home may seem like a bit of a daunting task, kits can be bought in order to make the process easier and more comfortable. These kits consist of concentrated grape juice and several tools designed to make making wine at home a less stressful and more enjoyable experience.