Know your port: A beginner’s guide

Port wine; it has a somewhat bad name. Stereotypically the reserve of the older generations, it’s sweet, rich taste makes it the perfect after-dinner refreshment but is sadly dismissed by those who don’t know what they’re missing.

If you’ve neglected this delicious and delicate drink in the past, now is the time to correct your behavior. Luckily for you, Home Wet Bar is on hand to tell you everything you need to know as a beginner, from how it’s made to how to drink it.

What’s in a name?

Douro Valley at Home Wet Bar

The name of port stems from its country of origin: Portugal. Grown and produced in the Douro Valley of Portugal, port is actually like champagne, in the sense that if the product is produced in any other region, it’s not technically port.

If you want to invest in some genuine port, the official name if Vinho do Porto, an important name to note as many products produced elsewhere in the world including other regions of Portugal and within the US will be labelled as either port, or by other Portuguese names such as Dão, Oporto, or simply Porto.

How it’s made

Port Wine Cellars at Home Wet Bar

As the name Vinho do Porto would suggest, port is made in a very similar way to wine. The season starts in September when specially grown port grapes are picked, often by hand. These particular grapes differ from those used for wine as the juice much more concentrated thanks to the small size of the berry and its thick skin.

There are several varieties of port grape that each produce a distinct flavor and are typically harvested together to result in a final product that produces a rich and delicious nose for the beverage.

Once picked, the grapes are crushed either by machine or by the traditional method of foot crushing until the majority of the juices are released. The skins are left with the juice, which allows the product to ferment and become a dark color, while some of the natural sugars are still present.

Poured into a massive container known as a Cubas, neutral grape alcohol is added to the mixture. Similar to brandy, this extra alcohol is of a very high percentage, usually in the 70% region. Once blended, the liquid is then added to barrels until it has aged appropriately.

Before bottling, some ports may be blended again according to their type, whilst others may be bottled as is – and that’s it!

Know the styles

Port Bottles at Home Wet Bar

Just like any other drink, there are several styles of port to choose from depending on the taste you’re looking for. Let’s break them down:

  • Tawny: A sweet or medium dry style, tawny port is made from red grapes and aged in a wooden barrel that allows the liquid to slowly oxidize and evaporate. This process gives the liquid its amber color and produces a nutty, sweet flavor that works perfectly as a desert wine.
  • Ruby: One of the most common types of port, a ruby port is stored in a solid container of either concrete or steel in order to prevent oxidization and maintain the rich, deep color after which the style is named.
  • Rose: A newcomer to the port scene, rose port is technically similar to a ruby, but as the liquid has been fermented for a shorter amount of time with the skins which are soon removed after crushing (in the same style as rosé wine), the liquid adopts a light, rose color.
  • White: A vast range of flavors, white port can be anything from extremely sweet to extremely dry and is excellent when included in a cocktail. Made from white grapes, the port is typically allowed to age in a wooden barrel for long periods of time.

These are the basics; there are a variety of other styles available based upon different years and blends, along with the area of production but most types fall within these four main categories.

How to drink it

Cheese with Port at Home Wet Bar

Since port is so much stronger in both flavor and alcohol content than wine, you don’t want to drink huge amounts of it at once! Port is best enjoyed after a delicious meal alongside desert or a rich and varied cheeseboard, as the sweetness and complex nose can help to enhance the flavors of a meal.

Port should be aired but not oxidized, which can make serving it quite tricky. Designed in the 17th Century, port sippers allow the port to air, while the hand warms the liquid as you sip from the spout. A traditional way to drink this delightful wine, and one of the best!

Choosing The Best Wine Aerator

They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, and while popping open a bottle of your favorite red wine five minutes before you drink it won’t hurt you (that is, unless you nail yourself in the eye with the cork), wine experts would argue that what you don’t know about aerating wine properly can most certainly hinder your wine’s flavor and your overall satisfaction.

Consumer Reports Magazine recently conducted a study with two trained wine experts and 62 untrained wine drinkers. Tasters sampled Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon (about $10 a bottle) poured directly from the bottle, through the Rabbit wine aerator, and the Vinturi essential wine aerator. The 62 wine novices immediately tasted a clear positive difference in the wine that had gone through each red wine aerator. Surveyors then let the wineglasses that were poured straight from the bottle sit uncovered for half an hour. Results showed that although the novices did taste differences in flavor between an aerated glass of wine and a glass that had been sitting, there was no clear favorite or noticeable cons. [Source: Consumer Reports Magazine, November 2012]

So what does that tell us?

The short answer is that you can get a similar effect to the flavor of your wine by letting your glass sit out and “breathe” for at least 30 minutes. But really, who has time for that? That’s where a wine aerator comes in.

The Purpose of a Wine Aerator

A wine aerator filters air into your wine. It will enhance the flavor and make your wine taste and smell better in an accelerated time, so you don’t have to sit around staring at your wine glass for two hours. When you allow the wine to breathe, you’re ensuring a smoother overall taste. [Source: Rosalind Jackson]

How to Use a Wine Aerator

The aeration process is not complicated. First, open your wine bottle with a corkscrew. Then, make sure you have your wine glass below the aerator and pour the wine directly into the wine aerator. You can also choose to use a decanter before pouring the wine into your glass.

Keep in mind, there are many types of wine aerators. Ranging from Adjustable Wine Aerators priced around $50 to the Vino Air at about $18, they come in all shapes and sizes, with varying features; the key is to find the best wine aerator for you. Some have dual chambers or a built-in decanter, such as this Grapevine In-Bottle Wine Aerator. This type of wine aerator essentially works as a mini decanter and aerator in one.

Other wine aerators assist with drip-free pouring while aerating wine for maximum flavor. (Vino-Air Wine Aerator and Pourer;

You can also purchase a wine aerator and stand that you hold over the wine glass to allow for perfectly aerated wine. Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator;

Conclusion: Stop worrying about choosing the best wine aerator, and just get out there and choose the one who’s features appeal to you. Sure, some of them boast that they open up a wine more or less, but no matter which red wine aerator or white wine aerator you choose, they will all help open up your wines; improving the flavor and the bouquet in a short amount of time compared to traditional wine decanting. Aerating  wine in short, allows you to taste the richness of the flavor, and if you don’t care about that, how about this: it will make your $10 bottle of wine taste more like a $25 bottle of wine, and a $20 bottle like $40, saving you money in the long run while impressing your guests as well.

And in case you want more…

So What’s the Deal with Wine Decanters?

Decanting your wine is a similar function to aerating wine—both allow the wine to breathe, just in a different manner. Decanting is the process of transferring wine from one bottle into another bottle or glass and letting it sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours (depending on how patient you are!). The process is slightly different for older wines vs. younger wines, because an older wine contains sediment that can give off a bitter flavor. Therefore, when you decant an older wine, you’re essentially separating the sediment while allowing the wine to breathe. This isn’t the case with younger wines. For older wines I still recommend the wine decanting process over wine aeration. For more on the decanting process, read Joseph Nase‘s article in New York Magazine and, if you’re so inclined, check out the selection of wine decanters available at

3 Valentines Day Gift Ideas for Him and Her

It’s that one day a year where you’ve got to show your significant other exactly how much they mean to you with a gift that not only says, “I love you,” but one that says, “I understand you.” If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume your guy or girl likes to drink and have fun. Whether it be wine, liquor, or beer, we’ve got a few ideas that could help you say what you need to say, but without spending a lot of dough.

Gifts for Her

1. Giant Extra Large Wine Glass

It’s so big, there’s three words that say how big it really is: Giant, Extra, Large. This handblown mega-glass is so massive it holds an entire 750mL bottle of wine. Do yourself a favor and get a few, so not only could she share a pleasantly wined evening with you, but she could also have an amazing night in with the girls.

2. Parisian Chic High Heel Wine Holder

What is the number one thing girls love the most? If you guessed purse-size animals or jewelry, you’re on the right track, but oh so wrong. Shoes are a girl’s real best friend, and this glitzy high heel wine bottle holder is the perfect mixture of “chic” and “cute” that fits wine bottles of all sizes.

3. Leopard Flip Flop Bottle Opener

In the realm of all things “cute,” a flip flop bottle opener takes the cake. But this isn’t just any slick bottle opener, it’s got that leopard print extra that girls love to wear. Does your girl not like the leopard? Don’t worry, we’ve got it in pink and zebra striped too.

Gifts for Him

1. Simply Class Whiskey Glass Set

Men love feeling like the elite wise-guys of Madison Avenue, and those elite wise-guys drink whiskey. Set your man up with a set of hand blown crystal whiskey glasses. These hold 14 ounces of awesome in a four-inch rim. These beautiful glasses will take you back to a simpler time where having class was respected and the finer things in life were gained through honest, hard work.

2. Personalized Saloon Man Cave Sign

Give your man the expressed right of claiming his territory, without making the mess that your pets do. This 18″x14″ saloon savvy sign, made with real wood, can be personalized with your guy’s name so that all his friends will know they’re entering his domain. What happens in the man cave, stays in the man cave.

3. Vintage Dude Beer Mugs & Flasks

Made from durable, lightweight plastic, with a classy description authorizing your man’s right to just sit, relax, and enjoy his brew. These mega-mugs are perfect for barbecues or hanging out for the big game. We’ve also got decade-personalized tankards available for ages 30, 40, and 50, as well as flasks for 30 and 40.