What is the Difference Between Tawny and Vintage Port?

Ideal Wine Company always strives to provide you the information you need to become an experienced wine drinker. This week we’re tackling a question for those people who are thinking about buying Port wine: “What’s the difference between tawny and vintage Port?”

Intro to Port

Port wine is becoming increasingly popular among British drinkers. Data from Nielsen, an international information and measurement firm, suggests that UK Port wine sales totalled over £79 million last year. This means that Port now commands the UK’s largest market share for fortified wine.

Port is beloved among UK consumers because it is a unique style of fortified wine. Similarly to Champagne, ‘Port’ is a legally protected product. Only winemakers who conform to specific production rules can call their wine a ‘Port.’ A Port must be made from grapes grown in the Douro Valley in Portugal. Popular Port grapes include Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesca and Touriga Nacional.

Looking at tawnies

Typically, Port is a sweet red commonly served as a dessert wine. But there are so many varieties! You may want to learn more about them to determine which style of Port is right for you. One of the first things you will need to research to become a Port aficionado is the difference between ‘tawny’ and ‘vintage’ Port.

Let’s look at tawny Ports first. This label is used for Ports which possess a ‘tawny’ reddish brown colour, which they acquire due to oxidisation during their long maturation process. Tawny Ports are aged in porous wooden casks for at least ten years, however this can stretch on as long as 40 years. These Ports typically possess mellow flavours, such as nuts, wood and dried fruit.

Explaining vintage Ports

In contrast, ‘vintage’ is used to refer to Ports made entirely from grapes which were grown in a single year. Here, the product is aged in oak barrels for just two years before bottling. However, vintage Ports are usually exposed to an extensive bottle ageing process. Often, they’re not ready to drink for 20 years after the year in which the grapes were first picked.

Vintage ports are often regarded as the richest and most powerful of Ports. Their limited time in the barrel allows these Ports to retain the deep red/purple colour that this style of wine typically possesses prior to ageing, but tends to lose after being exposed to extensive oxidisation. Boasting sweet, ripe fruity flavours, these Ports taste absolutely stunning and age fantastically in the bottle.

Sample a stellar vintage

In other words, tawny and vintage Ports provide you with entirely different drinking experiences. The latter is particularly well known for its powerful flavours. If you want to sample a world-class vintage Port, buy Fonsecas Finest 1977 Vintage Port from the Ideal Wine Company. The year 1977 was an outstanding time for Port production, so you’re sure to love this sumptuous vintage!