Port is renowned as a great after-dinner drink. It comes from the beautiful Douro Valley in northern Portugal where vines are grown on terraces lining the sides of the valley. The stony steps and steep valley sides mean that work in the vineyard must be undertaken by hand. Here, a vineyard or estate is known as a quinta. A blend of black grape varieties is often used, with Touriga Nacional recognised as an important variety. Some properties have 'field blends', where their long history means that each vineyard has a range of different varieties.
Traditionally, grapes were trodden by foot in huge lagares. While this still happens for some ports, mechanisation is now standard procedure. In the spring after harvesting, the wine is taken to the coastal town of Vila Nova de Gaia, where it matures in lodges. There are two main styles of port: ruby (aged mainly in the bottle) and tawny (aged for many years in oak casks). The best ruby ports (crusted and vintage) will age for many years and should be decanted before serving. Tawny ports are aged for 10 or 20 years in cask and are ideal served with a cheeseboard.
White port, from white grapes, can be served over ice with a slice of lemon. In Portugal, it's traditional to add a sprig or two of mint, and sip before dinner.