Great Britain not only made famous tea and whisky. Despite barely not producing wine, it also made great contributions to the development of global viticulture: British were the ones who discovered port wine. The history of this Portuguese wine dates back several centuries in the past, but it was only in the seventeenth century when English imposed it on the rest of the world. Great Britain was at war with France, which forced the Crown to declare the embargo on products from that country. It was in search of quality wines to replace the French that its citizens found that different drink, with a greater than usual alcohol content and a dry or sweet flavour, which surprised even the most demanding.
Its secret lay in the addition of several liters of brandy per barrel during fermentation in order to retain some of the natural sugar in the grape. The interest aroused in England by port wine made many investments from that country to establish in the area surrounding the Portuguese city of Oporto, giving great impetus to viticulture in the region. Some of those wineries still retain the English names of its founders, “Croft”, “Offley”, “Gordon rahams”, “Sandeman”, “Dow”, “Warre”.
By the mid-eighteenth century, the port wine received a final boost when the Portuguese Crown created by law the current Real Companhia Velha, the oldest winery for elaboration of port wine, and immediately after, between 1758 and 1761, delimited the region for port wine production, giving birth to the world's oldest appellation, prior to that of French wines. From that date are definitively established the processing methods that are still respected today.
The wines, made from over 12 varieties of grapes, white and red, are fermented in the cellars located in the alto Douro (name given to the Douro River as it passes through Portugal), near the terraced vineyards installed on the slopes of the hills. After development of the fermentation, when the yeast still have not consumed all the sugar, it is added brandy (spirit of wine), preventing the further fermentation and sweetening the drink. Once completed, the port wine is moved downstream to aging in the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, facing the city of Oporto, near the Atlantic Ocean.