Mastering the Base Vocabulary of Port Wine: A Beginner's Guide

Dec 17, 2023

Port wine, a luscious and storied fortified wine from Portugal, has captivated palates for centuries. For enthusiasts eager to delve into this world, understanding the base vocabulary is essential. This article demystifies key terms to enhance your appreciation and knowledge of Port wine.


Colheita (pronounced KOLL-YÄIH-TAH) is a Portuguese term meaning 'harvest.' In the context of Port, it refers to a Tawny Port from a single vintage. These wines must age for at least seven years in barrels, though they often mature much longer. This aging process imparts unique flavors and complexity, distinguishing Colheita from other Ports.


The Lagar (LAGAAR) is a traditional granite or stone basin used for crushing grapes in Port wine production. This method, often involving foot-treading, is quintessential in crafting Port wines. The physical interaction with the grapes yields a distinctive quality, setting manually crushed wines apart from those processed in a Robotic Lagar.

Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV)

LBV stands as a middle-tier category among Ruby Ports. These wines come from a single vintage and are either filtered or left unfiltered before bottling after 4 to 6 years of aging. LBVs offer a glimpse into the vintage's character without the extensive aging required for Vintage Ports.


A Pipa (PIPPA) is a standard barrel used in aging Port wine, holding approximately 550 liters. The size and material of Pipas significantly influence the wine's development, contributing to its flavor, aroma, and texture.


Quinta (KINTA), similar to the French 'Château,' refers to a winery or vineyard. In the Douro Valley, quintas are the epicenters of Port production, each imparting its unique terroir to the wines produced.

Robotic Lagar

A modern innovation in Port production, the Robotic Lagar automates grape crushing. While preserving the traditional method's essence, it ensures consistency and efficiency in wine production.

Ruby Port

Ruby Port is a broad term for bottle-aged Ports. This category includes standard Ruby, premium Ruby, LBVs, and Vintage Ports. The name 'Ruby' alludes to the wine's vibrant, youthful red color.

Tawny Port

Tawny Port, in contrast, refers to barrel-aged Ports made from red grapes. This category includes standard Tawnys, reserve Tawnys, age-designated Tawnys, and Colheitas. The term 'Tawny' describes the amber-brown hue these wines acquire through extended barrel aging.

Vintage and Vintage Port

'Vintage' denotes the year of grape harvest. Vintage Port represents the pinnacle of Ruby Ports, typically the top 1-2% of a vintage. These Ports are unfiltered and aged for 2-3 years before bottling, with potential to mature for decades. Vintage Ports are only produced in exceptional years, making them highly sought after.

White Ports

White Ports are crafted from white grape varieties. Unlike their red counterparts, they offer a different spectrum of flavors and are typically lighter and fresher.


This base vocabulary offers a foundation for exploring the diverse and rich world of Port wine. Understanding these terms not only enhances your tasting experience but also deepens your appreciation for the art and science of Port wine production. Whether you're a novice or an aspiring connoisseur, this knowledge is a steppingstone into the fascinating world of Port wine.

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