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Portugal
Still Wine

On still wines from Portugal, the labels can vary quite significantly, however there are just a few key terms to understand.The terms regulated on the label are:

Vinho de Mesa:  These are the simplest wines and are mostly non-vintage.

Vinho Regional:  These are the wines from the 8 largest provinces.

IPR:  These wines are from areas that are regulated more strictly. There are only 28 approved regions.

DOC:  These wines are from the top sub regions and must have a vintage. There are 19 top regions.

As seen on this label, Vinho Regional appears which indicates its quality level, and right next to it, is the region (Beiras). It should also be noted that the varietal can be listed on the bottle.
 


Port

Most Port houses bottle their wines in several different formats. These formats range greatly in terms of style, flavor, and aroma. These labels are easy to read, as most are in English. The terms to understand a label are:

Vintage:  Blended from the wine of the best vineyards in the same year and stored whilst maturing for not less than 15 years. It must be bottled and racked within two years of harvesting. It is the cream of all Ports.

Single Quinta Port:  As the name implies this Port is from a single vineyard and can often be a Vintage Port.

LBV:  This is a "Late Bottled Vintage" single year Port that has been matured in wood for not less than four years before being bottled. The label indicates the year of bottling and its vintage.

Vintage Character Port:  This title is misleading in that the Port is similar to that of a fine Ruby Port and not that of a Vintage.

Crusted Port:  This Port is a successful blending of wines from different years. Kept in casks for four years and then three years in the bottle prior to being sold. The crust deposit in the bottle is the cause of its name but should not be confused with Vintage.

Fine Old Tawny:  As the name suggests this is pale-amber in color and less full-bodied. It is a blended wine from different years and its label will indicate its age as an average year of its content. It is bottled and racked for 10, 20 years or more, assuming a smooth silky texture and a mellow nutty flavor.

Vintage-dated Tawny:  These attractively priced Ports are as a Fine Old Tawny but also considered a Vintage. They can spend 20 or 50 years in a cask.

Tawny:  A Port that is less sweet in flavor and composed of blending from different aged wines - even a clever mixture of red and white. These Tawny Ports do not improve with ageing.

Fine Old Ruby:  Blended from different years and kept in the cask for about four years before being ready to drink. They have a fruity-spicy flavor and classified as inferior to Tawny.

Ruby:  A fruity Port and as the name suggests, deep red in color. They blended from wines of different years and take no more than one to three years to mature.

White:  This is either dry or sweet in flavor. Normally chilled before serving and acts as an attractive aperitif in the small manner as a Spanish Sherry.

 

Madiera

To read a Madeira label all one needs to understand is a few terms based on classification.

Sercial: Pale and Dry
Verdelho: Golden, and Medium Rich
Bual: Deep in color and sweet
Malmsey: Dark brown, full bodied, and sweet

Sercial and Verdehlo are normally around 18% ABV, while Bual and Malmsey are around 20% ABV due to the increased sugar levels.

1. The Madeira House. In this case, Broadbent
2. The Classification, in this case being Sercial
3. The vintage year, with this bottle being from 1940



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