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.
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.
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