Travel Guide to Portugal

Wanted: Ruby Port Wine

By Gabriella Opaz

RubyAs we have done with both Sherry and Portuguese table wine, our goal is to provide you with a solid understanding as to what Port wine is throughout the month of November. Over the next two weeks, we will be providing you port wine profiles of each style with the occasional tasting note thrown in for good measure. If you have a particular question, style or topic you would like us to research, as always, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Flavor Profile

Color: Known for it’s youthful and vibrant ruby red or garnet color, not so unlike its name.
Aromas: Explosion of red fruit, plum and blueberry
Flavors: Plum, cherry, cassis, strawberry and red apple
Body: Typically these wines are medium bodied with little tannic grip.
Attributes: Generally considered the simplest, most one-dimensional, of all Port wine
Place of Birth: the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal
Language: Portuguese, but it has been known to speak a few foreign dialects
Comprised of: Primarily, 5 black-skinned grape varietals: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Francesca
Aging: 2 to 3 years in neutral oak or stainless steel vats


Ruby Ports are made from specifically chosen red grapes from the Douro River Valley. They have been fermented on their skins and aged in blends in either neutral oak or stainless steel for 2 to 3 years before bottled young.

When you hold up a glass of Ruby port to the light, you may be surprised to know that it could be comprised of over a thousand pipes (barrels) of port wine. Over a thousand! And although these pipes all originate from Douro, they are typically a blend of several different vineyards scattered across the valley. Therefore, the amount of people, time, energy, history and tradition intertwined into one bottle of port is not only unimaginable, but absolutely priceless. Because like a palate filled with primary colors, you are gently blending and layering on the canvas to create, what you hope to be, a masterpiece.

After the wine has first been racked from the lees, during the Winter that follows the vintage in which they were made, wines will be analyzed and classified into a specific style. When a winemaker chooses the previous year’s wine to be a Ruby port, he/she will typically do so early on in the process creating their “lotes”, or parcel of wine, within the first six months of the vintage. However, to augment their wine, shippers will typically buy up large quantities of wine from cooperatives located in the Baixo Corgo. The challenge, however, is to produce a port of consistent style and age to keep with their house style. This, is not easy task, especially for young fruit driven wine which can vary extensively in quality from year to year must be integrated seamlessly into the final blend.


If you want get into the world of port, this is the way to do it. Ruby ports tend to be extremely affordable and widely accessible, especially in the UK and US. The means of experimenting with Ruby port are numerous, but allow me to suggest a few options. One is to head out to your local wine savvy bar and experiment with a couple that catch you eye. The other option is to grab a few from your local wine shop, as they are quite affordable, and pair them with some fun tapas. What is key to any wine experience, as we try to instill everyday here at Catavino, is experimentation. But here’s a secret…if want something a little higher in quality, around the $15 dollar range, you can find wines blended from more exclusive lots and labeled with the proprietary names, such as the “Founders Reserve’ from the house of Sandman. These wines tend to be of higher quality with a touch more complexity.

Ruby Port wines will keep well in a properly stored, unopened bottle for several years, however, these wines are not known to improve with cellaring. Therefore, like a Fino/Manzanilla sherry wine, it is suggested that you purchase a Ruby Port within a year of bottling. Once opened, a Ruby Port wine will retain its original characteristics for about two weeks if properly stored and refrigerated.


Gabriella Opaz


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Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula
looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Catavino is the best place to learn about travel, food
and wine in Portugal and Spain.

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