Each Port can be classified into a specific category depending on its aging process and whether it is a blend of several wines or a wine from a single year. Here is a quick review of Ports made with grapes from a single year as opposed to Port blends.
A Port from a single year expresses the identity of the Vintage whereas a blend expresses the character and profile of the house that produces it.
There are 4 types of Ports than can bear a Vintage year on their label
1 - A Vintage Port is only produced during the best years with the best grapes. Bottled between the 2nd and 3rd year after the harvest, it is a wine that ages slowly in the bottle for several decades until reaching full maturity. Key words for Vintage Ports are color, body and purity of the fruit. A young Vintage has a very dark, almost inky color and powerful tannins, loaded with primary black fruits, floral aromas and hints of spices. With time tannins soften and become more polished, the fruit mellows and the wine gains in complexity, delivering notes of herbs, plum, figs and subtle black and red fruits combined altogether. Their is a perfect integration of the spirit and a great balance between sweetness and acidity.
2 - Like a Vintage Port, a LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) is also a Port from a single year but bottled between the 4th and 6th year after the harvest. The extra time spent in vat allows the wine to have further contact with air. The tannins and softer than those of a Vintage; the wine is ready to drink upon release. Generally, unfiltered LBV remain 4 years in vat and filtered LBV 6 years. It is a wine of great quality but more accessible than a Vintage Port.
3 - A Colheita is a Single Harvest Tawny Port. It is also produced during the best years with the best grapes and must spend a minimum of 7 years in small casks before bottling. As opposed to a Vintage Port which has a very limited contact with oxygen during bottle aging, a Colheita is purposely oxidized. Whilst it ages, it's young, fruity aromas develop through oxidation to create a bouquet of dried fruit, toasted wood, citrus and spices. The wine acquires an increased smoothness and its bouquet becomes more harmonious and complex. Key words for great Colheita Ports are freshness, balance and harmony. Colheita Ports can remain in cask more than a century.
4 - A Garrafeira is also a Single Harvest Port that spends in between 3 to 6 years in wood, before being transferred to glass demijohns with capacities of 8 to 11 liters. The wine can spend several decades in demijohns and is decanted prior to bottling. Niepoort is the only producer currently offering this type of Port. According to Dirk Niepoort, the aging in demijohn achieves a great elegance produced by any other means.