What is Port Wine & Its Types

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Drinking Port wine is popular not only in Portugal but also in other parts of the world and can also offer a number of health benefits.

What is Port Wine?

Port wine is a type of fortified sweet red wine primarily made in Portugal and is commonly known as Porto or vino do Porto. Port wine is a type of red wine, but there are some differences in the way it is produced, mainly that port wine will include the addition of brandy or other alcohols after the fermentation process. Therefore, port wine tends to be higher in alcohol than red wine. Like other wine and alcohol, the port is not necessarily dangerous for you when consumed in moderation. Furthermore, it has various antioxidants and active ingredients that can provide some health benefits. [1]

When it comes to taste, port wine has a sweet flavor, so it is usually considered a dessert wine. Port wine imports tend to be higher than other wines, coming in at roughly 20%, versus 10 to 12% in other wines.

Types of Port Wine

There are a number of different types of port wine including tawny port, ruby red, reserve port, and vintage port, among others. [2]

Port wine glasses besides a bottle

Port wine is also known as vinho do Porto. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

  • White Port: Made from a combination of white wines, white port is lower in alcohol content, coming in at only 2 % to 3%, and is also aged for a shorter time, typically less than 3 years.
  • Ruby Port: This type is made from a combination of younger ports and is aged for 3 to 5 years in wooden barrels.
  • Vintage Port: After aging this port for two years in wooden barrels, it is transferred to bottles and allowed to mature for up to 25 years.
  • Tawny Port: Aged in wooden barrels, the tawny port is made from a combination of wines and is typically aged between 6 and 7 years, although these ports can be aged for up to four decades.

Port Wine Nutrition

As with most other types of alcohol, the majority of nutrients in port are carbohydrates, which represent 99% of the nutrients. A 3.5-ounce glass of the port contains roughly 165 calories, as well as low levels of calcium, iron, and various antioxidants, such as resveratrol.

Port Wine Health Benefits

Port wine, when had in moderation, offers potential health benefits, including its ability to prevent heart disease, and lower overall cholesterol levels.

  • Antioxidants like resveratrol help to prevent chronic diseases [3]
  • Reduce overall cholesterol levels and prevent heart diseases [4]


There are a number of different substitutes for this popular alcoholic beverage, including sherry, vermouth, and sweet white wine.

  • Sweet red wine
  • Sweet white wine
  • Sherry
  • Marsala
  • Madeira
  • Vermouth
  • Fruit juice

Red Wine vs Port Wine vs Madeira Wine

  • Port wine: It often has additional liquor or brandy added to it, unlike red wine.
  • Madeira wine: It is heated and cooled multiple times during the production process, which is normally prohibited when making wine. It is made on the Madeira islands whereas port wine is traditionally made in Portugal. [5]
  • Red wine: It is made in many countries across the world including France, Italy, South Africa, and New Zealand.
  • Port wine and Madeira wine stay good much longer than red wine once the bottle is opened.


  • There are a number of ways to use the port in cooking as well as in the form of dessert wine.
  • Port is an excellent ingredient to make sauces for both savory and sweet dishes. [6]
  • It can also be reduced to make a tasty red wine reduction.

When drinking port, be careful to consume in moderation, as with any other alcohol.

How to Store?

  • When storing port, it is important to keep it on its side so that the cork remains moist.
  • Once you open a bottle of port it should remain good for up to 3 months, unlike wine, which can go off rather quickly and become acidic and vinegar-flavored. [7]
  • You can also store port either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
  • Storing it in the refrigerator will slow down the oxidation process, thus giving even more life to your bottle.

Side Effects

Although drinking port can be beneficial for certain health conditions, there are some side effects that you should be aware of. As with drinking any alcohol, the port should be consumed in moderation. Drinking an excess of the port can lead to the following: [8]

  • Hangover
  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal problems

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who should not drink alcohol include women who are pregnant, individuals younger than 21 years of age, and people who are recovering from alcoholism or cannot control the amount they drink. Also, it should be avoided by people who are planning to drive or any other activity that required focus and skill. [9]

Also, cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab. [10]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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