As port wine is a little stronger than unfortified wine, it’s often enjoyed in smaller quantities. Therefore, it’s unlikely that you’ll finish a bottle in one setting even with guests.
In this guide, you will learn how to store opened or unopened port wine according to the circumstances:
- How To Store Port Wine
- Does Port Age In The Bottle?
- Do You Refrigerate Port Wine?
- How To Store Opened Port Wine
- Does Port Wine Go Bad?
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read more.
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How To Store Port Wine
Port was originally made to be hardy and resistant to the effects of shipping. When the British first imported wine from Portugal over rough seas, it had a tendency to spoil. Therefore, alcohol was added to render it more stable.
Nevertheless, port isn’t invulnerable to the ravages of time despite having a greater level of endurance.
Although it has been fortified with neutral grape spirit in a process known as “mutage”, port wine is often stored like its unfortified counterparts. In short, you would simply store port like regular wine.
Wine is quite sensitive to changes in temperature and sunlight. As such, port wine is best stored in a dark place with a consistent temperature. Consequently, cellars and basements are often the best places for keeping your port.
The precise temperature isn’t as important as its consistency. As mentioned above, wine is sensitive to changes in temperature, which can taint the wine by affecting the bottle’s internal temperature. However, try to keep it within around 10 to 20°C (50 – 68°F) with just under 15°C (59°C) being ideal.
Port wine sealed with a stopper can be stored upright. Meanwhile, corked bottles are best kept on their sides. Taking this step allows the liquid to hydrate the cork and prevent it from drying.
Finally, bear in mind that the ideal storage temperature isn’t always the same as the best serving temperature.
Does Port Age In The Bottle?
As the fermentation process has been halted by adding alcohol, port wine tends to have a relatively long shelf life. Indeed, a well-sealed port bottle can last for far longer than most wine.
However, most ruby and tawny port is bottled and released when the producer feels that they are ready to drink. Therefore, they aren’t necessarily meant to be aged, even if their flavours may change over time.
An exception is vintage port, which is usually unfiltered from its sediment and they’re bottled together. These are often bottled-aged for decades by the producer before being made available to the public. Afterwards, it’s not uncommon for collectors to continue ageing it themselves.
Bear in mind that vintage port requires decanting from its sediment. Therefore, once opened, it will need to be consumed within a few days.
Do You Refrigerate Port Wine?
Depending on its temperature and consistency, port can often be served directly from the cellar. If you don’t have somewhere as reliable as a basement or cellar for storing unopened port, you can use the fridge for short periods of time or to cool it before serving.
As we outline in our guide to serving port linked above, you’ll just need to remove the port from the fridge shortly before serving it so that it reaches the right temperature.
However, it’s not recommended that you store port in a refrigerator for too long, especially if it remains upright. Indeed, a fridge will be too cold for long-term storage. Additionally, the frequent exposure to light, vibrations, and changes it temperature when the door is opened could upset it after a while.
As a general rule, unopened port should be fine if kept in the refrigerator for between two to three months. Any longer and we would recommend finding a cool and dark place in your house.
How To Store Opened Port Wine
Once you’ve cracked open a bottle of port wine, it’s exposed to the elements, which begins a process of oxidization. As a result, its lifespan will have shortened even after you replace the cork of stopper.
If your cellar or basement is cold enough (below 10°C / 50°F), it can still be stored there. However, a refrigerator will be more practical and its lower temperature will help slow down the oxidization process.
Since the seal has been broken, it’s now better to keep the opened bottle of port upright rather than on its side. Simply keep it in the refrigerator and take it out in advance of drinking more so that it returns to the correct serving temperature.
Finally, consider finishing your port within the timeframe outlined in the final section of this guide below.
Does Port Wine Go Bad?
Different types of port can last for varying amounts of time once they have been opened. For instance, an aged tawny port has already undergone micro-oxidization after having been barrel-aged, which means that it’s more resistant to further exposure.
However, a ruby port is immediately bottled after being stored in inert tanks. Therefore, it is much more sensitive to oxygen. Meanwhile, vintage ports are extremely delicate after having potentially spent decades ageing in the bottle.
Depending on its type, port can last the following lengths of time in a refrigerator after being opened:
- Ruby & Tawny Port: 3 Weeks
- White & Rose Port: 2 Weeks
- Aged Tawny Port: 2 Months
- Old Vintage Port: 24 Hours
- Late Bottled Vintage Port: 1 Week
Thanks to the additional alcohol, opened port will last longer than regular table wine. However, its flavours will deteriorate over time. Therefore, consider finishing it within the above times described above.
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