Appellation: a geographical area with set borders where wine can be planted and produced. If wines from that area are made within regulations set by the appellation’s regulatory, they may place the appellation’s name in their labels. (Example: Douro, Alentejo, Dão etc.)
Balseiro Portuguese for “Barrel”, a massive cask that stands upright, often holding thousands or tens of thousands of liters, most commonly used to age Ruby Port wine varieties.
Barco Rabelo: a traditional boat used to carry casks of Port wine down the Douro river to Porto, where it would be aged. It’s design consisted of: a flat bottom, single sale, and a long steering oar which helped the boat navigate the dangerous conditions of the river.
Brandy: a spirit distilled from wine with 77% alcohol by volume, used to interrupt the fermentation process to fortify the wine. Not to be confused with the Brandy you drink, the variety used to fortify wine is clear and has not been aged.
Decanting: the process of separating sediment from the wine before serving, often using a decanter.
DOC: a wine made within an appellation that adheres to established regulated quality parameters, including: what grape varieties can be used, minimum alcohol content and maximum crop yields, as well length of aging in both cask and the bottle. In Portugal, a DOC wine must be made using 100% native grapes from the region.
Fermentation: the process of converting the natural sugars in the grape juice to alcohol, caused by the micro-organisms referred to as yeast.
Fortification: the process of interrupting fermentation by adding Brandy to the wine, killing the yeast and increasing the alcohol content. The result is a “Fortified Wine” which includes Port, Moscatel and Madeira.
IPR: a wine from an appellation that has already established a set of regulations (like a DOC), but has not existed long enough, or its wines hasn’t had the consistent quality necessary to be regarded as a full appellation.
Regional Wines: a wine that can be blended with grape varieties that are international or native to Portugal, or varieties from multiple Portuguese wine regions, but must be made with a minimum of 85% of grape varieties from its declared appellation.
Schist: a slate like metamorphic rock found throughout the soil in Douro vineyards.
Sediment: a deposit that forms inside a bottle of wine, caused by exposure to cold or as a result of age. Sediment may appear as tiny flecks floating in the wine, or may form as a “crust” on the glass inside the bottle. Decanting is required to remove sediment before serving.
Sommelier: a certified wine professional who specializes in alcoholic drinks including wine, as well as serving and food pairing.
Stopper: a type of cork often found in Ruby and Tawny Port varieties, consisting of a cork with a plastic top for easy opening and re-corking for storing. Bottles with a Stopper cork often require vertical storing; keeping the bottle upright.
Table Wine: a wine that is made from a blend of various grape varieties that doesn’t conform with DOC, IPR or Regional Wine standards, or that is made in a region that is not yet recognized as a wine region. However, it must still conform to national health and quality regulations.
Tannins: a textural element in wine, predominant in most red wines, that makes wines taste dry.
Tonel: Portuguese for “Barrel”, one of the largest casks used for aging wine, positioned to lay flat on it’s side, often holding over 1,000 liters.
Treading: the process of stomping the grapes to extract the juice. Traditionally done by foot in granite tanks.
Vinhas Velhas: Portuguese for “Old Vines”, a wine variety produced from vines that are over 50 years old.
Vinification: the process of turning grape juice into wine. In the case of Port wine, the grapes are crushed and the juice is left to ferment with the skins, then the process is interrupted by adding Brandy to fortify the wine.
Vintage: The year the grapes were harvested, often the year printed on the wine label.