Port Wine vs Dessert Wine

Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum

Help Support Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum:

Resonant11

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2022
Messages
30
Reaction score
19
I was recently browsing the competition information for the Minnesota State Fair, and I had a question. They have separate classes for "Dessert Wine" and "Port Wine." My understanding is that technically "Port" is made in Portugal, so I'm assuming the competition is referring to "port style."

Can anyone clarify the difference? I tried to research online, but the results are clogged with information about Port being a wine from Portugal. My guess is the difference might be in how the sweetness is achieved; via stopped fermentation or backsweetening.

I'll try to contact the organization if I need to, but I wanted to check here first.

Thanks!
 

BigDaveK

Supporting Members
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
1,881
Reaction score
3,370
Location
Hocking Hills, OH
I make "traditional" dessert wines.
A bit more fruit, a bit more acid, and step feeding the fermentation with additional sugar. The four I made last year all reached 20% ABV. They all stopped around 1.010 and I thought that the residual sugar was perfect, no back sweetening needed. And the sugar that's left over is mostly fructose - I think it tastes better. They taste absolutely wonderful but the problem is that the alcohol isn't noticeable...until you stand up! Real easy to get hammered fast.
 

winemanden

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2009
Messages
750
Reaction score
1,740
Location
Banbury UK
I think it's down to selling Port. Legally you can only sell Port that is made in Portugal. You can make it in exactly the same way that they do, but technically you're not making Port. Port style, yes.
It's the same with Champagne. You can make Sparkling wine in exactly the same way, but woe betide you if you put Champagne on the label.
 

gmac52

Junior
Joined
Jun 24, 2022
Messages
13
Reaction score
16
Location
Calgary
Where I am I can’t buy a port wine kit (something about copywriting ), they sell the same kit but call it a dessert wine
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
7,067
Reaction score
18,111
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Where I am I can’t buy a port wine kit (something about copywriting ), they sell the same kit but call it a dessert wine
Some years back the kits were labeled "port", but I suspect that was scotched due to trademark-type protection, so they are now labeled "dessert".

My best guess is that @CDrew is correct -- "port" is fortified while "dessert" is not.
 

Sailor323

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2019
Messages
316
Reaction score
365
I think it's down to selling Port. Legally you can only sell Port that is made in Portugal. You can make it in exactly the same way that they do, but technically you're not making Port. Port style, yes.
Technically, that's true but there are many wines produced in the US that are labeled Port just as there are wines labeled Marsala, Madeira, and many other wines with AOC protection; even kit wines ignore AOC protections.
 
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
5,599
Reaction score
8,610
Location
O'Fallon, MO - Just NorthWest of St. Louis, MO
I'm pretty sure most (might even go so far as to say all) wine kits have now added Style to their kits that are possibly covered by AOC rules and regulations, ala RJS Spagnols Italian Amarone Style Kit and the kits that used to be called Port Kits are now called Dessert Wine Kits. As home winemakers we can call it anything we like, we aren't commercial, we aren't selling, we aren't subject to those rules and regulations, but Wine Kits are.
 

BigDaveK

Supporting Members
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
1,881
Reaction score
3,370
Location
Hocking Hills, OH
I was hoping to gain some clarity on what a dessert wine is and did some reading today.
They're often sweet from residual sugar and they often have higher ABV. "Often", not always.

I've come to the conclusion that no one knows what a dessert wine is -
It might be sparkling...but maybe not.
It might be sweet....but maybe not.
It might be fortified....but maybe not.

Examples of dessert wines -
Port (and port-style ;) )
Sherry
Medeira
Sauternes
Ice

The general rule of thumb seems to be, if you drink it with dessert it's a dessert wine.

Personally I feel cheated. I was hoping for something more concrete.
 

BigDaveK

Supporting Members
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
1,881
Reaction score
3,370
Location
Hocking Hills, OH
I drink dark reds with dark chocolate and Sauternes with certain meals, so the rule breaks down ... ;)

Naw, your rule is good. There are exceptions to all rules, right?
Bryan I swear it was so damn frustrating! We know about red, white, and country wines and I was hoping for at least a little definitiveness. Oh well, I tried...
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
7,067
Reaction score
18,111
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Bryan I swear it was so damn frustrating! We know about red, white, and country wines and I was hoping for at least a little definitiveness. Oh well, I tried...
Nope, definitiveness is not to be. I made Grenache this year, and while it's a red grape, it's not strong in color or tannin.

grenache.jpg

While this looks like a rose, it's a full bodied red wine, although it's not as heavy are common red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

Don't sweat the definition of anything. As long as WE know what we're talking about, we're good. FYI, my definition of "dessert wine" is a wine that is sweet (not semi-sweet or off-dry), fortified/high ABV, or both. This covers Sherry (sweet and dry, high ABV), Marsala (sweet and dry, high ABV), Port (sweet, high ABV), Madeira (sweet, high ABV), Ice Wine (sweet), Sauternes (sweet), and plain 'ole dessert wine (sweet).

Many moons ago the Wine Spectator published a wine-matched menu + recipes in each issue. I recall full dinners (appetizers, sides, main courses, dessert) matched with red Bordeaux and with Sauternes. That's complete opposite sides of the spectrum.

Don't worry about definitions. We'll muddle through.
 
Top