Tawny Port

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Senior Member
Sep 16, 2020
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Hello All,

I plan on starting a Tawny Port this year (yes I know this is a long haul) using a 1:1 Cab Sauv to Petite Sirah blend and will be fortifying it with a ~65% abv brandy made from a 2:1 Chenin Blanc to Sauv Blanc blend. I have three questions.

First, how long should I let this sit on the skins? Normally I go around 36 days before I press and end up with a velvety free run and rougher pressed wine that I blend to make two different versions. Here I am wondering if I should have less tannins and press earlier?

Second, should I add the brandy during fermentation or afterwards with just mixing in raw glucose & fructose to sweeten it? I am leaning towards the latter since the amount of brandy I will have will be around 3 gallons and I am trying to get 10 gallons end product. Waiting until fermentation is over I feel would allow me to use less brandy, but I am worried about introducing off flavors from adding glucose & fructose.

I will be aging this in a small neutral barrel for a few years. Should add more oak or will a 5+ year run in barrel provide enough flavor? If yes, what toast of oak would be best?

Any thoughts.

I can give my opinions on questions one and two in this response. To make a traditional port style, you stop fermentation at 12 brix or SG 1.047 or so by fortifying the wine. So a 36 day maceration will not result in a true port style. I have made what I call false port by taking a dry wine, adding simple syrup to up the SG and add the fortification. I've done this with wines that were not exactly what I planned and seemed to need improvement.

If I were you, I would press at SG 1.050 or 12-13 brix and let settle overnight then fortify to stop fermentation. As to aging, I'm not sure how long to barrel age but I would think it is possible to go 5 plus years.
I am a fan of splitting batches to try different processes. Then you can do side by side comps.
So far I have only fermented dry, fortify, age, then sweeten with sugar.
For 2021 I fortified one batch with brandy, for the other I increased abv by step feeding sugar, aged, sweetened. So far the unfortified is smoother but I'm not done. I'm aging some in oak, some in glass. Time will tell but I highly doubt I'll go 5 years!
This year I will use my standard method since I like the results, but I will also try the traditional method.
Keep us posted on your observations
Thanks all. It seems like I will be back sweetening on this one. I am just too busy to deal with stopping the fermentation, not to mention I do not have the experience to think I will get it right.

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