Orange Port?

White port is something I wouldn't normally bother with.

However - on a recent trip to Portugal, I was amazed by the quality of the wood-aged white ports. Like tawny ports, these have allowable age categories of 10, 20, 30 and 40 years, very old, and colheita. Colheita white has always been an allowable category, as I understand it, but the other categories were allowed at some point in the late 20th century.

So far as the taste goes, the older the sample, the more it converges on the idea of tawny port. The 40-year old example I tried was indistinguishable from a 40-y.o. tawny in colour and on the nose, but it was different on the palate, in the ways you might expect a white wine to differ from a red - but with a more noticeable thread of acidity and somewhat more focused. Beyond that, these wines were in most other ways converging on the ideal of tawny as they aged, acquiring the nutty, dried-fruit complexity and sheer concentration of flavour. Where it didn't seem to differ was in tannins.

Just for the record, ones which caught my attention were the Qta. de Sta. Eufemia range, a 2007 colheita from Dalva and a 30 y.o. from Barros. I was recommended to try the Kopke aged whites but didn't get the chance. On searching, there seem to be be very few of these sorts of wines brought into the UK, and to be honest they are not exactly thick on the ground in Portugal either.

I've just been doing a bit of background reading on a couple of producers' websites, and one thing struck me - both revealed that they produce the base wine in exactly the same way as for a tawny or any red port, i.e. by treading in lagares and allowing maceration. So it would be more accurate to say these start off as orange wines, rather than whites!

Is this a category of wines anyone else has much knowledge of? If so, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
 
I've just been doing a bit of background reading on a couple of producers' websites, and one thing struck me - both revealed that they produce the base wine in exactly the same way as for a tawny or any red port, i.e. by treading in lagares and allowing maceration. So it would be more accurate to say these start off as orange wines, rather than whites!
White ports in general are macerated by treading the grapes (where economics allow), but the skins are removed before fermentation starts. Is that not the same with the higher-end whites? I thought it was but maybe I am wrong. But if right, I would hesitate to call them orange wines - depends a bit on your definition.
 
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The two I referenced definitely made a point of mentioning the subsequent maceration, Steve. I have no idea if I hit on a couple of outliers, or if it is more common in wines intended for longer barrel-ageing. They gave no idea of how long that maceration was undertaken, so if short it is entirely possible they would be nearer whites than some of the more exotic orange wines.
 
Meant to add that I tried D'Alva's 1963 White Port Colheita in 2012. It was quite expensive - EUR120 back then - and I understood it was highly regarded. It was not bad, but it failed to meet my expectations. At all prices levels of Port, it seems I can always find a tawny or ruby version that I prefer to whites.
 
I've only really tried 10yo white Ports - Niepoort's 10 yo white is a joy to drink, taste or smell on any level. Ferriera make one - that is frankly on a different palate and tastes of wood.....
 
I was in Porto, Vilanova de Gaia and the Douro last year as a guest of Ramos Pinto and one of the most surprising
wines we tasted was a "serious" white, Adriano, aged for about 7 years, delicious as an aperitif.
 
"Heaviness", in terms of being sweet without offsetting balance such as provided by acid or tannins is probably the main reason I have ignored white ports. To me they seemed like an aberration - an answer to a question nobody had asked. I guess my discovery was that they don't have to be like that. I've certainly had a few of the heavy ones in my time though.

It struck me that quite a bit of work has been done by various producers to advance this category. I mentioned Kopke as I understand that they have been tweaking how they fortify the wine and at what stage, so I'm sorry to have missed that one. But for larger houses, their red programmes have involved replanting using favoured varieties on sites that favour that variety, rather than the older field blend way. I assume that their white grapes are being replanted likewise. Plus there must be loads of scope for choice over time of harvest, canopy management etc. before we even get to the vinification, (hence my mildly provocative thread title).

Much as I like vintage port, I think tawnies are my true love. It was simply intriguing to see a different sort of tawny emerging from a category I had mentally written off.
 
Ian,

I completely agree that Old Tawny and Colheita are the most interesting and enjoyable Ports. The 20 and 30 year olds from Ramos Pinto are sensational, yes the 30 is an eye watering price but I think it is probably worth it.

For Colheita obviously Niepoort are superb with serious age, but for VFM it has to be Krohn (who also do one of the better White Ports that I've tasted).
 
An old Kopke white colheita sometimes appears by the glass on wine lists in the north west (I think Cheshire's Boutinot have the agency), and I know I've had the 1964 a few years ago, but can't find the note.
I found this note of the Kopke 30 year old white, tasted just under 12 months ago:
Kopke White 30 Years Old
From a half bottle that had been opened, and half drunk, the night before. Very full nose, lots of dried fruit and fruit cake. Is this really *white* port?
On the palate too, the fullness, and general redness of the fruit means that I'd never ever have guessed this was a white port if I'd been served it blind. I'd have thought it was probably a 20 year tawny.
Delicious stuff, though if you were wanting something more typical of white port, you'd be a little disappointed.
 
Certainly true that some white ports made in the traditional way have very long skin maceration both before and during fermentation (eg: Niepoort still makes a dry white port in this manner I think). Generally white ports end up being a dirty brown colour by the time they have been aged for a decade or two - partly age, partly intentional oxidation through the long wood ageing.

Dalva is definitely the name when it comes to aged white ports.

I would not describe white ports as "orange" as in my opinion "orange wine" typically means a still (unfortified) wine made with long skin contact during fermentation. That said the motivation behind the maceration would have originally been the same in both cases - greater stability, helps a wild fermentation to go a bit faster.
 
It's worth remembering the even for ruby styles, skin maceration periods are rather short, as the fermentation does not run to completion and Port should not be allowed to macerate further after fortification. That is one of the reasons there is all the foot stomping - to ensure enough colour and tannin is extracted in that period. According the Richard Mayson maceration times can be as short are 48hrs or less.
 
Don't take it too literally, folks! It was just intended as an eye-catcher (though I do think it is interesting enough to merit some discussion). I agree that these ports are not entirely "orange" in that sense. But no more are they "white" either.
 
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