ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Ports are fortified wines. My question is, how long will a Port be drinkable once it is opened?

—Jim P., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Jim,

You're correct that Port is a fortified wine, which means that distilled alcohol (grape brandy, in this case) has been added to the young wine. It's also sweet, because the addition of alcohol stops the fermentation while there's still sugar in the juice. Both the higher alcohol (typically around 20 percent) and the residual sugar help protect against degradation once the bottle is open; most Ports will remain fresh and vibrant for a week or so after uncorking. However, fortified or not, oxidation begins the moment a cork is pulled on any bottle of wine, so the same rules apply for keeping your wine fresh: minimize the surface area of the wine by transferring it to a smaller container, and store it in a refrigerator to extend its life (but warm it back up to nearly room temperature before serving). I've been served Ports that have been opened for weeks or even months, and while they can still be enjoyable, they are definitely not as good as when they were first opened.

—Dr. Vinny


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