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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.
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.
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