HOW TO Make Port Wines (for Backyard Wine Enthusiasts)

Port is in the class of fortified wines and it originated in Portugal. It is typically a red wine but can also be made like white wine or rosé.

Port wine is made by adding brandy to grape juice shortly after the grapes have been crushed. This increases the alcohol content and helps to preserve the wine.

But there is a lot more to it than that. In this blog post, we will discuss how to make port wines at home.

How to Make Port Wines at Home – Steps

port is a dessert wine
Port is a beautiful-looking and great-tasting dessert wine that is easier to make than you might think.

Making port wine or wine similar to port wine at home is a fairly simple process. There is a lot involved in the process, but here are the basic steps.

Make Sure Your Equipment Is Clean

Before you do anything, make sure that you clean and sanitize your equipment with your preferred method and cleaner.

A sulfite or bleach solution works, but don’t overlook simple heat from your oven or your dishwasher.

Choose Your Grapes

Which is not the same as “Choose your weapon.” Except maybe it is a little. Some winemakers will fight tooth and nail about the virtue of some grapes.

The types of grapes you choose are going to define your port, so think carefully about which kind you want.

But remember that if you aren’t fond of this batch of port, you can always make another!

Also keep in mind that if you want a white or rose port, you will need to use white grapes such as Chenin blanc or riesling.

Read More: How to Make White Wine With Red Grapes. Red grapes can be used to make white wine – here’s how it’s done!

Crush The Grapes

Now it’s time to crush your grapes. You will need about a six-gallon bucket to the juice in. How you crush your grapes is up to you.

From manual crushers to electric crushers, you decide. And if you want to crush them by crossing your arms and dancing on them, we won’t judge you. Just be sure it’s sanitary.

Add Yeast

Now it is time to add yeast. Simply use a yeast packet brand that works for you.

You may also want to consider throwing toasted oak chips into the juice to give your port a nice oaky flavor.

Let The Fermentation Begin

Before you begin the fermentation process, measure the specific gravity (SG) of your juice and make sure it is at 1.095.

If it is not quite there, add some sugar to get it where it should be.

12 ounces of sugar accounts for a .008 increase in SG. So if your SG is at 1.079, you will want to add 24 ounces of sugar.

Now let the fermentation continue, stirring the mixture once a day. All the while your SG is going to drop. Let it do so until it gets to 1.035.

Add Brandy

When your mixture gets to an SG of 1.035, you will want to do the best part of this whole process: pour in the brandy.

Brandy will stop the fermentation process because the amount of alcohol will kill the remaining yeast and preserve the sugar in the mixture.

Again, what kind of brandy you use is up to you.

Bottle And Age Your Port

Now that you have added brandy it is time to bottle your port and let it age.

If you didn’t use oak chips in the beginning of the process, then you can age it in oak barrels for the same effect.

Port should be aged for 2 years but it can be aged for up to 5-7 years.

Type of Grapes Used to Make Port Wine 

wines in glasses
You can make port from both white and red grapes.

Let’s now discuss what some of your options are for port wine grapes.

As we mentioned earlier, you can use either white or red grapes, but port is typically made from red, so we will start there.

There are, of course, many grape options that you choose from, but this is a place to begin.

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular and versatile varietals for winemaking, prized for its intense flavor and deep color.

The key to making a delicious port wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes lies in how the grape skins are treated.

To extract maximum flavor and color from the skins, it is important to soak them in a neutral spirit such as brandy or cognac before crushing them. 


One of the most common varietals to use for port wine is Merlot which produces low tannins in wine.

Merlot also is commonly aged in oak so it works well with those flavors associated with port wine.

Additionally, the tobacco, clove, and vanilla flavors of the merlot grape provide a nice contrast to port wine’s sweetness. 

Chenin Blanc 

Chenin Blanc is a white wine grape that originates from the storied Loire Valley in France.

It is a versatile grape that can be used to make both dry and sweet wines, sparkling wine, and even cider.

Chenin blanc wines are typically high in acidity, which gives them a fresh, vibrant flavor. This gives white ports a nice contrasting and complex flavor.

Their aroma often features notes of honeysuckle, citrus, and stone fruits. 


Riesling is one of the most popular varieties of white wine, known for its crisp and refreshing flavor.

Riesling grapes are high in acidity, which gives the wine its distinct tartness and also makes it a good match for heavier foods like meats or cheeses.

This variety is commonly used to make port wines, which are high in alcohol content and tend to have a sweet and fruity flavor.

Read More: Can You Make Red Wine Out of White Grapes? Yes and no. Here’s what you can expect if you attempt to make red wine out of white grapes!

A Brief History of Port Wine 

 Make Port Wine 
Port has a long and interesting history, originating in the port cities of Portugal. 

Port wine has a long and fascinating history which we will only partially indulge here.

Originating in the port cities of Portugal, port wine started to gain popularity in the early 1600s.

In those days, port was made by fermenting grape juice in large casks known as “portos.”

As the wine became rich and concentrated, it would often be stored in these portos for months or even years at a time. 

Because port wine is protected from air exposure by its own high alcohol content, it assumed a deep red color over time and developed a rich, complex flavor profile.

Today, port remains an important part of Portuguese culture and is enjoyed not only by locals but also by wine enthusiasts worldwide. 

How to Store and Serve Port Wine 

Port wine should be stored and served similarly to other hard liquors because of its high alcohol content.

Port wines are typically best when served at room temperature, so you don’t need to store it in the refridgerator unopened. 

When it comes to how to drink port wine, be sure to use a white wine glass to enjoy the aroma of the wine fully.

And last but not least, don’t forget to savor every sip – port wines are meant to be enjoyed slowly and deliberately!

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