These are the only Ports that use different grape types than all the other Ports mentioned. They range in sweetness levels from very dry to very sweet (called Lagrima Port). Typically, they are relatively inexpensive and are used as an aperitif or mixed with tonic and lemon into a drink called “Port Tonic.” The latter is a very refreshing drink on a warm summer day. There are also some rare bottles of White Colheita’s that exist, but these are very hard if not impossible to find.
White Port or “Porto Branco” in Portuguese is an uncommon category of Port but a great place to start. I have enjoyed this style of Porto from the first time I had it at Quinta do Bomfim. Most often served as a chilled aperitif; unfortunately they’re rarely appreciated or promoted in the US marketplace.
White Port is made from white grapes of which a few dozen varieties qualify for the final blend. There are nearly as many white varieties grown in the Douro as red grape types. Some of the more widely used white grapes are: Moscatel, Malvasia Fina and Gouveio (a.k.a. Verdelho, which is also used in Madeira production as is Malvasia), Rabigato, and the prolific Codega (the most widely planted white grape in the Douro) to name a few more esoteric ones. White Port is fortified like all other styles of Porto, but vinified like a tawny and aged for a year in huge oak tanks before further aging in “Pipes” (550 liter oak casks) prior to bottling. The wines range in color from that of a pale straw Chardonnay to a beautiful salmon color seen frequently in Rose, to those aged for extended periods in wood that resemble the appearance of ancient Tawnies.
There are a few distinct styles of White Porto, which are segregated by the degree of sweetness levels, and they can be either sweet or dry, or somewhere in between. Another point of differentiation is the length of aging time.
The Light Dry White Porto is known as “Leve Seco” which has a lower alcohol content of 16.5% and ages in oak between 5 – 10 years and gains complexity like a Sherry or Tawny Port while losing its residual sugar as it ages.
The medium sweet White Porto ages in wood for at least 3 years and shows more color definition and body than Leve Seco.
The sweetest White Porto is known as “Lágrima” and is very delicious. I have only seen and tasted Lágrima in Portugal and the Portuguese seem to like this sweet style very much and it is widely available there, but not found easily elsewhere in the world. Oak aging is between 3 - 5 years and the wine is produced utilizing free run juice from a variety of white grapes. This sweet style is very different and can double as a dessert wine as it pairs well with a variety of cheeses. I only wish it were exported to the USA as I have only seen it here once and that was a recent tasting of Barros.
My favorite White Ports in order of preference: Churchill, Niepoort, Ferreira’s Lágrima and Dow. Seek out any of these wines for unique flavor profiles, not to mention great wines to sip during hot summer months. Another great way to enjoy White Port is in a Port Tonic, as described above.