How long does an opened bottle of port last?
It depends on the style of port. But probably not as long as most people would think.
There are many port styles, but all can be reduced to three broad categories where this issue is concerned. First, there are ready-to-drink red ports, which include the styles known as ruby and late-bottled vintage. These wines should be consumed within roughly one month after opening. The precise window, as for every wine, depends on the bottle’s fluid level – shorter if it’s mostly empty, longer if it’s mostly full. Oxygen exposure is the determining factor, and the more oxygen inside the bottle, the faster the wine will bruise and spoil.
Vintage port, the most expensive and regal style, is a category unto itself. Bottled early to retain its full, fruity character, it is the most cellar-worthy style. But it needs very slow exposure to oxygen to go the distance. Once the cork is pulled, it is able to last not much more than two weeks without losing character. Note: Vintage ports are distinguished not just by the harvest year (or “vintage”) on the label but also the classic, cylindrical cork that must be extracted with a corkscrew. Such cylindrical corks stand in contrast to the T-shaped “stoppers” on ready-to-drink ports, which can be twisted off and easily reinserted, much like those used instead of screw caps on a lot of whisky bottles.
Lastly, there are tawny ports, my favourite style. Aged for a longer period in oak barrels, which accounts for their brownish hue, they tend to be sturdier. These glorious wines can hold up for as long as six months. However, in my house, they tend not to sit around for that long.
If you want to preserve your opened bottle longer, store it in the fridge.
Join wine critic Beppi Crosariol and other Globe and Mail journalists in July aboard the Globe Portugal Cruise. For itinerary and booking information, visit globedourocruise.com.