Porto Night View

History of Port


The history of port dates back to the 1700s but what we now know as Vintage Port didn't appear until the 1800s. Christie's auction catalogues mention wines from specific houses in 1805. In 1824 the English historian Henderson recorded: "It is only after it has been kept ten or fifteen years in the bottle that the odour of the brandy is completely subdued, and the genuine aroma of the wine is developed". In 1858 Christie's recorded: "a rare two-year bottling at this period, three-year bottling being more normal".

After the mid 1800s bottling would normally be performed in the importing country; typically the UK. The market was disrupted in the 1870s by the phylloxera plague: production almost stopped. It wasn't until 1896 when the technique of grafting had been established; allowing the issues caused by phylloxera to be overcome.


By the early 1900s Vintage Port had been recognised as a great wine and reputations had been established. Shortly after WWII the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (the Port Wine Institute - the IVP) categorised the types of Port and introduced regulation. Vintage Port should be bottled in its second year following the harvest. However at that time bottling was still being carried out overseas. The IVP succeeded in restricting bottling to Oporto in 1974. Although not accepted graciously in those overseas countries, regulation was quickly accepted and brought about greater consistency in quality associated with bottling.