Although true port wine is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley of northn Portugal, other similar wines are produced in other countries including Argentine, US, Australia, Canada, France, India, South Africa, and Spain. Hundreds of grape varieties are recognized as being appropriate for port production but only five are commonly grown and used. The typical ports produced from these special grapes are usually sweet and suitable for serving with dessert but can be dry, semi-dry and white. According to the book of my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, there is a British port too and she includes 3 recipes for it in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, published in 1909, none of which start with grapes. Photo Credit Jonathan Billinger, Wikimedia Commons

Here are the British-style port recipes of Grandmother Wright in her own words.

  1. Two pounds damson juice, two gallons cider, three-quarter ounce sloe juice [a concentrated plum juice], one pound sugar, one pound honey. Ferment, then add one quart spirit, one gallon red cape [possibly a red wine from South Africa that has notes of plum], a little over one ounce of red tartar (dissolved), the same of powder of catechu [Acacia catechu?], one-tenth ounce bruised ginger, one-tenth ounce cassia, a few cloves. Mix well with two tablespoonfuls of brandy coloring.

2. Two pounds bullace [a wild plum related to damsons], ten pounds damsons, one and one-half gallons water. Boil the water, skim it, and pour it boiling hot on the fruit; let it stand four or six days at least. During that time bruise the fruit or squeeze it with your hands. Then draw or pour it off into a cask, and to every gallon of liquor, put two pounds and a half of fine sugar, rather more; put some yeast on a slice of bread (warm) to work it. When done working, put a little brandy into the cask and fill it up. Bung it up close, and let it stand six or twelve months; then bottle it off. This wine is nearer in flavor to port than any other. If made with cold water, it will be equally as good, but of a different color.

3. Five gallons cider, one gallon elder juice, one gallon port wine, one and one quarter pint brandy, one and one-fifth ounces red tartar, one-fifth ounce catechu, one gill finings, one ounce logwood. Mix well and bung close.

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By Karen