AGEING THE PORTS
After vinification comes the ageing stage. The wine, which is now in barrels or wooden vats, is pumped up so that the grape spirit added during the drawing-off phase will mix perfectly into the must. All the necessary analyses and adjustments are made over the next few weeks, so that the Port may then at last be left to rest on its lees ...
The first racking generally takes place four months later. At this stage the wine is tasted with particular attention, and some of the blending begins: the wines from the Ruby and Tawny categories are the first to be selected and blended. The most spectacular wines, meanwhile, will be left a little longer to refine their aromas separately, and it is only later, depending on how their qualities evolve, that they will be guided towards the Vintage or other prestige categories.
Racking, which involves moving the wine from one container to another, plays an extremely important role in achieving the final quality. At Quinta do Noval, four rackings are carried out the first year, three the second year, and two the third year. Further racking then takes place whenever necessary, and sometimes younger wines are added at the same time as the racking in order to preserve all the freshness. What is the point of racking? It makes it easier to fill the various vats, prevents the wine from acquiring a bad taste, and more generally helps it evolve in the right direction. The Port is therefore prepared under the best possible conditions for the next stage: blending.