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easy port

2014 January 9
by Zac Brown

Making a faux port . My source of ethanol fell through so I  used the sugar feeding method . Albeit a modified version of it.

Unlike a traditional method where you add a big dose of high alcohol to raise the alcohol level to 20% and kill the yeast stopping the ferment and leaving 10% residual sugar ….
The sugar feeding method works by using a high alcohol tolerant yeast , in this case ec1118 , large dose 25 grams.

So I took 150lbs of my base crushed grape must , Cabernet franc ( because I had more than I needed for my blends) and adjusted to 28 brix .
You can use sugar but I like to use some concentrate , a bag from a wine kit works. This gives the must more color , intense fruit flavours, some acid and tannins. I’ve found when concentrate is in the minority of a grape must it doesn’t give any KT.
I had a port kit on hand , I’ve been meaning to make for ages.
So I used that but you can use any red kit , a cheap 4 week one is fine but the better the raw materials the better the port
A bag from a wine kit is about right to tweak 100 lbs of must.

The adjusted must is now 28 brix , I added some oak powder , 4 grams of lallzyme EXV which is about 4 times the standard dose ( I want to really extract the grape skins) some optired stirred like mad and the next morning pitched the ec1118

Ec1118 has an alcohol tolerance of 18% but I’ve seen it go to 20 .

28 brix will give you about 16% alcohol.

Once I saw a cap start to rise I added 1/2 g per gallon of fermaid K . I added another dose when it hit 20 brix.

punch it down 4 times a day .

When it hit 10 brix i brought the brix up to 14 brix using sugar dissolved in hot water to make a simple syrup ,then when it got back down to 10 I  bumped it up again. Repeat until the yeast dies and the brix won’t drop . No movement over 2 days .

When it dies you should have about 18% alcohol and 8-12% residual sugar depending on when it stopped fermenting.

Keep punching it down and press when the cap sinks .

Rack off the gross lees after a day .
Add a bottle of brandy adjust sugar if needed , so2 and then barrel age for a year or more.

A couple notes , if your base must is something like a California Zinfandel for example where it starts at 28 brix then there is no need to make an initial sugar adjustment , save your concentrate for the first sugar bump ( if you don’t have concentrate sugar is ok) then use sugar for following bumps

I’ve made port this way a few times and find the results better than letting a wine go dry then fortifying and back sweetening

I’ve pressed and racked this port , it stuck at 12 brix residual sugar and based on the sugar the yeast consumed it should be 18% alcohol. I’m letting it settle a bit and I’ve added 60ppm so2 . I ended up with 57 litres of port. I decided not to sorbate it , not needed as its unlikely the ferment will restart. and I’m going to put it in an older15 gallon neutral barrel with some stavin cubes or stave segments , probably a mix of french and american. I’ll let the fine lees settle out and rack as clean as I can , maybe even do a 2 micron filter as I fill the barrel . I will add a bottle of e&j vsop brandy for flavour .

36 Responses leave one →
  1. carmine Frattaroli permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Thanks for the info Zac. I have a few friends that have made port with hi Brix Zin and they stop there fermentation by using grappa they tell me that the fermentation stops on contact. Have you tried this method Zac.?

  2. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    yes , that’s the traditional method .
    you arrest the ferment with 85% alcohol .

    but I couldn’t get any this year .

  3. Dan Lodico permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Zac, how long until you will be drinking this? I’m not a big port fan myself, but the process is interesting.

  4. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    well I’ve got a 6 gallon barrel of port under my parents house . its been there about 6 years
    I plan on bottleing half of that and adding half of this new batch into it . its more of a tawny style port .

    and I have a 40 litre vadai barrel thats neutral and I will fill that up with this and in 3 years time bottle half of it and replace with new port .

    so the answer is at least 3 years.

    but after 12 months in a barrel it would make a nice ruby port if you like fruity.

  5. Frank Torres permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this, Zac.
    Once the port goes to barrel, do you follow the same topping up and SO2 management process as you would for other wines?

  6. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    it depends

    for a tawny style (my favorite) I never add so2 after the barreling and I only top up annualy.
    I want some oxidisation to occure , its what gives tawny port its signature.
    high alcohol and high sugar will prevent spoilage , but I want some headspace and slow oxidisation.

    for a ruby style I would top up and so2 like a regular red wine.

    for a late bottle vintage style I top up quarterly and don’t use so2.

    I all cases I don’t open the barrel unless I really have to.

  7. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    it depends

    for a tawny style (my favorite) I never add so2 after the barreling and I only top up annualy.
    I want some oxidisation to occure , its what gives tawny port its signature.
    high alcohol and high sugar will prevent spoilage , but I want some headspace and slow oxidisation.

    for a ruby style I would top up and so2 like a regular red wine.

    for a late bottle vintage style I top up quarterly and don’t use so2.

    In all cases I don’t open the barrel unless I really have to.

  8. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    sorry about the double post .

    I do use brandy for part of the top up on the lbv and tawny wines. about 25% of the top up volume. every other top up on the lbv and annualy on the tawny.

    I have also used store bought white port to top up the tawny in the past. it helps give it more of that classic lighter colour and character.

    ruby I use more port.

  9. Zac Brown permalink
    January 9, 2014

    there are serveral styles of port , all traditional , you might find one you like.

    Ruby – simple cheap basic port bottled after 1 year in barrel or tank. usually from lesser vinyards.

    undated cheap tawny , tawny port faked by blending white and red young ports. usualy South African or Australian.

    aged Tawny – minimum 8 years in barrel before bottleing , 10 year, 20 year , 30 year etc , its the average age of the port in the blend. its red port hats been aged so long its gone a little brown.

    Vintage ,red port from the best vineyards in the best years , aged 1 year in a barrel then at least 10 years in a bottle . usually pretty expensive.

    Late bottle vintage , port from a declared vintage year , usually from lesser vineyards or younger vines , aged 3 years before bottleing and ready to drink upon release.

    vintage character , made like vintage port but from non vintage years and may also be a blend of years . may also have been barrel aged a little longer than real vintage .

    Colheita port , the single malt sctotch of tawny port , singel vineyard , single year , unblended aged at least 10 years. If there is a God , he drinks Colheita port on good days.

    if you are of British extraction and a Tawny port drinker you usally have a tawny barrel for your active drinking tawny even of you are not a winemaker. its kind of a mini solera

    My Dad and I both have one.
    its about 10 litres and has a tap on it . I keep it on top of my wine glass and decanter cabinet .
    when you want some to drink you fill the glasses from the tap and have a bottle sitting next to the barrel to top it up with.
    I use a differnt tawny port for topping with , I alternate my own port with a store bought one ( always differnt brands) , every 5 top ups I use brandy. kind of a mini solera .

    traditionaly this is handed down to the eldest son , but my Dad isn’t going anywhere soon so I have my own.

  10. Glenn permalink
    January 9, 2014

    I am making a fortified port this year using a 26 brix OV Zin, but did ferment dry due to time constraints and lack of knowledge, I will back sweeten to my wife’s taste. I picked up 2.5 L of 190 proof ever clear and 1.75 L of vsop brandy. The 2 gallons of liquor gives me an average 80 proof addition to 10 gallons of Zin. I will fill my 40L Vadai and give me 1.5 gallons for topping. I am looking to age for at least 2 years, though I like your idea of bottling half and adding new port to the older batch. Thanks for sharing.


  11. Zac Brown permalink
    January 10, 2014

    you’ll want to double check your alcohol addition on the pearson square .

    if its not total high enough after addition your back sweetening could possibly ferment.

    sorbate would be good added insurance when back sweetening.

  12. Gaetano permalink
    January 10, 2014

    Thanks again for the info, and the recipe. I agree with Dan, the process is interesting.
    Would you believe that I’ve never had a port?!
    I have to purchase a bottle and check it out.

  13. January 10, 2014


    your right going to need another 1/2 gallon ever clear . 5 parts to every 20 or 2.5 to 10.

    thamks glenn

  14. January 10, 2014

    actually 1/2 gallon 80 proof not 190

  15. Zac Brown permalink
    January 10, 2014

    you might leave out the brandy and just use the higher alcohol to reduce flavour washout.

  16. January 10, 2014

    my wife actually likes the brandy flavor in a port. i was keeping down to a 1.75L of brandy to 3.5L pf 190 proof ever clear to give me the needed 5% addition of alcohol.

  17. Proud Puppy permalink
    January 12, 2014

    Zac, did you notice any stratification of sugar in the volume if it sits for a while? at the end of a high brix frerment I could swear the dense sugar laden liquid was at the bottom, while the dry fermented and alcohol high was at the top. I would think it can’t happen, as solubilities all point to a uniform mix. But I have seen the sweeter denser portions settele to the bottom ‘layers’ on at least one or two occasions.

  18. bzac permalink
    January 12, 2014

    once the wine has been pressed and racked off the gross lees I’ve not seen any stratification.

    i’ve never had the first glass of port out of bottle taste any different than the last .

    once the sugar is in solution it should be uniform.

  19. Gene Fiorot permalink*
    January 18, 2014

    Thanks for the great post Zac! perfect! Let me add the tags. I should go on cruises more often all kinds of stuff happens when I am away.

  20. bzac permalink
    January 18, 2014

    I should note that one key thing to focus on when you make this is yeast health.
    you want the yeast to be as healthy as possible so that it can last as long as possible before it just can’t ferment any sugar and it dies from alcohol toxicity as the level gets too high.

    so I start with twice the amount of yeast that would be needed for the volume of must , I hydrate the yeast with goferm and use fermaid K and an inactivated yeast product like optired or booster rouge to promote yeast health and prevent it from getting stuck early.

  21. bzac permalink
    January 18, 2014

    don’t forget lots of punch downs , get some air in it , really stir up the bottom of the fermenter to get the yeast moving around the must and also to max sure your sugar additions are well mixed. you don’t want a thick layer of sugar settling to the bottom of the fermenter .

  22. Bzac permalink
    February 3, 2014

    Here is a link to an Australian port winery that sells bulk port and small kegs to tawny fans to age at home .
    It is similar to the ones my dad and I have . The forever evolving tawny blend .

  23. Bzac permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I decided that this port is getting a brand new 50 litre vadai to age in for 6 months then it will go into neutral oak
    $ 181 bucks for the barrel , great price .

  24. Bzac permalink
    April 1, 2014

    I racked this port into its new barrel , I tastes pretty sharp and aromatic at this point. I think that cab franc will make for a spicy and somewhat unusual port.

    Let’s see what new oak does to it.

  25. bzac permalink
    July 21, 2014

    its coming along pretty well , I’m thinking I may top it up next week with a bottle of older port and a bottle of brandy.

  26. Gene Fiorot permalink*
    July 21, 2014

    One day I have to do this !

  27. bzac permalink
    August 24, 2014

    I’ve done the last two angels share top ups with brandy , just cheap e&j .
    It’s really coming along well.

  28. Bzac permalink
    May 19, 2015


    I left the faux port in a new hungarian 55 litre barrel for 12 months .
    Then I racked 40 litres of it into a neutral small barrel.

    The rest?
    I have a 23 litre barrel full of port that’s been under my dads house since 2008 , it even survived a major house fire .
    We’ve been topping it up annually with commercial tawny port and brandy .

    I’m going to bottle half of it and replace the port taken out with the 2013 port .

  29. Rock permalink
    May 20, 2015

    Zac,I’m having a tawny port tonight,not a port drinker but trying.Taste oxidized.Kind of like a church wine with much more alcohol I think I’m liking it.How do you like the kit ports?I had a chocolate raspberry port that was fortified.I thought it was fantastic.Looks like you have been making these for a long time.Great job.Now I know how to make a real port.Thank you.

  30. Bzac permalink
    May 20, 2015

    Tawny port is supposed to be oxidized , and chilled .

    You might like a lbv or ruby port .

    I won’t comment on raspberry chocolate etc .

    Chacun a son gout .

  31. Bzac permalink
    December 9, 2015

    Update I’ve tasted both the ports fractions .

    I racked the port out of the 50 litre new oak barrel in April of 2015.
    I put some of it in a neutral 40 litre barrel where it still sits and the rest is in a Carboy .

    The neutral barrel port is soft and luxurious , it’s like a good lbv at this point .
    The carboy port has brighter fruit , both have a nice velvety vanilla background from their time in Hungarian oak , it’s subtler in the neutral barrel sample .

    Overall I’m really happy with how this port has turned out .
    The sugar feeding method has produced a wine with real traditional port character.

  32. Gene Fiorot permalink*
    December 11, 2015

    I need to try this.

  33. Bzac permalink
    January 9, 2016

    The story of The Phoenix Port .
    in 2007 , I made a batch of port , 5 gallons and we put it in an old 5 gallon barrel that I had used on many batches of wine .
    we added a bottle of brandy and put it in the crawl space under my mum & dad’s log house on vancouver island .
    we would open it once a year and top it up with a bit of brandy and more port To replace the Angels share .
    my parents had a house fire a few years ago. The little barrel was floating in the water under the house from the fire fighters .
    the house was repaired and the little barrel sat in the insurance companies lock up for a year .
    when we got it back we topped it up and put it back under the house .
    We we tasted a sample over Christmas . It’s excellent .
    very tawny styled .
    so we brought the barrel home .
    the plan is to bottle half of it in small 375ml bottles , and leave the other half in the barrel and replace the bottled port with some of our 2013 cabernet franc port .
    then age it for a few more years , bottle half and repeat .
    so a little of the Phoenix port that rose out of the ashes will live on.

  34. Gene Fiorot permalink*
    January 10, 2016

    That is quite a story to tell your grandchildren!

  35. Bzac permalink
    January 10, 2016

    No kids so no grandkids possible , but it’s going to be drinking well for many years to come

  36. Bzac permalink
    January 11, 2016

    I racked 11 litres of it into a small carboy and have racked the cab franc port into it . The port that came out is rich and thick , like tawny on steroids . The port in the Phoenix barrel now is a mix of old and new , it has that tawny nuttiness but there is brighter fruit there too, and oak from the brand new barrel the cab franc sat in for a year , Interesting .

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