Why is a kind of wine called port?: Information Roundup
Port as the name of a kind of wine is a shortened form of Porto, the Portuguese name of a city in northern Portugal, which ranks second only to Lisbon in population and importance. The Portuguese refer to the city as O Porto, literally "the port," but in English and certain other languages the article O is compounded as part of the name and it is written Oporto. Portugal itself is derived from the name of this city. In ancient times a city at the mouth of the Douro River was known as Portus Cale. A district of which Portus Cafe was the capital came to be known as Terra Portucalensis, which in turn became first Portucalia and finally Portugal. Portugal has long been noted for its wine industry and two of the most famous wines in the world derived their names from places in that country—Port and Madeira. Madeira, like the Azores, is regarded as an integral part of Portugal. The name in Portuguese literally means "timber," and the island was so named because it was thickly wooded when the Spanish and Portuguese first visited it. A white wine produced on the island was called Madeira in English as early as 1585. Port wine is not mentioned in Shakespeare but Madeira wine is. In I King Henry IV Poins asks Sir John Falstaff: "How agrees the devil and thee about thy soul, that thou soldest him on Good Friday for a cup of Madeira and a cold capon's legs" The Oporto wine industry was not established until 1678 and the earliest English use of port in the sense of wine recorded by the Oxford dictionary [page 5] is dated 1691. Since then Oporto has exported immense quantities of wine and the city is famous for the product. Port is generally a strong dark-red wine with a sweet and slightly astringent taste, although a white variety is also produced. The Portuguese define port as wine made from grapes grown in northern Portugal, exported from Oporto and containing more than 16.5 percent of alcohol by volume. In the United States port is applied to wine similar to the Portuguese product.