Tawny Ports are of two distinct types. The younger is usually called a "fine tawny". Aged Tawny Ports are brought to maturity in wood for ten, twenty, thirty, sometimes forty years, depending on the characteristics of the young wine. As they age they lose their ruby colour through slow oxidation in the cask and turn a reddish-brown shade. A blend to reflect the taste of the producer, its age is of the average age of wines used in the blend. At ten years, Tawny Port retains some of the original fruitiness. By twenty it has developed a taste of dried fruit and nuts and by thirty years it has a mature spicy character with, perhaps, some retained nuttiness that may be more like dates or dried figs. Tawny Ports can be served at room temperature or cooler although, as noted, tawny is often served chilled in Portugal.
Colheita (call YAY ta) is a kind of Tawny Port. The word means "harvest" and is made from the grapes of one years harvest. Colheita is aged for many years in pipes (barrels of 600 litres). The youngest Colheita Ports are bottled in their eighth year although most are aged longer. This wine is ready to be drunk when released and can be served at room temperature or cooler. In Portugal tawny wines are often served chilled.
Vintage Ports come from a single harvest and have exceptional characteristics, showing a dark red colour, a great structure and intense fruity aromas and flavours. They are bottled two years after the harvest and in most cases spend many years maturing in the bottle.
Through this ageing process Vintage Ports are kept away from the influence of the atmosphere, which makes them loose their colour very slowly and retain their typical fruitiness.
In order to maintain richness and power they are neither fined nor filtered, therefore throwing a large amount of sediment as they mature. For this reason, they should be decanted before being served. Once opened, a Vintage bottle should be drunk the same day (throw the cork away once opened) to keep the exceptional quality untouched.