Listed below are my top recommendations for people who want to learn about port wine by reading books.
You can find more recommendations covering all the other categories of books listed on this site in a separate section of the Index of Books page.
For the Beginner…
The Port Companion by Godfrey Spence (1997, re-printed in 2002)
This little book provides an excellent starting point for those with very little knowledge about Port wine or the companies that produce it. I would certainly recommend this as a great place to start for anyone who wants a good, accurate understanding of the subject. Unfortunately, the book is now somewhat out of date but remains a very good starting point for the beginner.
For the Enthusiast…
Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson (1999, 2004, 2006 and 2013)
In my view this is beyond any doubt “The Bible of Port Wine”, and is the book that no Port enthusiast should be without. The 2013 edition is much improved both in terms of the quality of production and, more importantly, the currency of the information contained within its pages. The earlier editions are nice to have for a collector but the 2013 edition is what every Port lover needs.
Port Wine Quintas of the Douro by Alex Liddell (1992)
A fantastic book with lots of information and stunning photography by Janet Price. This is beyond doubt the definitive guide to the Quintas of the Douro. The only downside is that recent consolidation in the trade has resulted in many properties changing hands so the ownership information is now somewhat out of date. but is a must have for the serious Port enthusiast.
For the Historian…
Port Wine and Oporto by Ernest E. Cockburn (Circa. 1949)
Whilst this is not one of the most professionally edited and published books in the world, being a bit of a random brain-dump of Cockburn’s notes and thoughts, it is packed with fascinating insights into Port and the Port trade from the century that preceded it. If you want to buy one of these, expect to pay about the same as you would for a bottle of top-end 1970 Vintage Port!
Oporto, Old and New by Charles Sellers (1899)
This is the most comprehensive and detailed account that exists of the people and companies who developed the Port trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is a very heavy read but is fascinating for anyone interested in the history of the companies that are familiar names today. A facsimile edition is available at moderate cost. A first edition will cost you the same price as a case of mature Vintage Port, if you are lucky enough to find one.
Facts About Port and Madeira by Henry Vizetelly (1880)
This is an excellent book which gives a detailed account of the author’s journey to the Douro, Oporto and Madeira where he visited a number of quintas and lodges. The book contains vivid descriptions of the tortuous journey from Oporto to the heart of the Douro valley and also contains the author’s impressions of specific ports tasted at the lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is an extremely rare and expensive item so I would highly recommend buying the 1990 limited edition re-print by Peter Willis.
The Oliveira Prize-Essay on Portugal by Joseph James Forester (1853)
This is a fabulous old book that gives not only a great insight into the Port trade but also the people, industry and economy of Portugal in the mid-1900s. As an added bonus, the book contains a copy of Forrester’s most famous work, his map of the Alto Douro. I have only seen this for sale once, and it is now mine. I have no idea what you might have to pay if another comes to market but you can find PDF versions on the internet.
For the seriously obsessed…
Joseph James Forrester and His Maps by Isaac Oelgart (2006)
A fabulous collection of Port exclusives created by Isaac Oelgart of The Port Lover’s Library. The set includes a full-sized, high-quality reproduction of the original 10-foot map, a full-sized reproduction of the smaller map and three specially commissioned essays by Richard Mayson, Debbie Hall and Isaac Oelgart. A real Port collector’s item!