If I could get people — whether wine lovers or not — to try one type of wine, it would be Port.
Port, the authentic stuff, labels itself “Porto” and is an inexpensive luxury and an under-appreciated wine style.
Typically, I describe Port as a rich delicacy with flavor, alcohol and sweetness dialed up to 11. That is certainly true, especially with the youthful ruby ports. But aged port, identified by decade — 10, 20 or 30 years referring to the average age of the blend — shows more restraint and elegance the older it gets.
Maybe that is the direction of the market, with the popularity of seltzers, session beers and low-flavor cocktails. People seem to be over flavor and want their taste buds tickled rather than walloped.
Port starts out as a wine but is “fortified” with brandy, barrel-aged and usually blended. Ports run 18% to 20% alcohol.
I found two Ports that can change the misconception many people have of Port, shaped from the generic stuff grandma may have enjoyed. You will want to smell these all day, and when you drink them, they don’t come off as syrupy and have the acidity to finish clean, tempting the next sip.
Dow’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port smells of rum raisins and maple syrup, yet the medium-bodied wine is clean and nutty with a candied pecans. This sweetness is moderate enough that it would pair better with foods, rather than stand alone as a dessert. $31. ★★★ 1/2
Older reds lose their color, so there’s nothing unusual about a 20-year tawny being lighter. Graham’s 20-year Tawny is lighter in color and elegant in its presentation. With flavors of blood orange and marzipan, this is light- bodied with substantial acidity to cut through the sweetness. $60. ★★★★ 1/2
Port can often take the place of the dessert. But these two Ports are better food pairers. Blue cheese and nuts with Port is a classic pairing. I’d imagine these two Ports would pair with a coffee-rubbed steak.
Remember that a serving size of Port is 3 or 4 ounces. You might pay $30 to $40 for a bottle, but you’ll likely get about eight servings. And after opening, a bottle can keep for months (but it will store better under refrigeration).
Ports are best enjoyed by themselves after a meal or paired with a dessert.
GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★, Poor ★.