Your scaled-down holiday meal may have you longing to see some loved ones this year, but you don’t have to miss another overlooked feature of the big meal — Port.
Traditionally, people consume Port as a digestif, something you enjoy after a meal to get the juices flowing and aid in digestion. It’s just what we need after downing big plates of comfort food.
Sweet, high in alcohol, flavorful and very satisfying, you don’t need much Port. Two to three ounces constitutes a serving. Most often, Port is served with a heavy dessert, such as pumpkin pie or chocolate cake. But Port also can take the place of dessert, providing satisfaction with fewer calories and guilt.
When you consider the serving size, a 750 ml bottle of Port is a great value, considering that you can get a bottle for $15 to $20. Port’s lack of success in the market baffles me because it is such an affordable luxury.
While Port-style wines are made throughout the world, actual Port comes from Portugal and is made from indigenous Iberian grapes. The production method starts very much like wine, with a primary fermentation. But the fermentation is cut short by the addition of brandy, which kills the yeast, leaves some natural grape sugars behind and brings up the alcohol level to 18% or more. Keep that in mind.
Port has its own language. Ruby Port is young and fruity. Tawny Port is aged in barrels, the year indicating an average of a multi-year blend. Prized and pricey vintage Port is made from a single, outstanding year. While Port is known for being sweet and alcoholic, the very best come off as neither of these.
Dow’s 10-Year Old Tawny Porto smells nutty and fruity and is light-bodied, showing deep flavors of Raisinettes, cola and praline. The wine is balanced with a clean, refreshing finish that absolves you of the indulgence so you can enjoy more. $31. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Cockburn’s Special Reserve Porto is fruity, minty and herbal with notes of root beer and chocolate plus an almost syrupy finish. This is a great starter Port or a choice for sweet wine drinkers. (And if anyone tries to make a joke around the table, the brand is pronounced KOH-Burn.) $18. ♦♦♦ 1/2
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦