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May 23, 2006 02:27 AM

With Port and Madeira

  • m

I had the chance to try a selection of Port and Madeira styles accompanied by a range of cheeses and desserts at a tasting organized by chow friends. Since there are frequent requests for pairings with these style of wines, I thought it worth posting here.

The plate of blues included Roquefort, Valdeon, Gorgonzola, and St. Agur. Not able to locate any high quality Stilton locally, the St. Agur was a stand-in and turned out to be the top pick of the four for its creamy texture and intense "blueness". Purple-rinded Cabra al Vino, crumbly Wenslydale cheddar, Serra de Estrela, Cantal, and a rich Saenkanter 4-year-old Gouda chosen for their friendliness with fortified dessert wines proved themselves once again. The cheeses were accompanied by walnut bread, sweet baguettes, water biscuits, confitures, grapes, blackberries, and pears. We also had dry Spanish chorizo, cheese straw twists, dried figs, Marcona almonds, pecans, walnuts, butter almond biscuits, Leonidas dark chocolates, and nut-filled chewy meringue cookies, all finding a suitable partner with the rancio and toffee-flavored or the dark-fruited ports.


Aged Tawny:

Yalumba Antique Tawny (Australia), $13/375 ml

Warre's Ottima 10 Years Old Tawny, $18/500 ml

Fonseca 20 Year Old Tawny, $50

Ferreira 20 Year Old Tawny "Duque de Bragança", $60

Premium Ruby/Reserve:

Fonseca Bin 27 Finest Reserve, $14

Broadbent Auction Reserve, $22

Late Bottled Vintage:

1998 Ramos Pinto LBV, $14

1999 Niepoort LBV, $9/375 ml (BEST BUY)

1999 Quinta do Crasto LBV (unfiltered), $25


1977 Graham's Vintage

1983 Graham's Vintage

1985 Graham's Vintage

1985 Fonseca Vintage

1992 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage

1992 Taylor's Vintage, 375 ml

1991 Quinta de Vargellas Vintage

1994 Dow's Vintage, 375 ml

1994 Smith-Woodhouse Vintage

1995 Delaforce Quinta da Corte Vintage

1997 Smith-Woodhouse Vintage

1997 Broadbent Vintage

2000 Fonseca Vintage, $55

2003 Gould Campbell Vintage, $23/375 ml


Rare Wine Company Boston Bual Special Reserve, $35

Rare Wine Company Charleston Sercial Special Reserve, $35

Blandy's Rich Malmsey 15 Years Old, $34/500 ml

(Current prices are noted above for the wines that are readily available on the market today.)


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  1. Wonderful lineup of ports, but it is a crime to drink those of the vintage ports younger than the '94s this early. In fact, I'm not even opening my 94s yet. How was the '85 Graham?

    1. Nice to see Port being discussed on the boards. I have recently obtained a 1963 Quinta do Noval which I am keeping for another 18 years or so for a special occasion.

      1. Hello, I (and surely many others) very much appreciate tha hard work you put into the tasting notes you occasionally share here.

        I'm slowly educating myself in 20 year tawnies (this winter I also got to the Yalumba antique, which I found to have a pronounced candied orange character not really present in the tawnies I tried) so I'm curious how the Ferreira "Duque" compared to the Fonseca. Farmstead cheese in Alameda is having a special on Saenkanter now; I found it perfect with Graham's 20 yr. tawny. cheers

        2 Replies
        1. re: moto

          I've had the chance to blind-taste and retaste four different 20-year old tawnies in recent months: Ferreira "Duque de Bragança", Quinta do Noval, Warres Ottima, and Fonseca. The Fonseca is a distant fourth for me. The Warres was a pour from a freshly opened bottle and a quick taste. It was somewhat closed in and I think it probably needed more air to show well. The Quinta do Noval is very unique in the amount of almost forward fruit it shows even at this level of aging. And, it's not a just a red fruit taste, the flavor is almost like golden raisins or apricot-tinged to me that blends so well with the carmelly tones. My favorite continues to be the Ferreira. What I like about it is the fresh red cherry flavors mingled with some very aged toffee and nutty flavors. Ferreira does not make a 30- or 40-year old, so the oldest lots go into this wine. This allows them to blend in some very young and fresh lots to create the target average age to get a more complex range of fruit and aged flavors. Typically, it has more red hue in the color than other 20-year olds and is easy to spot by sight.

          Disclaimer: Ferreira's US importer is a personal friend and Quinta do Noval hosted my tour of the Douro last fall.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thank you for the comparisons. Tasting on my own at home I can't do blind comparisons, but I was underwhelmed by the Fonseca, retasting it over a couple of weeks. You've given me good reasons why the Noval and Ferreira usually cost more, so they'll be among the ones I'll try in the fall and winter. have a great summer