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Nov 16, 2006 02:13 AM

Good, Cheap Tawny Port?

Any suggestions? I've always enjoyed Hardy's Whiskers Blake. I've also enjoyed many 25 year old ports, but hey, they aren't cheap! Are there any other low end, but tasty ports I should keep an eye out for? Thanks!

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  1. Keep in mind that true (i.e.: Portuguese) Tawny Porto comes in three main types: blends with no age statement (a Porto becomes a Tawny after aging in wood for seven years), blends with age statements (the only ones permitted are 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-Year Old Tawny Ports), and Colheitas (wines produced from only a single harvest, they will carry two dates: one will be the year in which the grapes were harvested; the other will be the year in which the wine was bottled).

    Australian Tawnies can be quite delicous, but they are not Porto and -- for my money -- taste nothing like a true Porto.

    Hardy's "Whiskers Blake" has long been my "go to" in the world of Australian Tawnies. Other good ones include the wines from Trevor Jones, Yulumba's "Clocktower," Penfolds "Special Club," among others. All these will be well under $15, and be quite tasty for the money.

    For a true Tawny Porto that doesn't cost an-arm-and-a-leg, look for Niepoort's Senior, Niepoort's 10-Year Old or Noval's 10-Year Old Tawny porto, among others.

    1. I like Best's Old Cave Tawny, Marienberg, Buller and Dutschke for Aussie-Tawny. I second the Niepoort 10-YO.

      1. What zin1953 said. If it is from Australia (or CA anywhere except Portugal, it is not Port) Whiskers Blake has always been my cheap Tawny Port substitute, Chateau Reynella makes a pretty good one, as does Benjamin. If you like those, you should try the Buller Tokay Victoria for an inexpensive, good dessert wine.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dinwiddie

          >>If it is from Australia (or CA anywhere except Portugal, it is not Port)<<

          Would that it were so, but the use of the names of European appellations on US wines was recently legitimized for existing brands. From "U.S., EU Settle Wine Name Dispute" in the September 15, 2005, issue of the Los Angeles Times:

          The United States and the European Union have settled a long-running dispute over wine names and regulation, a leading trade group said Wednesday.

          Under an agreement that the U.S. trade representative is expected to announce today, domestic vintners, including those in California's $15-billion-a-year wine industry, would have continued access to European Union countries, which buy 2 of every 3 bottles of wine exported from the United States.

          At the same time, the deal would bar U.S. winemakers from using famous names such as Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis on new wine brands.


          In return, the pact would settle a long dispute over the American custom of using European place names on domestic wines, a practice that is more than a century old.

          The agreement would allow for the continued use of such terms on existing brands but not new brands.

          Like it or not (and on the whole I don't), California Champagne and Port will be with us for some time to come.

          1. re: carswell

            "Like it or not (and on the whole I don't), California Champagne and Port will be with us for some time to come."

            Yes, but I don't think that's the issue. The fact is that when Quady sent his "Port" over to Europe, they wouldn't accept it and, thus, "Starboard" was born.

            Semi-generic wines, as defined by the ATf -- sorry, they're the TTTB now, have always been wines made in the United States which use European geographic place names as names of the wine (e.g.: Chablis, Rhine, Sauterne [sic], Burgundy, Claret, Chianti -- as in "Gallo Hearty Burgundy" or "Almaden Moutain White Chablis"). These have readily available alternative names and should be/would be banned, except several major producers of these wines (think Gallo and Constellation) fear losing sales.

            The problematic semi-generic names have always been Champagne, Port, Sherry, Maderia and Marsala. One can, and does, call Champagne "sparkling wine" -- it's really only Korbel, among California's premium producers, that continue to use that term on their labels. But there is no easily accepted alternatives for the fortified wines -- that's been the sticking point, no pun intended.

            One can, I suppose, label wines as "Tawny" (or, for that matter, "Ruby") without the word "Port," but what does one do for wines made outside the D.O. of the Douro in the style of a Vintage Porto? Similarly, although it's far from an ideal solution, one could use "Fino," "Amontillado," and "Cream" -- though I'd prefer alternates, personally -- without the word "Sherry."

            It has never been an easy issue to resolve. As with many things, there were historically valid reasons for these words original Calfiornia useage, but it's difficult to justify on an on-going basis -- especially post-Third Wave.

        2. At the really low-end, the generic Fonseca and Niepoort Junior are my go-to tawnies. A step up (and about double the price) are the 10-year tawnies from Cockburn and Delaforce (His Eminence's Choice) as well as the Niepoort Senior mentioned above. A few dollars more and you're into the big names, most of whose 10-year tawnies are quality products.

          That said, I find Quinta do Infantado's Ruby delivers the biggest bang for the port buck these days.

          1. I found a 'Yalumba Antique Tawny Museum Release' at one of my local Costco's. $12 for a 275mL bottle. I believe it got a 96 rating.
            I bought a bottle but haven't tried it yet. Here are some tasting notes.