Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Apr 29, 2007 11:33 AM

Port [Moved from Spirits Board]

Last year, my hubby and I went out to eat and ordered a port for dessert. It was my birthday and we went all out. It was $15 a glass. I had never in my life had port, but had a feeling I needed to try it.

We were at the Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton, MA. They served us a Sandeman's 20-year (tawny) port. It was awesome and I was totally impressed. I had to have a bottle. My husband was out running errands and he bought me a bottle of 20-year port while he was at the liquer store.

The one he bought was Warre's Ultima 20 year tawny. Well, I really didn't like it. I thought to myself, was i just drunk and didn't notice that it's not my thing?

I decided to give port another try. For Christmas, the family does a gift grab, and I was asked what I wanted. I asked for booze and chocolate. I told her I wanted the Sandeman's 20 year. She got it for me. I opened it last night at a friend's house.

Instant love all over again. Here's the 2 ports

Warre's Ultima 20 year tawny
Sandeman's 20 year tawny

I hate one, and love the other. Who knew they could be so different?

What are the ports you like? If you like the Sandeman's 20 year tawny, is there a comperable one (similar taste) that's not so expensive?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I like Taylor Fladgate 10 year old's especially good served with a bowl of warm pistachios...and even better if served in front of a roaring fire. :)

    1. Ports can be so completely different. It sounds like you may prefer the aged tawnys over young rubys but I wouldn't let that stop you from trying them as they each have their good and mediocre brands. i say try some of the less expensive Late Bottled Vintage ports. these are not as expensive as an old tawny or vintage, but can be really good and are in the under $30 range... even many in the $20 range.

      Also since you seem to like the slightly oxidized taste of tawny ports you might also like some of the better sherries.

      1. First of all, Porto is a wine, not a spirit.

        The best 20-Year Old Tawny Porto is Ferreira's "Duque de Bragança." The Noval is also excellent, as is Barros. Personally, I prefer them both to the Warre's and Sandeman.

        Twenty Year Tawny Porto must, by its very nature, be expensive. Ten Year Tawnies will be much less expensive, and many are excellent. Noval and Niepoort are my favorites.

        The least expensive wines out there are the Australian "Tawnies," which are not true Porto but are very good wines nonetheless. Some of these are well under $20, some under $10.

        2 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Thanks for the info. Just so you know, I didn't even see the wine board. I saw Spirits and figured it covered all alcohol. I was apparently wrong! :)

          When it comes to the kind of flavor I like, do you think the Noval and Niepoort are up my ally?


          1. re: puppymomma

            Generalization: the major difference between [most] 20-Year Old and 10-Year Old Tawny Portos is that the 10's have more fruit, and the 20's are more elegant, have a little less fruit but more complexity.

            Specifics: the Ferreira has more fruit than most 20's, combining -- in a sense -- the best of both worlds. I'm not a big fan of the Sandeman; I find it a little too hot and spirity. The Barros and Noval are very similar, very complex.

            When it comes to 10-Year Old Tawny Porto, both the Noval and Niepoort have more of the complexity normally found in the older, 20-Year Olds (but not as much), while retaining the fruit normally associated with this younger category. And for significantly less money than a 20-Year Old Tawny Porto . . . even a poor one.

            The Aussie versions are perfectly acceptable as a substitute for the real thing -- they don't taste the same, but they are readily available and many people enjoy them.

            I prefer true Porto.

        2. Is Warre's Ultima different than the Otima or is it just a misremberance? I, for one, really like the Otima (though I've only had the 10 year tawny). I was tickled to find it at Costco a few years ago for $15. Total Wine sells it for $30 these days, and while I like it, I don't like it $30 worth.

          3 Replies
              1. re: concordcourtney

                Oh, I'm so lazy! I yelled across the house to my husband and asked what the name was. I went by what he said. Our liquer cabinet is above the fridge, and I'm only 4'8". Pure laziness.

                I'm going to do a side by side over the weekend with the two. But if I remember correctly, the Otima is much more red, and much more fruity. I think the sandeman's tastes much more like brandy (do I have the liquer right? I'm new to Port.


          1. Ah, Port. To paraphrase my wine-guru many decades ago, "there is port, there is Port, and then. there is PORT!" First, there are three “basic” types of Port: Ruby, Tawny and Vintage. Within those three main groupings, there are some cross-overs, some odd-balls, and a few seemingly contradictory types, but basically they translate to:
            1.) General Ports, i.e. Ruby (may be “branded,” such as Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve, the most often sold Port in the US). These are aged in the barrel for a relatively short time, then bottled to be sold/consumed very soon.
            2.) Tawny Ports, i.e. Ports that are aged in the barrels for an average of the years printed on the label. These are sold and should be consumed in a short time, upon purchase. Vintage dated Tawnies exist, but are not as common.
            3.) Vintage Ports, i.e. Ports that are from a declared vintage and are usually the most expensive, and distinct type. Now, there are other variations, Late Bottle Vintage (LBV), etc. but we’re talking general terms here - really broad brush, if you will.

            Also, some “houses,” i.e Port producers, do some different things with their Ports. Though Port is the most heavily regulated wine in the world, there is some latitude. Some “Tawnies” are not really Tawnies in the strictest sense of the word. If one looks carefully, they will often find little gems, like “Tawny-style,” Port.

            Most houses do various Rubies, some Tawnies, and then, when appropriate, Vintage Port. Each house has a style, so a true 20 year old Tawny (average time of the wines of the blend in wood), may differ from Sandeman’s, Taylor, Fonseca (now a part of the Taylor-Fladgate corp., but still possessive of their own style), Barros, Warre’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s, Graham’s and many others. The prices might vary a bit for true 20 year Tawnies, but will not differ as much as for these house’s Vintage Ports. According to Warre’s site, their “Otima” is a 10 year Tawny, done in a lighter style, I am not familiar with it, but from the description, would assume that it is a fairly new product. Of the major Port houses’ Tawnies, the lightest, that I am familiar with is Cockburn’s 20. You are probably talking about differences in style, more so than wine. Just remember that some “Tawnies” are not equal to others’ Tawnies.

            A couple of books on the subject, that I highly recommend are:
            “The Port Companion,” Godfrey Spence, Macmillan, ISBN 0-02-861781-9
            “Port,” George Robertson, Farber & Farber, ISBN 0-571-16542-7
            “Vintage Port,” James Suckling, Wine Spectator Press, ISBN 0-918076-80-3
            “Port,” Andrew Jefford, Exeter, ISBN 0-671-10032

            Now remember, I have spoken in very, very general terms. If you do much reading, you will soon see that there are exceptions, depending on the house.

            I also can relate to your interest. Once, my wine guru introduced me to Taylor 20 year old Tawny. I was surprised, as she was my “master,” and I, her “grasshopper.” I thought that I knew about “port,” having used Taylor California Cellars' “port” as a base for many batches of beach-party punch. Here was my “master” ordering Port, and “Taylor,” no less. She quietly explained that there was port, and then there was Port and then there was PORT. There was Taylor, and then there was Taylor-Fladgate & Yeatman. After the lights all went on and the meal was finished, I spent the next day beginning my voyage of Port. On my second stop (at a wine shop), the salesman fielded my request, “tell me about Port,” with “how much time do you have?” In about four hours, he’d given me an overview - and sold me a very mixed case of everything from a general Ruby, or two, to some ‘70s Vintage Ports. That was about 300 bottles ago, and I’ve never looked back.