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Jul 10, 2007 07:59 PM

Port Wine

Whats your favorite port wines?
I'm looking to expand my taste beyond Fairbanks Ruby port hah(even though I do like this one too)Help broaden my horizon.-Thanks

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  1. First and foremost: how much do you want to spend?

    Secondly, keep in mind that there is Porto -- "true" Port wine only comes from the Douro Valley of Portugal -- and there is port-styled wine from elsewhere on the planet.

    Sticking with Porto, know that there are three main categories of Porto: White, Ruby, and Tawny. From there, a myriad of sub-categories exist.

    Simply put, Tawny Porto is any wine that spends seven years or more aging in wood prior to bottling. If it spends less than that, it's a Ruby Port -- unless it's White.

    There are three types of non-vintage Ruby Porto blends. First is a "simple" non-vintage blend ("simple" Rubies and Tawnies are the least expensive Ports made). Then there is a non-vintage Porto produced in the style of a Vintage Porto -- these are called Vintage Character Porto, as typified by Noval LB or Fonseca's Bin 27. Finally, there is a rather rare, third category of non-vintage Ruby called Crusted Porto.

    There are also two types of Ruby Port WITH vintage dates: Vintage Porto (which must be bottled after roughly two years aging in wood), and Late Bottled Vintage Porto (bottled after 4-6 years in wood).

    Tawny Porto can be "simple" (see above), or can have an approximate designation of age: 10-Year Tawny, 20-Year Tawny, 30-Year Tawny, and 40-Year Tawny Ports are the only age designations permitted under Portuguese law. Finally, there are Tawny Ports that are produced from a single year's harvest and age for a very long time in wood prior to bottling. This category of Porto is called Colheita.

    White Ports can be old or young, dry or sweet.

    So, how much do you want to spend, and what style are you looking for? Prices, depending upon the category and the age of the Porto, can range from $10 to $10,000!


    20 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Probably no more than 20-40$s for 750ml thanks for all your info very helpful.I'm looking for something a step or two up from the cheap stuff.I normally just drink Fairbanks Ruby and love that but I know thats bottem of the barell.I'm willing to try all three different types In Fairbanks ports I like ruby best but i'm open to any suggestions.Is Sandeman anygood?-Thanks

      1. re: widehomehi

        To stay in that price range you will either have to stick with Tawny Ports and/or buy what is a port style wine made in Australia.

        Of the former, Graham, Warre, and Taylor Fladgate all make good 10 year old non-vintage Tawny Ports.

        One of the best values in a "Non-Port" Port is from Australia. Hardys makes a Tawny Port South Australia Whiskers Blake that is excellent and consistently scores well with the critics. For the price ($12-15) it can't be beat.

        As for Sandeman, let's just say that the Non-Vintage is drinkable, but not in the class of the Graham or Warre or even the Hardys.

        I doubt you would be able to find a decent vintage Port for the price range you want, and if you did, I'd be very leary since the better ones release at about $70-100.

        1. re: widehomehi

          Fairbanks (Gallo) Ruby Port is NOTHING LIKE a [true, real] Ruby Porto [from Portugal]. Different grapes, different techniques of production. etc., etc., etc.

          My advice would be to save your money ***at this point*** and, rather than spending $20-40, try one or two examples of a straight Ruby Porto ($10-12) or, perhaps, a Vintage Character Porto ($15-20). I don't know where you live, but those prices *should* work in the U.S. in most major markets.

          It's been quite some time since anything Sandeman produced impressed me, so I'd look to other producers. Some examples of wines to try would include:

          RUBY PORTO:
          Dow's **
          Graham's **
          Niepoort ***
          Noval ***
          Ramos Pinto ***

          Fonseca Bin 27 **
          Graham's Six Grapes ***
          Noval LB ****
          Ramos Pinto Collector's ***
          Sandeman's Founder's Reserve **
          Warre's Warrior ***

          From here, if you want, you can explore some examples of Tawny Porto, or move onto LBVs and some Vintage Porto.


          1. re: zin1953

            My favourite ruby these days is Quinta do Infantado. Great QPR.

          2. re: widehomehi

            Sandeman's is a good producer. Their Founder's Reserve Ruby consistantly sells at the top of the Port (note capital P) list, fighting it out between Graham's Six-Grape. I have had a few of their Tawnies, but place those down the list a bit. I also have quite a few of their Single Quinta and fully declared Vintage Ports in the cellar, and have enjoyed all of their offerings. As has been pointed out, they are a tier, or two, below some of the heavy-hitters, but still very good.

            Favorites - Vintage: Taylor '63, '48, '70 & '94 (Fonseca '94 is great also; Tawney: Taylor 20 Year, Cockburn's 20 Year, Porto Barros 20 Year (I sense a theme here). For general Ruby (without some of the myriad variations): I like the Graham's Six Grape, but would normally pull an LBV instead.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I still remember my first Cockburn's 20.

              Blessedly, Port does NOT give me the headaches almost every other wine does.

              1. re: tom porc

                I like the Cockburn's 20, as it is atypical of most houses' styles - lighter and a bit more "spirity," than most, but still a very good Tawny. I usually include it, when I'm hosting a Port party, just to have a counter-point.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Thanks for explaining why I enjoyed Cockburn moreso than the few others I've tried.

                  Graham's, Warre's and Fonseca Bin 27 didnt work for me so I must be prefer a light Tawny over the Rubys.

                  1. re: tom porc

                    Fairly common. Many find the Rubies to be too cloying. The Cockburn's Tawny is at the lightest end of that spectrum, and, as such, reminds me a tad more of Sherry, than most Ports. It's not my fav., but certainly fits into my Port acquisitions.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I never tried Sherry. Perhaps I would like them also ... if not headache producing.

                      May I ask how you host your Port parties? I imagine the cost and rarity of vintage Port makes it a more intimate setting. What do you serve with it?

                      1. re: tom porc

                        I'm not Bill, but . . .

                        Many years ago (1980s), I used to belong to a "Port Club," where we'd meet for monthly tastings. We'd taste three different Vintage Porto -- the first would be quite old (1948 or older); the second bottle would be from the 1950s or 1960s. The final bottle would usually be from 1970.

                        The first wine we would sample alone. We would have true Stilton and walnuts and some baguette with the second and third, and if anyone wanted cigars, it was with the third wine only. (We bought a commercial air purifier for the restaurant's back room.)

                        * * * * *

                        Today, when I do Porto, it's usually -- depending upon the occasion -- one bottle, perhaps two at the most (depending upon the size of the group). Typically, it's after dinner, and it's just one bottle.

                        But if I'm teaching classes, I'll do "straight" Ruby Porto before a Vintage Character Ruby before an LBV before a Vintage Porto. Then I'll shift to Tawnies, doing a "straight" Tawny before a 10- or 20-Year Old Tawny before a Colheita.


                        1. re: zin1953

                          Hey, was that like "Fight Club?" First rule of Port Club is that you do not talk about Port Club. Second rule of Port Club is that you do not talk about Port Club...

                          We've done about six Port dinners and have tried to cover most bases. My wife has worked overtime with several chefs to put these together because of the potential pairings, or non-pairings.

                          I usually do similar to what you outline, starting with white Port, and working through Rubies and variations, thereof. Here we break, as I'll do the Tawnies next, and finish with VPs, maybe starting with an LCV, or two, which are done with only nuts and cheese, though those will have been left over from the Tawnies, as I feel (personal feeling here), that VPs ARE dessert, in, and of themselves. Only problem is that some of my guests want to do cigars, and the Tawny course is where I'd include those - on the upper deck. Though, if one is going to do VPs, I'd urge them to hold off on the cigars, until maybe the end, when the Tawnies come back out.

                          It used to be a lot easier, when we lived in CO, as it is just too bloody hot, most of the year in AZ. I'll do a glass, or two, in the evening, but for a tasting, or a dinner, one needs to take plenty of time and go very, very slowly.

                          I'm trying to convince my chapter of International Wine & Food Society to do a Port tasting, but have met with resistance.

                          Thanks for sharing,

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Thanks, again. It seems it's a cold winter's night when I reach for the Port. Reclining in front of the tv watching an old classic on TCM.

                          2. re: zin1953

                            Very informative, thanks.

                            I can understand blue cheese (unless you use white Stilton) but walnuts? Is there something special about Port and walnuts?

                            1. re: tom porc

                              hot pistachios(I mean warm them on a sheet pan in the oven) and blue cheese top an occasional drink nicely.

                              1. re: tom porc

                                It's just a nice combination . . . so is White Porto and marcona almonds, Serrano ham and breasola.

                                1. re: tom porc

                                  Not sure if it's the tannins in the walnuts, but they pair very, very well. With the Porto Barros 20 Year (mentioned above), I use pecans, because that is the flavor profile, that I find in that wine. It also goes great with my wife's pecan pie!

                                  Tip, if you are serving a young, tannic red, you might want to try and work walnuts into the dish. Their tannins will make the young red's seem very mild - almost like it has spent 10 years in the cellar.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    It's all fascinating.

                                    I prefer cashews another high tannic "nut." Should I go to the local bottleshop and ask for the Port with cashew flavor profile?
                                    Has anyone had wine or liquor distilled from cashew apple?

                                    1. re: tom porc

                                      I do not recall any flavor profile near cashews, in Port. With cashews, I usually think a buttery Chardonnay. I'll have to give this one some consideration.

                                      I also do not find cashews that tannic, but maybe I'm missing something.


              2. You might want to take a look at a fairly recent post on Port: Besides the good recs. that you have gotten, so far, you might pick up a few more.


                3 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Just noticed some more while browsing
                  we can keep talking here to though.-Thanks
                  Thanks for the advice thus far I'm learning alot.So how is that Hardys Austrailian tawny Whiskers Blake is it comparable at all,sure is cheap.Anyone else have an opinion or have tried this?Is it available in USA?

                  1. re: widehomehi

                    Widely available in the US, tastes nothing like a true Tawny porto, but can be very nice if taken for itself, and not as Porto.

                    1. re: widehomehi

                      In general, I like the OZ "ports," and do several, from time to time. Depending on how much is exported to the EU, the word "port," might, or might not, be on the bottle. Yalumba's Clocktower and Gallway Pipe are good, as well, as is the Trafford, which used to come in a "ship's decanter." Have not seen it in some years. Since OZ became part of the EU, many, many names have changed - you will often see things like, "Library Reserve," where they displayed port, before. I've always used the convention of port vs Port (Porto) to differentiate between the wine of the Douro and the rest of the world. The Port from Portugal is as good as it gets, especially as one progresses past the normal "Rubies," and on to some of the more serious iterations. And yes, Hardy's is usually commonly available in the US.

                      I find most of the OZ offerings to be a bit heavy, but then they don't call them "stickies," for nothing.

                      The exploration of Port (all spellings and capitalizations) can be a lifelong journey. When someone asks me to tell them about Port, my first response is, "how much time do you have?"

                      Most of all, ENJOY


                  2. I'm a humble (?) neophyte compared with the individuals who have responded, but I'd suggest that "real" ports are frequently available in 375 ML bottles that, while not a great value, make port affordable to us working stiffs.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Phood

                      Absolutely! Now, I seldom have much Port left over, being the wino, that I am, but the .375s are great for experiencing the wonderful wines, without having too much, or running the risk of spoilage. One cannot always have 12 friends in tow, to finish a bottle of VP, and some do decline rather quickly. Nice call.

                      Personally, I wish that more producers offered their wines in half-bottles (.375s or .500s), and that more restaurants stocked them, as my wife and I often dine, otherwise alone, and like to have wines for every course.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Master Hunt, I have an '83 Fonseca(750ml). Drink or hold? The '90 single quintas I had a few months ago (Graham Malvedos, Dow Bomfim, 375s) seemed quite ready. Have you tried any single quintas from '95?--I picked up a couple(incl. Fonseca Guimaerens) at a decent price, is sooner better than later for that vintage? grazie, and cheers

                        1. re: moto

                          The best place for information on Porto is

                          Most 1983s are very good now -- close to their peaks, depending upon storage. Fonseca was not the stellar producer it usually is in 1983, and I wouldn't hang onto the 1983 vintage for any considerable time -- drink anytime over the next few years.

                          Don't be in a hurry to drink your 1995s, but -- again -- that depends uponthe producer and storage condidtions.


                          1. re: zin1953

                            Sir Jason, thank you for confirming what was my probable course. I very much enjoy reading the site you named and only hope my palate and liver hold on for another 25 years or so to experience a little of what so many have praised. cheers

                          2. re: moto

                            Based on my limited exposure to the Ports of '83, I'd think "drink." I keep holding out hope that my '85s come into their own, based on the early press on them. So far, they have proved to be good wines, but never of the stature of the '70s, or even the '77s. Luckily, my wife rather fancies her Ports youngish, so she has consumed (OK, I did help a bit), many of the '85s, and they may have already provided their "bang for the buck." Most of the '83s that I have now are single bottles (maybe 2, at most), and from rather esoteric producers, as the bigger hitters are long gone. I do not have the '83 Fonseca, or I'd pop it this weekend and give you TNs.

                            Sorry, that I do not have good, first-hand info for you,

                      2. We would suggest that you take your next vacation time to go to Portugal to try Ports. We went last year and had a great time in Porto and Vila Nova De Gaia. You will be able to try many different Ports visiting each Port house along the river. If you pause in front of a bottle in one of the many wine stores, the proprietor will almost always come running over to pop open the bottle and give you a huge glass full to try. Some of the Ports are not exported to the States and must be purchased at the Port houses. Visiting Porto and Vila Nova De Gaia is a great way to try a huge variety of wines. They will turn you on to vinho verde too. Staying in Porto can be reasonably priced and you can take trains to the south of Portugal to visit the cities there at very reasonable rates.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MIKELOCK34

                          Here's a video of Billboards featuring all the wine companies available at Porto's port-wine lodges, across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.(virtual vacation)

                          1. re: widehomehi

                            Cute video. Brings back some fun memories. Porto/Vila Nova de Gaia are great places to visit.

                        2. Ok just tried Hardys Whisker Blake tawny and was very impressed for the price and flavor but my neighbor gave me a drink of Warre's Otima 10 year tawny and it was far smoother and superior in every way.
                          What about whites and rubys any suggestions?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: widehomehi

                            Um-m, the whites. About the only one that has made a positive impression on me has been the Fonseca. However, I do not mix my Ports (white, or otherwise) with any other liquid - lemon water, seltzer, sparkling - nothing. Most of the rest, that I have tried, are yawners. I always throw in a Fonseca white, when doing a Port tasting, but at the beginning.

                            [EDIT] Sorry, I only hit on one of your questions. For Rubies, I like the "branded" Rubies" Sandeman's Founder's Reserve and Graham's Six-Grape. Though I am a Taylor-o'phile, I have been less impressed by their entry-level Rubies.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              IMHO the absolute BEST White Porto is Churchill's . . . . it's a dry Porto (some whites are sweet), and aged 10+ years in cask. Truly awesome!

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Yes, they do a nice one, as well. Where I have lived, over the last 30 years, CO and AZ, White Ports are less often seen, and most that are, are just not up to snuff, by my palate. They are mostly prime candidates for Port and Lemon spritzers. OTOH, I do not usually think of White Port, even for starting an evening. Gotta' work a few into my schedule. Thanks for reminding me of the Churchill.