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Port and sherry education please

I recently read an article about port. It said that tawny port is oak barrel aged which gives it a bit of a caramel flavour so it is best paired with dark chocolate and nuts. Vintage port is aged in the bottle and has more of a deep rich cherry flavour and goes best with blue cheese.

Ok that sounds good so I'm having some friends over for port and we are going to try that out and see if those pairings really are good. Fun!

Can anyone suggest other pairings with port? Any aged cheese or mostly just the blue?

Also, if that is port...what the heck is sherry? Sherry seems just like port to me. Even the glasses you serve it in are the same (if the picture on the side of the box of port glasses I bought is correct).

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  1. (I'm not a fan of Porto wines , so I will let others answer more in detail)

    Sherry is much more varied in style than Porto; there are dry (fino, manzanilla), semi-dry (amontillado & oloroso), sweet and very sweet (mocastel & pedro ximenes) wines. Most of them are better with "savory" food, spanish tapas are the classic pairing (olives, ham, croquettes, manchego cheese and some seafood...) , while the sweet wines could be used as dessert wine (older Pedro Ximenes is fabulous on vanilla ice-cream).

      1. Well you can hardly beat a Wiki writeup as posted by RicRios, so I'll just share with you some of my thoughts on port julesincoq. Absolutely love Port Wines, it has intense flavors and is generally sweeter since it is a fortified wine. (meaning higher alcohol content) As such, I think it is absolutely the perfect wine for a romantic evening and night with your significant other. Port wines, built for a good time definitely!

        Can't help you much on cheese pairings though, not much of a cheese person myself.

        1. In short, from a vinification standpoint, Port is fortified during fermentation and Sherry is fortified after fermentation.

          1. OK, let's start with Port, or more properly, Porto -- which is only produced within a demarcated region of the Douro Valley of Portugal.

            There are many ways to categorize Porto . . .

            One version of an outline (hard to do when you can't use tabs) of Porto would look something like this. Keep in mind, by the way, that there are many different ways to do this outline; also, this applies only to real (i.e.: Portuguese) Porto.

            1. Ruby Porto (defined as red Porto wines bottled with less than seven years of wood aging).

            1a. No indication of age.
            1a1. True Ruby Porto, bottled very young.
            1a2. Vintage Character Porto (a fuller, "beefier" style of Ruby Porto).
            1a3. Crusted Porto (a non-vintage blend of between four-and-six years of age).

            1b. Ruby Ports with a Vintage date.
            1b1. Late Bottled Vintage Porto (by law, bottled between 4-6 years of vintage -- note, numbers here are rounded off).
            1b1a. Traditional, unfined, unfiltered (this will improve with further bottle aging).
            1b1b. "Regular" (fined and/or filtered; generally doesn't improve with bottle age).
            1b2. Vintage Porto.
            1b2a. True Vintage Porto (a producer's "main," showcase product -- by law, bottled two years after vintage [again, rounded] and capable of great improvement with added bottle age).
            1b2b. Single-quinta Vintage Porto (either from a small, estate, or from a large producer, but made from a single estate; again, bottled two years after vintage [again, rounded] and capable of great improvement with added bottle age).

            2. Tawny Porto -- red Porto wines bottled with 7+ years of wood aging.

            2a. No indication of age.
            2a1. Young Tawny (often a mix of Ruby and Tawny).
            2a2. True Tawny Porto.
            2a3. Tawny Reserva, a usually branded bottling of Tawny Porto that is "older" than the "true" Tawny Porto.

            2b. With a general indication of age.
            2b1. 10-Year Tawny Porto.
            2b2. 20-Year Tawny Porto.
            2b3. 30-Year Tawny Porto.
            2b4. 40-Year Tawny Porto.

            2c. With a specific indication of age.
            2c1. Colheita Porto.
            2c2. Garrafeira Porto.

            3. White Porto.

            3a. Bottled young.
            3a1. Dry.
            3a2. Sweet.

            3b. Bottled after 7+ years of wood aging.
            3b1. Dry.
            3b2. Sweet.

            * * * * *

            True Tawny Porto comes in three categories:

            a) with no age statement at all, and relatively inexpensive (some are actually blends of Ruby and White; but a true Tawny Porto must spend at least seven years in wood prior to bottling);

            b) those with a rough indication of age (10-Year, 20-Year, 30-Year, and 40-Year);

            c) Tawny Porto from a single harvest, i.e.: Colheita Porto.

            To MY taste, I tend to enjoy 10's and 20's (older than that and, to my taste, they are often too woody and lose too much fruit), but Colheitas are sublime. But they can be quite expensive. I would first explore other 10- and 20-Year Tawnies and discover the other flavors and characters found in the offerings from other producers. I'd look for producers like Barros, Neipoort, and Noval (to name but three). Taylor is quite good, but I confess I prefer these three.

            For inexpensive Tawnies, I actually prefer the Tawnies from Australia -- wines such as Hardy's "Whiskers' Blake" or Yalumba's "Clocktower" -- to the "true" low-end Tawny Porto . . . except for cooking. Then I use true Porto.

            Colheitas are from a single year's harvest, but are NOT Vintage Porto -- even though no wine from another year was blended into it. These age for at least 7 years in wood, and will carry *both* the calendar year of harvest and the calendar year of bottling on the bottle. Thus you could have (for example) a 1981 Colheita bottled in 1988 -- but you could also have a 1981 Colheita bottled in 1994 or in 2007 . . . .

            / / / / /

            Porto can, as you can see from the above, be either white or red. Certainly the red accounts for most of the wine produced, but in fact over 40 different grape varieties -- both red and white -- go into making Porto.

            On the other hand, Sherry is a white wine -- generally produced from a single grape (Palomino), and then sweetened -- in the case of those specific types of Sherry that are indeed sweet -- with Pedro Ximenez (PX). That said, some Pedro Ximenez *is* bottled by itself, as is some Moscatel.

            And true Sherry is only produced in an especially demarcated region of Spain, centered around the towns of Jerez de la Fronterra, SanlĂșcar de Barrimeda, and El Puerto da Santa Maria.

            There are many types of Sherry produced, too. Most traditional Sherries are DRY -- not sweet.

            Fino and Manzanilla are the lightest and driest of the classic Sherry types -- generally served as an aperitif accompanying a wide array of tapas. Medium-bodied and also dry is a classic Amontillado. This can be served as an aperitif, too, but is often enjoyed on its own or with -- for example -- the soup course (think consommé). Oloroso is the fullest and richest of the classic Sherry types.

            A very rare category is Palo Cortado, which falls in between that of an Amontillado and an Oloroso.

            Cream Sherry is classically a sweetened Oloroso -- that is, Oloroso with PX added. Cheap Cream Sherries are sweetened with Raya. Some cheap Amontillados may also be sweetened.

            This is very short on Sherry, and I apologize, but I'm running out of time - have to be somewhere in a few minutes. Hope this helps somewhat . . .


            2 Replies
              1. re: zin1953


                Quite lovely to see you posting again from time to time. Always educational and fun to read.


              2. Well, Sherry and Madeira are similar to Port (in some aspects and variations), but are very different wines. Depending on what you are comparing, it's probably more than Cab Sauvignon vs Merlot, or Cab Franc.

                Now, in general terms, I agree with that article. I find that Tawny Port is better with food. Vintage Port is more a single dish - a dessert in its own right.

                For other items to pair with Port, other than Tawny, I like grilled beef with a Ruby Port reduction, but would not serve a VP with this. An LBV would be a better pairing, IMHO.

                I do like ripe bleu cheeses with VP, and also walnuts. With certain Tawnies, like Porto Barros 20 Year, I like pecans.

                Good luck,


                5 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Bill, have some unsalted macadamias handy with your next VP; they play well together. Cheers, Veg

                  1. re: Veggo


                    I replied, but CH seems to have lost that post.

                    Not sure if I got OT, but cannot imagine having done so.

                    Will take your rec. into deep consideration. In general terms, I find that walnuts go with many Ports, and pecans with Porto Barros 20 Year Tawny, especially. That stuff is getting hard to find in PHX.

                    Take care, and we'll see if this one stays up.

                    Heading to HI in May, so will pick up a btl. of VP (probably a .375, as it's just the wife and me), and give this one a go.



                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I have enjoyed the traditional stilton- walnuts- porto trio for years as have most of us. Last year I ordered macadamia ice cream (with nice chunks) and a small glass of 1863 Madeira in the dessert room ar Berns in Tampa, and I noticed the flavor of the wine stayed crisper without the oils from walnuts coating my palate. Black walnuts are especially oily. Macadamias are far less oily, and I think make a great combo with Madeiras and VPs, provided that they are unsalted. Worth a try during your trip next month - let me know your experience. Veg

                      1. re: Veggo

                        As always, I will take your studied observations to heart, and will give it a go.

                        Was the Madeira perhaps the Leacock's Verdelho? Had the 1863 some years back at Tante Louise's in Denver. At that age, I would have guessed a Malmsey, and been wrong. Before they closed, that bottle was displayed in the entry-way. Shared it with the sommelier, the owner and his dad.

                        Gotta' try it next month in Hawai`i, or will have to tap into the cellar, with the macadamias, that we'll likely bring back - though we're not doing the Big Island this trip.



                        PS - have not made it out to the course in too long, but it's looking like Augusta meets the Sonoran Desert right now. You need to pass back through. I get 4 strokes per side though... [Grin]

                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                    I have taken to mixing Scotch and Madeira one ounce of each with ice and lots of sparkling water.


                  3. I love to eat meringues with a vintage reserve or late bottled port - you get intense sugar from the meringue paired up with the intense fruit and alcohol burn. Great combo for me anyway. And I don't know if it is proper, but I love a sweet sherry or amontillado with something like red peppery prawns over rice or a hearty pasta.

                    1. Just got back from Porto two weeks ago, one thing I had never heard of and fell in love with was a Porto tonic. It's dry white Port, tonic & lemon slices served on ice.
                      You could greet your guest with these cocktails or some Vinho Verde, then head into your port tasting.

                      You could make little bites, put some bleu on a crustini and top with a marcona nut and a really light drizzle of honey.

                      then have some kind of savory cheesecake to smear on bread and some chocolate.

                      If you would do sherry too, I would buy a Manzanilla style and serve with a hot appt, like shrimp or even some potato bites.

                      Most important, serve any Port slightly chilled, think cellar temp, just like your red wines. It is so much better. Serve the Sherry, chilled like white wine.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: waitress

                        Porto & Tonic is a staple in the hot weather . . .

                        One word of CAUTION: Only Fino and Manzanilla Sherries are traditionally served chilled; Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, etc. are served at room temp. but you're absolutely right re: cellar temp/cool room temp and Porto . . .