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Nov 15, 2010 07:38 AM

Ruby v. Tawny Port?

Let me preface this by saying I don't know anything about Port and I'm not sure I've ever even tried it.

I got a bottle labled Tawny Port as a gift. I've not opened it. I just saw a recipe for Cranberry Sauce made with Port over on the Home Cooking Board. The recipe calls for Ruby Port. Wikipedia tells me that ruby port is the cheapest kind. So I have two questions -- 1) can I use the Tawny Port in the recipe? What would it do to the flavor profile? and 2) Would I want to do this? Would I be wasting a good port for use in cooking?

Thanks for any help you can give.

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  1. 1. You can use the tawny. It tends to be a bit nuttier, with less overt fruitiness.
    2. Depends on the brand.

    4 Replies
    1. re: invinotheresverde

      Thanks. I think nuttiness might be good in a cranberry sauce recipe.

      The brand says Graham's 10 Year Tawny Porto. I don't know if that's a good brand or not.

      1. re: LNG212

        It's not terrible, but it'll be just fine for using in a recipe. Then have a little after dinner and see if you like it.

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          Thanks for the help. I think I will definitely do this and also give it a try!

          (favorite sign hanging in my kitchen - I love to cook with wine and sometimes I put it in the food)

        2. re: LNG212

          Graham's is a good producer. For most Tawnies, I am a bit more of a fan of Taylor-Fladgate, but Graham's is good. As a counter-point, pick up a bottle of either the Cockburn's 10 year Tawny, or the Porto Barros 20 year. [Often not fair to serve a 10 year vs a 20 year, but this will be fun.)

          Now, there are Ports and then there are Ports, and finally, there are Ports. Each general group, Ruby, Tawny and Vintage Ports, have several styles. Each can be very enjoyable. [Before anyone goes ballistic, Vintage Port is Ruby Port, but with giant differences, at a marketing level.]

          I find Tawnies to be better with food, and Vintage Ports great AS a dessert. The normally marketed (US) Rubies are seldom my thing, but do have to admit that I enjoyed a few glasses on the flight into LHR the other day, along with some decent bleu cheeses. Slept until the final approach. Maybe the place for Founder's Reserve is at 45,000 feet, headed to London?



      2. The flavors are different -- the ruby port has dark red fruit flavors, logical with cranberries. The deep red color is also important, to add a darker red to the already red cranberries.

        Tawny has a different flavor profile -- it's not fruity, as in red fruit. It's nutty, and if it's old enough (20 years), it can take on caramel, and dried fruit flavors, like fig. It's brown, not red.

        So there's a reason for the ruby port recommendation -- it's to deepen the red fruit flavors of the cranberries, and to enrich the red color.

        If you need a substitution and don't want to buy ruby port, take some red wine, reduce it by half, then add sugar to equal port's sweetness. Use the reduced, sweetened red wine as the ruby port component.

        1. I just looked over the Wikipedia article on :port wines." I wanted to see for myself where it said ruby is cheaper than tawny port. I found it. And it is GROSSLY misleading! I have seen and longed for fine ruby ports that were over seven hundred dollars a bottle. I've never seen a tawny offered at such a price. So I would say that ruby port has a much wider price range than tawny port, at both ends.

          maria lorraine's advice above is right on. But a five dollar bottle of Christian Brother's ruby port will probably work fine in your cranberry sauce, and a lot less hassle than reducing and sweetening a red wine. Good luck! And if the budget permits, pick up a higher quality of ruby port and compare it with the tawny. I highly recommend Sandeman's ruby ports of all price ranges. I strongly prefer ruby to tawny, but it's a personal thing.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            Ther e is a difference between ruby port and vintage port. When you see $700 ports you are seeing a vintage port from a great year that is in high demand (although I've never seen a vintage for that price, but close.)

            I much prefer a properly aged vintage port to any other, but a good tawny port is also very good.

            1. re: dinwiddie

              Yes, vintage ports. But most (maybe all?) vintage ports I've seen are "ruby" port. Tawny ports are ALWAYS just that: TAWNY! In color. It comes from being aged in wooden casks, which allows air to permeate and some of the wine evaporates and the color "rusts." ("Rusts" is my word and I have no idea whether it has a specific meaning in oenology) Ruby ports are aged in glass bottles where the color loss/evaporation does not occur. I don't recall having seen a tawny vintage port, but I have seen one that looked red in the main body in the glass and a bit on the tawny side around the edges where the liquid tried to "climb" up the glass. Am I wrong on this? This has been my understanding for over half a century, but no longer remember where or how I learned this other than being sure "people" taught me this. I assumed they were knowledgeable.

              1. re: Caroline1

                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.


                1. re: zin1953

                  Jason, thank you so much for spelling all of this out! VERY generous of you and much appreciated.


            2. re: Caroline1

              Recent Port news is the planned release next month by Taylor of an old tawny at $4,000 per bottle.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Thanks, Melanie. I'll order a case! '-)

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Well, in its defense, it IS (allegedly) pre-Phylloxera, and it DOEs come in a hand-blown crystal decanter, and it IS being sold by Taylor's . . .

                  Nonetheless, the 19th century Porto that was discovered by Cristiano van Zeller after aging all through the 20th century and bottled in the 21st was but into "regular" glass and sold for significantly less. It, too, was quite spectacular . . .

              2. Okay, now you've all really confused me! Well, I'm learning a lot about port as you all are describing it. But my main concern for right now is my cranberry sauce. I will not be buying a vintage port (of any kind) any time soon. I just wanted some guidance on using this tawny port for the recipe.

                For those of you talking about the ruby -- are you saying that the tawny port will probably not work well in the recipe? Thanks for the input.

                9 Replies
                1. re: LNG212

                  if your recipe contains a "normal" amount of port (a tablespoon or so in a recipe) then don't worry about it - use what you have on hand. A spoonful (or two) of port isn't going to have an enormous influence on the flavor. Or the color.

                  You could even leave it out completely without any fear of your sauce being inedible.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    No, the recipe calls for 1 2/3 cups. That's a lot. That's why I was concerned and asking for guidance since I don't know anything about ports or their flavors.

                    1. re: LNG212


                      then I'd go buy an inexpensive ruby port -- that much will definitely have an impact on flavor/color.

                      1. re: sunshine842


                        In case anyone is interested, the recipe from Home Cooking was this one here from Bon Appetit -- .

                        1. re: LNG212

                          Hi, LNG212. I've read the recipe and there is no way I would use tawny port in it. There is a huge flavor difference between tawny and ruby ports, and I think the tawny would change the whole character of the cranberry sauce. I can imagine ruby port combined with balsamic vinegar and the cranberries and figs, as called for in the recipe, but my imagination curls its toes and its nose when I ask it to taste it with tawny port instead of ruby. I suspect the friend who presented you with the tawny port didn't opt for the cheapest stuff available, so why waste a really good wine in something that won't be harmonious? Even if it turns out you don't care all that much for tawny port, it is a fortified wine and will keep for years. It's always nice to have a really good dessert wine on hand to serve friends who do like it after dinner. But it's your call. Whatever you decide to do, I hope it goes well!

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            There's really not a huge flavor difference between cheap ruby port and the 10 year tawny the OP has, especially to the OP's untrained, inexperienced palate. Also, she won't be wasting really good port on it (Graham's 10). Under the cranberries, balsamic, figs, pepper, sugar and herbs, it will be just fine.

                          2. re: LNG212

                            That recipe is a variation on one that I first published many years ago in a major national food magazine (Thanksgiving cover story), which was then reprised by other food magazines, and re-printed through the years. The version linked to has been changed only slightly from the original. My recipe was the first of its kind -- at the time -- to incorporate balsamic, port, black pepper and dried fruit with cranberries, to make a savory cranberry sauce.

                            So, my recommendation still stands. Use sweetened, reduced red wine, or buy some inexpensive ruby port, like Sandeman's. (I've made it both ways, many times, and the red wine substitution works well.) Even if you spend only $20 on a ruby port, it will last till Christmas or longer, and you can enjoy it through the holidays. Tawny is a very different animal from ruby port (it's unfortunate they're both named the same thing), and the result it will yield in the recipe is different from what the recipe is supposed to taste like.

                        2. re: LNG212

                          Really, though, I think you'll be fine with what you have. It's sweet, fortified wine, whether it's ruby or tawny, and in the grand scheme of things, they taste similarly. Yes, the ruby will impart more of a red color, but since you're using cranberries, it'll be red from those.

                          Seriously, you're fine.

                          Edited after reading the actual recipe: You're extra fine.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            Thank you for taking the time to look at the recipe too. I appreciate that.

                            ETA: I will definitely report back with the results.

                    2. Another vote for buying an inexpensive bottle of ruby Port for the recipe. But I'd use real Port (Dow's, Sandemann, Warre's, etc.) not a California approximation. It'll cost more - ~$15 as opposed to ~$5 - but the difference isn't prohibitive.

                      There are two reasons for this recommendation. First, the flavor and color of a ruby port would be better in the sauce. The difference, while perhaps small, should be noticeable. But more significantly, you'll have already opened a open bottle of ruby, and you can open the bottle of tawny after dinner, taste them both, and decide whether you want to pursue Port as a hobby.