Port on a Cold, Winter Evening

By Kori ~ December 29th, 2009.

NV Jonesy PortWhen you are winding down and relaxing after dinner on a cold, winter evening, there’s nothing better than a small glass of port wine. Add in a piece of chocolate with your port around the holidays and you have a treat that’s hard to beat.

Port is a fortified wine, meaning that grape spirit (almost 80 percent alcohol) has been added in order to stop fermentation, bringing the alcohol level of the port to around 20 percent. The best port grapes and almost all port production are red. Port is synonymous with Portugal; although wineries in other countries sometimes call a port-style wine “port”, real port is produced only in Portugal. In the United States, port-style wines are usually called fortified or dessert wine and made using the port process.

We have found good U.S. “ports” in places you might not expect, such as Idaho, Missouri, and Texas. And the best bang for the buck we’ve found in a port comes from Australia, the NV Jonesy Port made by Aussie winemaker Trevor Jones in partnership with importer Dan Philips.

“As my friends and colleagues know by now, I love Australian fortified wines.  I wanted to invent and market a Tawny Port that would be a mind-blowing value. So, I asked my close friend and Port-meister Trevor Jones to collaborate with me to create a delicious, every day, easy-drinking, shockingly luscious Tawny Port that would sell at a stupid-low price. I don’t add a wine to my portfolio until I’ve test driven it in many different real world contexts. I’ve found this Port delicious after dinner, before dinner and during dinner. I drink it like wine. I drink it over ice by the buckets. One sip and I had a jones for Jonesy. It’s a party in a glass. It’s a bottle full of fun. In short, it’s liquid Trevor.” –Dan Philips

The best and most expensive ports are bottle-aged ports such as vintage and single quinta ports. They will continue to improve in the bottle for many years, but once opened they will only hold their best freshness for 4-5 days. Ruby and tawny ports are wood-aged ports. Having spent more time in barrels, they will remain fresher after opening longer than bottle-aged ports. Ruby ports will usually retain their freshness for 1-3 weeks after opening; tawny ports 4-6 weeks.

So far, we have not found any remarkable Washington ports and have not tasted the very expensive top-end ports from Portugal. But, here’s a list of the best port-style wines that we have had:

NV Jonesy Port (Australia)
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Seattle Wine Company (Washington), $8.95 [750ml]; Available elsewhere, $8 to $15

2007 Becker Vintage Port (Texas): Syrah-based.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $21.95 [750ml]

NV Williamson Vineyard Doce Dessert Wine (Idaho): 80% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $25.00 [375ml]

NV Mount Pleasant Tawny Port Library Volume XII (Augusta, Missouri): Made from the Norton grape.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $30.00 [375ml]

As I mentioned earlier, of the ports that we’ve had, the best value and maybe the best wine as well, is the NV Jonesy Port from Australia. It is an amazing value that can generally be found under $10.

Filed under: American Wine, Australian Wine, Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Idaho Wine, Missouri Wine, Port, Texas Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Timothy Lusk | January 3rd, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for the additional ports to taste. I’ve just finished a Sandeman Founders Reserve ($20) which was nice. My wife (not a port drinker) actually liked it as it wasn’t as “harsh” on her palette as others that I have had.

    Another couple [tawny] bottles I tend to keep in my collection are a Taylor Fladgate (20 year – $50) and Grahams (10 year – $30). Both are available at Pete’s. 😉

  2. Kori | January 3rd, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Glad to hear that you and your wife have found some “go-to” ports. Thanks for sharing your favorites. Cheers!