Tasting Group: Tawny Port



By Kori ~ April 6th, 2011.

Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. Therefore, we are thoroughly enjoying our Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we believe benefits all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member brings a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one knows all the wines in the blind tasting.

Recently, our tasting group met and explored Tawny Port. Port comes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. While some producers in other countries use the name “Port” on their port-style wines, it is inappropriate to do so if it is not from Portugal. To distinguish the real Port from the imitators, most Port producers in Portugal now label their wines as “Porto” as you will see in the list of wines we tasted. Also, real Port bears a neck label with the Instituto do Vinho do Porto Garantia, which is a seal of guarantee. Port is a sweet fortified wine produced by adding grape spirit during fermentation, which stops fermentation and retains considerable sugar. Residual sugar in the finished wine typically ranges from 8 to 12 percent. Port is typically a blend of grape varieties, vineyards, and vintages. Tawny Port is aged in wood. Those that spend an extended amount of time aging in barrel or cask can be labeled in multiples of 10 years. We tasted ten bottles of Tawny Port, and the consensus favorite was the Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Tawny Porto.

Since Port has a higher alcohol level than still wine, it is often consumed as an after-dinner drink or with dessert rather than with a meal. Even though I was spitting during our tasting, I could definitely feel the higher alcohol content after trying all ten wines. When it comes to Port or any fortified wine, a little can go a long way. Thankfully, that higher alcohol level also means that it lasts longer even after the bottle has been opened. While a still wine will only stay fresh for a couple of days, Port can easily last a week and often much longer after opening.

As you’ll notice in the tasting notes below, we had duplicates of two of the wines, the Taylor Fladgate and the Otima. While the rankings were close on the Otima and we found them to be very similar, the Taylor Fladgates were very different. Even after we unveiled them and then re-tasted, we all thought that they tasted different. By looking at the bottles, the only difference was the code on the IVDP guarantee seal. While both wines were good, we preferred code “MJ” to code “ND”. Just one of the many things that keeps the world of wine interesting.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Code “MJ”. Medium-deep amber brown with ruby red hues. Gorgeous nose with prune, caramel, and toffee aromas. Prune, toffee, chai tea, vanilla, and a slight hint of lemon come through on the palate. Off-dry and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced with good complexity and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $30; Available elsewhere, $21 to $30

Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Duoro Valley, Portugal): 500ml bottle. Golden, amber brown. Aromatic with vanilla and nutty aromas and flavors. A hint of coffee comes through on the palate as well. Off-dry and medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pike & Western Wine Shop (Seattle, Washington), $30; Available elsewhere, $13 to $28

Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Duoro Valley, Portugal): 500ml bottle. Golden, amber brown. Aromatic with vanilla and caramel on the nose that leads to toffee, caramel, and nutty flavors on the palate. Off-dry and medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Costco (Seattle, Washington), $20; Available elsewhere, $13 to $28

Fonseca Porto 10 Year Old Tawny (Duoro Valley, Portugal): Deep, ruby red with amber tones. Aromatic with dried fruits and toffee on the nose. Flavors of toffee, coffee, and dried apricots. Medium-sweet and medium-bodied with crisp acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: DeLaurenti (Seattle, Washington), $32; Available elsewhere, $22 to $35

Quinta da Prelada 20 Years Old Porto Tawny (Duoro Valley, Portugal): Medium caramel, amber brown in color. Aromatic with nutty and toffee aromas. Flavors of prune, caramel, and vanilla. Medium-sweet and medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $40; Available elsewhere, $48

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Code “ND”. Medium-deep amber brown with ruby red hues. Nice nose with prune and vanilla aromas. Nuts, vanilla, caramel, and prunes come through on the palate. Medium-sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants (Seattle, Washington), $30; Available elsewhere, $21 to $30

Quarles Harris 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium, amber brown. Caramel and walnut aromas lead to flavors of coffee, toffee, vanilla, and nuts. Medium-sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Trader Joe’s (Seattle, Washington), $15

Graham’s Fine Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium ruby red in color. Prunes and dried red fruits come through on the nose; prunes, caramel, and coffee on the palate. Medium-sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine Outlet (Seattle, Washington), $17; Available elsewhere, $12 to $18

Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown. Nuts, vanilla, and coffee come through on both the nose and palate. Medium-sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a medium to long finish. A bit hot on the back end.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: K&L Wine Merchants (California), $30; Available elsewhere, $22 to $37

Dow’s Fine Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown with ruby red hues. Prunes, caramel, and vanilla aromas and flavors. Off-dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $14; Available elsewhere, $10 to $19


Filed under: Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Fortified Wine, Port, Portuguese Wine, Tasting Group, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Eric Stern | April 6th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Lots of 5 for 5 QPRs!

  2. Kori | April 6th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Eric,
    That’s right. Some good bang-for-your-buck in this group. Cheers!

  3. itsoffal | April 6th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Nothing to say but bravo, especially pointing out that producers, mostly US, but also Aus, continue to play outside the code of honor, by labeling their dessert wines as port, some people have no shame. someone and I will not mention their name but just 2 letters, it starts with a G and finishes with an O. They also make an absolutly gorgeous – pink chablis : – ((
    I suppose same can be said of some cheese producers in the US.
    Not long ago, I cracked open a btl of 1963 Quarles Harris, it was past its prime but was enjoyed none the less.

  4. Kori | April 7th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    itsoffal,
    Thanks! Yes, unfortunately, place names are still too often used when they should not be. I’m sure you are a big fan of California Champagne, right? ;) Cheers!

  5. Roxanne Prager | November 30th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    The law on the name only just recently went into effect and so many in California were already approved and making product for over 20 years. Places like Portugal call there product Porto we call it Port that is different. Check this out http://www.sweetandfortifiedwine.org
    it would be nice if people would truly read up on the matter.

  6. Hadleigh Wines | December 10th, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Interesting article, thanks for posting. Here at Alexander Hadleigh Wine Merchants and Importers Ltd we love to maintain a huge portfolio of wines, fortified wines, spirits and liquers. A fine port offers a great way to celebrate this season – our warmest wishes to you all.

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