Wine Tasting Dinner: Tawny Port



By Kori ~ December 12th, 2012.

Port comes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. While there are port-style wines made around the world, strict use of the term Port is reserved for fortified wines produced in Portugal. Most Port producers in Portugal now label their wines as “Porto” and the bottles bear 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.

Last Friday evening, we explored Tawny Port in our wine tasting dinner. It was another fabulous evening of great wines, the company of wonderful friends, and LaGayle’s (Mom’s) excellent food. 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. So for this tasting dinner, we changed up our format a bit. We tasted through each of the Ports before dinner for evaluation purposes. Then we enjoyed two wonderful Washington wines from Red Willow Vineyard with dinner. The 2009 Adams Bench Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah paired beautifully with our dinner of tomato basil soup, candied walnut Gorgonzola salad, prime rib, creamy potato casserole, and roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter. After dinner, we revisited the Ports and enjoyed them with chocolate truffles for dessert.

The consensus favorite was the Cockburn’s 20 Year Old Tawny Porto, followed closely by the Niepoort 10 Year Old Tawny Porto. 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. Port is a lovely after-dinner or “nightcap” beverage, especially during these cold winter months.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

Cockburn’s 20 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown. Aromatic with honey and caramel on the nose. A hint of toast comes through on the palate as well. Medium sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and good viscosity. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Total Wine & More (Bellevue, Washington), $33; Available elsewhere, $28 to $60

Niepoort 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown with ruby hues. Gorgeous nose with butterscotch and nutty aromas. Butterscotch, caramel, and nuts come through on the palate. Medium sweet and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $50; Available elsewhere, $25 to $53

Kopke 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown with ruby hues. Aromatic with caramel and butterscotch on both the nose and palate. Medium sweet and medium-bodied with lively 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: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $30; Available elsewhere, $15 to $42

Quinta de Ventozelo 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown with ruby hues. Nice nose with prune and raisin aromas. More prune and raisin as well as caramel come through on the palate. Medium sweet and medium-bodied with soft 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: Total Wine & More (Bellevue, Washington), $22; Available elsewhere, $16 to $40

Offley Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium ruby red. Nose is a bit tight at first, then prune and raisin aromas and flavors come through. Medium sweet and medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and a smooth, but slightly hot, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Total Wine & More (Bellevue, Washington), $12; Available elsewhere, $9 to $14

Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Porto (Douro Valley, Portugal): Medium amber brown. Aromatic with butterscotch and nuts on the nose and palate. Medium sweet and medium-bodied with medium, soft tannins and a medium to long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Total Wine & More (Bellevue, Washington), $40; Available elsewhere, $36 to $49


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

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