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Wine

Best Port

Port is a style of fortified wine that hails from the Douro Valley in north Portugal. Though many New World countries now make Port-styled drinks, just as with Champagne, in order to be called Port with a capital P it technically needs to be produced in this tiny corner of the world.

Made from red or white wine grapes, port starts out its life like any late-harvest wine. It's mashed and fermented in neutral steel or tangy oak until most of the sugars have been metabolized into alcohol. It's here that port journeys in a different direction however, because at some point in the middle of the fermentation process, it's fortified with hard liquor until it reaches an alcohol content that reaches between 19 and 23 percent. The addition of extra alcohol, which is usually a distilled grape spirit, stops the fermentation, keeping sugar content high and giving port its characteristically sweet taste. Since port has a higher alcohol content than wine, it will keep for around a month after you open a bottle.

There are a number of different styles of port to choose from. Portos fortified wines that have not been barrel aged at all. Portos that that come from a single harvest will carry the vintage year and usually need to be aged for decades before they are ready to drink. Portos that are Non-Vintage are blended in such a way that they are ready to drink right away. There are also ruby ports, which have been aged in barrels for 1 to 3 years. Then there are the tawnies, which get their name from the tawny, or amber color that they fade to after 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years of aging. Both ruby and tawny ports are made to be enjoyed right away, since all the aging was done at the winery.

Quinta Do Noval Black

Quinta Do Noval Black

Scoring 90 points and above with professional wine critics, Quinta Do Noval Black is our favorite port for under $20. The flavor profile accentuates fresh fruit flavors over aged brandy notes. This quality makes this an excellent port for newcomers to fortified wine, as well as long-time port drinkers looking for a light, sweet after dinner drink. The nose has lots of big fruit flavors, including cherry and blackberry. The palate is also deep and juicy, with lots of black cherry. The finish is a little bit spicy and shows off dark chocolate flavors, making this an excellent port to drink either by itself or while enjoying a plate of chocolate truffles.

Croft's Fine Ruby Port

Croft's Fine Ruby Port

Made in the Duoro Valley, one of the premier regions for port wine, Croft Fine Ruby Port is one of our Best Picks. It's spent 3 years aging in oak and has been able to pick up a great deal of complexity in that time. The color is a deep red, characteristic of ports that have been aged for just a few years. The flavor profile includes berry, plum, and cherry, as well as notes of spice and smoke. The long finish complements these flavors by adding in notes of licorice. Though there are plenty of earthy tones to this port, it's also quite fruity, and pairs well with creamy French cheeses. It's ready to drink now but can also be cellared until 2020.

Warre Warrior Port

Warre Warrior Port

Warre Warrior is an incredible port that's been one of the world's premier brands for nearly 300 years. A winner of multiple awards, including the gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, Warrior is still one of the most popular ports in the world. It's blended from selections of the best harvests over the past years. This allows Warre to create a consistent product that doesn't vary much from year to year. The flavor has lots of ripe and dried plum to it, as well as notes of mint, chocolate, and walnut. The nutty and chocolatey notes make this a great port to pair with these foods, either as a before dinner aperitif or an after dinner digestif.

Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port Wine

Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port Wine

Fonseca is known for producing some excellent ports, and fortunately for port lovers on a budget, this winery makes one of the world's best value ports. Fonseca Bin 27 is blended from a number of different vintages, making it consistent in color, flavor, and aroma. It's a bright ruby red, and has a bold nose that features a huge kick of blackberry, cherry, plum, and cassis. There's also just a hint of spice to the nose, giving it a little extra complexity. The palate echos the fruit-filled aroma, and features a long finish with pronounced blackberry notes that last all the way to the end. This is an ideal port to enjoy with a fruity dessert, such as a blackberry tart or with a rich chocolate dish, especially one that's hot out of the oven.

Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port

Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port

A three-time gold medal winner at the International Wine Challenge, Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port is one of the world's favorite port wines. It's blended from the best grapes harvested over two or three growing seasons, and then aged for five or six years, giving it a beautiful ruby red color and a great deal of complexity that comes from a rather lengthy time aging in oak. This port has plenty of fresh and dried fruit flavors, as well as notes of spice and chocolate. It's excellent by itself, but also pairs beautifully with chocolate. Though it's fine to store this port in the refrigerator for a couple months after opening it, it should be served at room temperature or just slightly chilled so that the bouquet is able to fully develop.

Cockburn's Vintage Porto '11

Cockburn's Vintage Porto '11

Our absolute favorite port is Cockburn's Vintage Porto '11. This is a richly complex port wine, with a great balance from start to finish. The aroma has scents of fresh flowers and clean wet earth that perfectly suits the big berry flavors and dark, chocolatey finish. Of course, as with any good port, this one also has plenty of sweet raisin and dried fruit on both the nose and the palate. It's ideal as a dessert on its own or paired with a plate of creamy French cheeses or hand crafted chocolate truffles. Since this is a recent vintage, you'll want to let it rest in the wine cellar for a number of years. In fact, it probably won't be at its peak until 2030, and it will continue to age magnificently for another 30 years after that.

Graham's Vintage Port '11

Graham's Vintage Port '11

Graham's Vintage Port '11 is one of the best ports on the market. Graham's is one of the most well-known port wine makers, and this winery only produces vintage ports when conditions are perfect. Fortunately for port enthusiasts, 2011 was one of the best years in recent history. This 2011 porto has complex aromas of black team, ripe fruit, and violet, as well as well-structured flavors of bold fruit, and dark chocolate. It also has just the right amount of acidity and enough well-structured tannins to help it hold up to many years in the wine cellar. It will be at its peak from 2025 to 2055.

Quinta Do Noval Vintage '11

Quinta Do Noval Vintage '11

2011 may have been a tremulous year for the winemakers at Quinta Do Noval, but gambling to leave the grapes on the vines for an extra week paid off, making this one of the best vintages in recent history. In fact, professional critics have showered praise on this porto, giving it scores between 93 and 97 points. This porto is floral, earthy, and sweet, with violet, blackberry, and smoke on the nose, and ripe berries, currants, and figs on the palate. The finish is long, with notes of minerality and lots of well-structured tannins. Though it's approachable now, it will be even better after 10 or more years in the wine cellar.

Taylor's Vintage Port 2000

Taylor's Vintage Port 2000

Though 2011 was and excellent year overall, 2000 was also a great year for bold ports with lots of flavor and aroma. Taylor's Vintage Port 2000 is one of our favorites, and though it has plenty of structure to help it age for another 25 years, it's quite drinkable now if you don't mind bright fruit flavors. This port is sweet and tannic, with notes of blackberries and dark chocolate. The aroma is already incredibly complex, with smoke, graphite, and blackberry notes, though it will continue to evolve as it matures. If you leave this wine in the cellar until 2030 or 2040, the darker earthy notes will become more prominent, but if you like your port a little juicy, it's excellent right now.

Dow's 40 Year Old Tawny Port

Dow's 40 Year Old Tawny Port

For an exquisitely aged port wine, Dow's 40 Year Old Tawny Port is an excellent choice. After an average of 40 years in oak barrels, this port has lost its red tones and has developed a beautiful greenish-gold color. It's flavors are deep and concentrated, with lots of dried fruit and walnut on the palate. The aroma also includes notes of raisin and vanilla, and this finish is long and acidic to cut through all the sweetness. It's a reasonable price for aged ports and won't benefit from any additional time in the wine cellar, so it's the perfect choice if you're looking for a top shelf port to enjoy right away. This is also a favorite among professional critics, with scores in the 90's.

Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Our favorite tawny port is the only port that made Wine Spectator's list of the 100 best wines of 2013. Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is just the right blend of fruity sweetness and barrel-aged richness. One of the things that sets Graham's apart from other port winemakers is their dedication to the barrels themselves. They employ their own coopers to tend to the oak barrels, ensuring that the port gets plenty of contact with good quality seasoned oak so that it's able to pick up lots of complex flavors. The grapes that go into the port are also of the highest quality, taken from the best harvests over a couple of growing seasons. The flavor has notes of apricot, peach, and pineapple, as well as plenty of chocolate and toffee. The finish is long, with a little spice to it and enough acidity to balance out the sweeter fruit flavors.

Dow's 10 Year Aged Tawny Port

Dow's 10 Year Aged Tawny Port

A bright, sweet port, Dow's 10 Year Aged Tawny Port has been masterfully blended. The wines that have gone into this port have been aged for an average of ten years, meaning that some of the wines have been aged longer, developing oaky notes of vanilla and butter that pairs beautifully with the younger fresh fruit flavors. The ten year has just started to show off its characteristic tawny color, and has ruby red tones that gradually fade to amber towards the edge of the glass. Though well-balanced and characteristically sweet, this is a drier port than many and pairs well with creamy cheeses and custardy desserts. In order to get this most out of this port, you'll want to enjoy it at cellar temperature, slightly chilled to about 55 degrees.

Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is an excellent choice when it comes to aged port wines. This port is ready to drink right away and shows off all the complexity and subtlety of a well-aged port. It's lighter in color than younger ports, with an amber hue that comes from years spent in the barrel. The flavor is sweet, nutty, and just a bit spicy. There are lots of big, dried fruit flavors that last long into the smooth finish. It's excellent when paired with chocolates or plain vanilla ice cream, but it can also be enjoyed on its own. Taylor's also makes a 10 year port, as well as 30 and 40 year old ports so you can choose a bottle that suits your tastes and your wallet.

Cockburn's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Cockburn's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is a one of the most popular ports around the world and one of our favorites. It's blended from grapes harvested over a number of different years which gives the port winemakers the ability to create a perfectly consistent port. It's aged in oak casks for 20 years and ready to drink as soon as it's made available by the winery. Mellower than a young vintage port and more complex than a ruby port, this tawny port makes an excellent dessert all by itself. It has pronounced notes of toffee, honey, and butterscotch, as well as sweet, overripe fruit. The finish is long, sweet, and creamy.

Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port

A well-balanced tawny port that shows off some of the complexity of older ports without losing the fruity qualities of young ports, Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port is one of our Best Picks. This port is made using centuries-old techniques and is even trodden by foot before fermentation so that the juice can be pressed out without damaging the grapes. After fermentation, the wine is moved to oak casks and aged for an average of ten years before blending. The result is a dependable port with flavors dried pear, cherry, apricot, and spice. The finish is dry, tannic, and yet sweet enough to stand on its own as a sweet after-dinner drink. Noval can be served at room temperature, which brings out the subtleties, or slightly chilled, which accentuates the fruitiness.

Croft's Fine Ruby Port

Croft's Fine Ruby Port

Made in the Duoro Valley, one of the premier regions for port wine, Croft Fine Ruby Port is one of our Best Picks. It's spent 3 years aging in oak and has been able to pick up a great deal of complexity in that time. The color is a deep red, characteristic of ports that have been aged for just a few years. The flavor profile includes berry, plum, and cherry, as well as notes of spice and smoke. The long finish complements these flavors by adding in notes of licorice. Though there are plenty of earthy tones to this port, it's also quite fruity, and pairs well with creamy French cheeses. It's ready to drink now but can also be cellared until 2020.

Fonseca Ruby Porto

Fonseca Ruby Porto

With over 150 years of practice making ruby port, Fonseca prides itself on its excellent execution of this style of wine. This pride is absolutely justified, as this is one of only a few ruby ports that has received scores in the 90's by professional wine critics. The wine is a deep ruby color, and shows off aromas of cherry and blackcurrant. The palate echoes these fruity notes, which linger all the way to the end of the finish, where they're joined by plenty of tannins. The tannins give this port more structure than many other rubies, making it ideal to enjoy with a plate of creamy French cheeses at the end of a meal. In order to get the most out of this port, you'll want to be sure to serve it at room temperature.

Cockburn's Fine Ruby Port

Cockburn's Fine Ruby Port

With scores in the high 80's, Cockburn's Fine Ruby Port is one of the world's favorite ports. It's sweet and fruity, with lots of big berry flavors, including black raspberry, as well as sweet overripe fruit flavors, including golden raisin. In addition to the fruit flavors, this port also has a flavor reminiscent of maple syrup that lingers from start to finish. The finish is quite smooth, though it does have a little heat to it because of the high alcohol content. A port this sweet is excellent on its own as an after dinner drink, but it can also be paired with lightly sweet desserts, such as creamy cheese plates and dark chocolate.

Taylor's Fine Ruby Porto

Taylor's Fine Ruby Porto

A bold, intensely fruity port, Taylor's Fine Ruby Porto is one of our Best Picks. It has huge flavors of black fruit that are perfectly complemented by aromas of cherry and blackcurrant. There's also a subtle hint of chocolate on the finish, making this a great choice to pair with chocolate desserts. This ruby port has been aged for two years in oak barrels, giving it time to develop full-bodied flavors. A favorite with wine critics and casual port enjoyers, Taylor's is an excellent choice for an everyday ruby port.

Warre's Ruby Port

Warre's Ruby Port

Warre's Ruby Port is an excellent port blended from harvests taken over a few different years. This blending helps the port winemakers craft a consistent product from year to year, making Warre's a go-to for many port enthusiasts. The wine is left in oak barrels to age for an average of three years before it's blended and bottled. Spending some time in the barrel helps to season the port, giving it distinctive notes of leather, smoke, and spice. Though there are some earthy notes to this port, overall, it's sweet and bright, with flavors of red fruit, maple syrup, and marzipan. This is an excellent port to pair with an cheese plate.

Dow's Vintage Port 1963

Dow's Vintage Port 1963

Grown in one of the best seasons in the past hundred years, Dow's Vintage Port 1963 has earned itself a spot as the very best of the vintage ports. After so many years in the bottle, this port has evolved into something truly spectacular. It has an incredibly complex nose, with notes of potpourri, cinnamon, wood, and dried berry. On the tongue, it's rich and bold without tasting too strongly of alcohol. You'll notice flavors of cherry, raspberry, and spice. It has a well-balanced sweetness that doesn't overpower, and a touch of tannin still on the finish. This port will be at its peak only until 2015 so drink up--it doesn't get any better than this!

Graham's Vintage Port 1970

Graham's Vintage Port 1970

Flavors of red berry, dried cherry, anise, and chocolate come together to make Graham's Vintage Port 1970 one of the best ports on the market. 1970 saw a heat wave towards the end of the growing season, drying port grapes into raisins and concentrating the flavors beautifully. Graham's 1970 is perfectly balanced and a bit on the fruity side when it comes to aged ports. The nose has notes of coffee and caramelized fruit, and the mouthfeel is firm and assertive, with an incredibly long finish. In the glass, this port looks almost like a ruby port, with a garnet red center that pales towards the edge of the glass.

Dow's Vintage Port 1970

Dow's Vintage Port 1970

It's rare to find a well-aged, highly regarded port for less than $200, but Dow's Vintage Port 1970 fits the bill. This port is perfectly balanced between sweet, fruity flavors and notes of spice and perfume. On the nose, you'll find lots of fertile soil, underbrush, and gamey aromas that are joined by dried plum, orange peel, and dark chocolate. The palate is equally complex, showing off flavors of spice, plum, cherry, and raisin. Though this may seem like a port with almost too much character, if you enjoy puzzling out richly complex wines, this is an excellent choice.

Fonseca Vintage Port 1970

Fonseca Vintage Port 1970

Perfectly ready to enjoy right away, Fonseca Vintage Port 1970 is an exquisite port that's one of the absolute best around. Though it was a little on the fruity side a few years ago, it's now reached an ideal balance of fruit flavors and earthy undertones. The bouquet shows off aromas of cherry, clove, bergamot, mint, and just a bit of tar. These scents are joined by a flavor profile that includes ginger, walnut, and red fruit. The finish is smooth and luxurious, lasting a long time after each sip. This is a great port to open after dinner on a special occasion.

Taylor's Vintage Port 1977

Taylor's Vintage Port 1977

Known for their bold ports that stand up to many years in the wine cellar, Taylor's makes some of the world's best vintage ports. Though 1977 was hit or miss at many wineries, Taylor's ports have held up to the years beautifully and are now ready to enjoy. With scores in the mid to high 90s, wine critics agree that this is one of the best ports around. It's a beautiful ruby red color, and has a complex aroma that includes notes of plum, dried berry, and chocolate. There's a lot of fruit on the palate too, as well as a hint of spice. The tannins in this port were quite bold when it was bottled, and some of this structure can still be felt, even though this wine is nearly 50 years old. This is not an overly sweet port, and as such pairs well with a wide variety of desserts. Of course, it can also be enjoyed on its own for a not-so-sweet after dinner dessert drink.

Fonseca Siroco White Port

Fonseca Siroco White Port

Our favorite white port is Fonseca Siroco White Port. Miles away from the sweet ruby ports that are commonly enjoyed at the end of a meal, this white port is crisp and dry, making it an excellent aperitif. Fonseca allows their white port to ferment for longer than other ports which gives the yeast time to metabolize more of the sugars, making for a drier port. After fermentation, the wine is fortified and then moved to oak casks for aging. The time spent in the casks lends the port nutty flavors and helps to give it a smooth mouthfeel. Though there are plenty of dry, earthy notes to this port, there are also lots of big fruit flavors and just enough acidity to balance everything.

Dow's Fine White Port

Dow's Fine White Port

Made by one of the most well regarded port winemakers in the world, Dow's Fine White Port is one of our Best Picks. Fermenting the wine off of the skins as Dow's does helps to keep the tannins out of the port, giving it an incredible smoothness. After fermentation, Dow's ages their white port in oak casks for an average of three years, carefully blending recently crafted ports before bottling to create a fortified wine that's incredibly consistent. It's made from traditional Portuguese white grape varietals and has an aromatic nose that's on the floral side. Though it smells quite sweet, on the palate it's medium dry, with big fruit flavors that are well balanced by acidity.

Quinta Do Noval Extra Dry White Port

Quinta Do Noval Extra Dry White Port

Quinta Do Noval is well known for making some of the best port wines and their Extra Dry White Port is one of our favorites. The bouquet is incredibly aromatic, with many fruity and floral elements. The palate echoes the bouquet with even more fruity flavors. It shows off an excellent balance between sweetness, alcohol, and an acidity that gives it a crisp, dry finish. This port is blended from a few recent harvests that have been aged in oak and stainless steel for an average of two years. The ports taken from oak casks lend earthy tones to the finished product, while those aged in steel emphasize some of the fruity qualities, creating a white port that tastes fresh, fruity, and complex.

Taylor's Fine White Port

Taylor's Fine White Port

In order to maximize the complexity of Taylor's Fine White Port, port winemakers blend together eight different white wines. The wines are each fermented separately, allowing the characteristics of the different grapes to develop fully. Once the wines are ready, they are blended, fortified, and then moved to oak vats for three years. The resulting port is rich and flavorful, with smooth fruit flavors and notes of nuts and spice. The finish is long and flavorful all the way to the end. The nose is fragrant with honey notes and lots of fruity aromas.

Ramos Pinto Porto Branco Reserva

Ramos Pinto Porto Branco Reserva

Ramos Pinto Porto Branco Reserva is masterfully blended from four Portuguese grape varietals to make one of our favorite white ports. Aged for an average of seven years, this white port has plenty of oak and spice to it. Though the earthy notes are pronounced, there are also plenty of fruity elements to enjoy. Tropical fruit dominates on the palate of this port, bringing a sweetness that is well balanced against the spicy notes and the natural acidity on the finish. Not overly sweet, this port pairs well with foie-gras, ham, and simple desserts.

Crystal Beran
Crystal Beran has spent the past 10 years immersed in the exciting and delicious world of food and drink. She has honed her cooking skills as a baker, a caterer, and a personal chef, and currently spends a good deal of her time training the next generation of young chefs. Her work as a wine steward has helped her to develop a discerning palate and a love of excellent wines from all over the world. Over the years, she has had the good fortune to visit wineries in Northern California, Tanzania, France, and Italy. In her spare time, she brews beer and invents delectable dishes to share with friends, family, and students.
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