The idea here is that you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to crack open a bottle of Port. Any excuse will do. But if you really need one, how about drinking Port in a storm? Well, not really in a storm, but safe and warm inside the home during a storm. Port can warm the cockles of the coldest heart. And ladies, this is not just an old-fashioned gentleman’s club activity. There’s no reason at all that you shouldn’t indulge yourself in Portugal’s finest export too. In fact, I think it’s ironic that a drink so lusciously sweet should be confined to old Brits with ascots in the smoking room.n
Port is a fortified wine that is nearly always a blend of various different grape varieties. There are more than 50 grapes grown in Portugal’s Douro region used to make Port, with five being the most important: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional. The last—Touriga Nacional—makes the best Port, lending longevity and balance. And unless you’re an incorrigible wine geek, that’s about all you really need to know about the sausage-making aspects of Port. Well, maybe that and the names of a few top Port producers to look for: Cockburn, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s, Niepoort, Sandeman, Smith Woodhouse, Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, Warre’s and a few others.n
I’ve been sipping some economically priced nonvintage Ports lately because, well … why stop drinking Port just because the economy has tanked? For the price of a very average bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, you can get your hands on a very good bottle of Port. And since you aren’t likely to sit down and polish off a bottle of Port in one sitting, it’ll last you for a while.n
In a blind tasting, I think you could fool more than a few folks into thinking that Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Port ($18.65) is Vintage Port. For Port this youthful (aged four years in oak barrels), it’s very balanced and I’d even go so far as to say elegant. The deep red color betrays its youthful status but the smooth, soft oaky finish makes this a very appealing after-dinner sipper. In my opinion, this is a “best buy.”n
If you like strawberries, you’re gonna love Dow’s Trademark Finest Reserve Port ($18.95). Concentrated strawberry fruit flavors and hints of peppery spice, mint and dark chocolate characterize this deep purple-black, mellow Port. And the lengthy, somewhat dry finish is typical of the entire range of Dow’s Port portfolio, which includes some of the world’s most prized Ports. I’d take this one out for a spin with creamy cheeses or even alongside dessert, especially chocolates.n
Seductive and sensual—that’s how I think of Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port ($23). It’s a creamy, intense Port with very good structure and a long finish. This full-bodied, almost decadent, plum/cherry flavored Port will pair nicely with dark chocolate. But, let’s face it: With Port this sexy, who needs dessert? Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port is dessert.n
Finally, the best Port bargain I know of remains Fonseca Bin 27 Port ($13.75). I’ve been drinking this stuff for nearly 30 years now, and it hasn’t failed me yet.