Full-bodied fruity Ports pair well with cheese and nuts, particularly blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola, or St. Jorge and Serpa cheese. Creamier cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Edam, Bel Paese and Mascarpone all do well when paired with tawnies. Almonds, especially those sautéed in olive oil, pair well with white port. Chestnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts pair with sweet and fruity ports as well as the drier tawnies.
This term refers to a tawny from a single harvest (vintage). By law, it must remain in cask for at least seven years, but the producers can age the wine longer if they choose. Production of this rarest of all Ports accounts for less than one-half of 1 percent of all Port made.
Ruby Ports are young and fruity. They are usually produced from grapes grown in the west end of the Douro Valley, where abundant rainfall leads to bountiful harvests. Aged no more than three years, they should be consumed young to capture their spicy, fresh and vibrant fruit.
These wines have no age declaration but are usually kept in cask three to four years, giving them a tawny tint. Their lightness and elegance are due to fruit sourcing from cooler sections of the region with lower ripeness levels, or to blending with a certain amount of white Port.
Tawny with Indication of Age
These blends spend specific blocks of time (10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 years) aging in casks. The year of bottling must be stated on the label, although each cuveé is made up of many "lots" of wine of various ages. The master blender strives to create a wine that, while unique, is consistent from year to year and from bottling date to bottling date. These wines can be extremely complex, with dried fruit character and varying degrees of nuttiness and woodiness. All tawnies are ready to drink upon release.
Unquestionably one of the world’s greatest, most sought-after and ageworthy wines, vintage Port accounts for only 2 percent of total Port production. Bottled two years after the harvest, the wine must be approved in blind tastings by the Porto Wine Institute’s demanding panel of experts. To maintain richness and power, vintage Port is neither fined nor filtered and therefore will throw a large amount of sediment as it matures. Recent top vintages include 1977, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2003. It is not unusual for a vintage Port to take from 15 to 50 years to reach its full potential.
Late Bottled Vintage
An “LBV” must be from a single harvest (vintage) of good quality, but is ready to drink earlier and costs less than vintage Port. It is left in the cask for four to six years, fined and filtered to cut down or eliminate sediment, and usually bottled with a stopper-type cork. These wines are ready to drink upon release.
White Port is produced by the same method as red, but from white-skinned grapes. Most white Ports are dry or off-dry, and dry versions often include the word “dry” or “aperitif” on the label. Both versions can be drunk straight up, on the rocks or with soda water.