Perfect Pairing with Port #WinePW

August Wine Pairing Weekend “Visiting” Portugal
If you see this early enough, please join us on Saturday, August 8th as we chat wine and food pairings from Portugal. These pairings are perfect for late summer and early autumn entertaining. Our live Twitter Chat uses the hashtag #WinePW on Saturday, August 8th at 10am CDT. Join in, share your thoughts and experiences on this emerging wine region.

Vineyards farther up the Douro river provided the port wine to be aged in cellars in Porto.

Vineyards farther up the Douro river provided the port wine to be aged in cellars in Porto.

Port – the Best Known Wine from Portugal
Portugal’s most famous wine is Port, long beloved by the English and more recently, me.  I hope you’ll join the group of believers, too! Port is a fortified wine, developed by the English long ago as a way to stabilize a favorite wine for long, hot ocean voyages from Portugal back to England without spoiling. The home of Port is the bustling seaside city of Porto, where all the English Port houses built their cellars for aging the wine prior to shipping back home to jolly old England.

Tawny Port, blue cheese, almonds, craisins

Classic finish to dinner: Tawny Port with blue cheese, nuts and dried fruit

Classic Port Pairing
We’re going to start with a classic after-dinner Tawny Port pairing, then move into a Port Primer with thoughts on a wide variety of 10 year Tawny’s you might enjoy for your own exploration.

Wonderful after dinner, Port is rich, sweet, smooth and intense.  At 18-22% alcohol, a little goes a long way, with a typical pour being about 2 ounces vs. 5 for a normal glass of wine. Tawny port has been barrel aged for many years and takes on a lighter, tawny color, with oxidized aromas of dark fruits, nuts, and earth. And I love it!

The classic finish to dinner is to have a bit of Port with blue cheese and perhaps some nuts and dried fruit. The Port is plenty sweet to give you that satisfying dessert feeling.

If you can find a naturally blue'd cheese, buy it! This is from our friend Mary Falk at LoveTree Farm

If you can find a naturally blue’d cheese, buy it! This is from our friend Mary Falk at LoveTree Farm

Which Blue Cheese?
Your favorite blue cheese will work just fine.  If you ever have the opportunity, make sure you jump at the chance to try a naturally blue’d cheese.  Last weekend at our local Kingfield Farmers Market, I lucked into a rare find: Naturally blue’d cheese from Lovetree Farmstead Cheese. This is the way Stilton cheese was originally made.    For a natural blue, the spores must find their own way into the cheese via natural openings.  The bluing process takes a long time, often a year or more.  This is the financial reason that very few blue cheeses are produced naturally. Virtually all major blue cheeses are made today by injecting the proper mold into the ripening cheese with long needles.  Hence, you see straight line veins of blue.

St. Paul Farmers Market is worth a special trip - find Mary and LoveTree Farm Artisan Cheeses! I call the 35 mile round trip to the St. Paul Market my

St. Paul Farmers Market is worth a special trip – find Mary (in pink) and LoveTree Farm Artisan Cheeses! I call the 35 mile round trip to the St. Paul Market my “earn your cheese” ride.

Dave and Mary Falk raise the animals, make the cheese, host a weekly “Pizza by the Pond” outing at the farm and sell cheese at Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets. They are also generally great people who are just plain fun to talk to.  Don’t take my word for it, the Falks are featured in Max McCalman’s classic “Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best“.

I like to add some nuts and craisins for a perfect trio to enjoy with Port. A wide variety of nuts and fruits would work well.  Almonds and cashews are very nice. We always have craisins around, and when fresh figs are available, they would be perfect. You can retire to the library and put on your velvet smoking jacket if you prefer.

Graham's 10 year Tawny Port

Graham’s 10 year Tawny Port

Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port ($35 at France 44)
Eye: Clear, translucent garnet red with a caramel edge.
Nose: A bit of musty basement meets nuts and figs, in a good way.
Mouth: Sweet & rich, reminds me of a caramel ice cream sundae without the coolness of the ice cream.

Port Primer
I had an unexpected opportunity to spend an afternoon at the Port houses in Porto a few years ago. A love for Tawny Port was born on that trip. Here’s a condensed intro to the various types of Port.

Ruby port is aged in this swimming pool size cask.

Ruby port is aged in this swimming pool size cask.

Ruby Port
Ruby port is aged for 4 years in huge, swimming pool sized old wooden casks.  Ruby port is dark in color, fresh tasting and full of primary fruit aromas and flavor.

The 10 year tawny is lighter and warmer in color.

The 10 year tawny is lighter and warmer in color.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
LBV Port is a more affordable type of Vintage Port. The wine comes from a single vintage.  It’s aged in the same large casks as Vintage Port, but it stays longer, usually 4-6 years until it’s ready to drink.  Then it’s bottled and is ready to drink immediately. As you can see, it’s darker in color than Tawny and has more of a rich fruit character. Some LBV Ports display a bit of the oxidized aromas, but less than a typical Tawny.

Tawny ports are aged in these 600 liter barrels

Tawny ports are aged in these 600 liter barrels

Tawny Port
Tawny Port is aged for many years in 600 liter barrels that have been used many times, even for 50-100 years. 10 year tawny port is a blend of various ages which averages 10 years of age.  Similarly for 20, 30, & 40 years.

Colheita Port
Colheita Port is a single vintage Tawny Port.  1989 Colheita Port would be aged in the 600 liter barrels until it’s ready to drink, then it’s bottled and sold without any intent of further aging.  So that 1989 Colheita is a special version of a 20+ year Tawny.

Vintage ports are aged in these very large casks

Vintage ports are aged for only a few years in these very large casks, then they are bottled for further aging.

Vintage Port
Vintage Port is only produced in the best years, when a vintage is “declared”. The wine spends two years in very large casks, then goes into bottle unfiltered.  It needs at least 10 years of aging before it’s ready to drink and is best at 30-40 years of age.

10 Year, 20 Year, 40 Year, Colheita?
At around $35 for a 750 ml bottle, 10 year Tawny represents the sweet spot (pun intended) for me for daily enjoyment.  Colheita & 20 year Tawny are lovely for an occasion. 40 year Tawny Port would be great if someone rich is buying, but I won’t be drinking any soon.

Which is the Best 10 Year Tawny Port?
I was asking myself this same question, and the only answer I could figure out was to try as many different 10 year Tawny’s as I possibly could. Obviously, tasting solo I didn’t open them all at one time. Towards the end of 1 bottle, I would open the next in order to allow some A-B comparisons. I’ve been preparing for this post for a year! Truth be told, every single one of these Ports was enjoyable, so go ahead and pick a few to try yourself.  I’ve put a brief summary of each wine in the caption of the slideshow (click on any photo to begin).

Join in our #WinePW Conversation!
Here are some of the other fabulous Portugal pairings posted by our group:

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing “Vinho Verde Caldeirada with Pluot Port Granita”

Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva pairs “Poco Do Lobo Arinto with Seabass”

Constance from Vinhos do Alentego is featuring “Alentejano Black Pork with Clams

David from Cooking Chat shares “Grilled Pork with Portuguese Potatoes and Kale”

Jade of Tasting Pour is pairing “Vinho Verde with Caldeirada”

Jeff from food wine click shares “Perfect Pairing with Port”

Jennifer from Vino Travels  shares “Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre Portugese Blend with Asian Pork”

Lori from Draceana Wines features “Portugal: Not just for Port. Who Knew?”

Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog tempts us with “Grilled Fish Setubal Style and 2008 Torre de Tavares Encruzado”

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares “Portuguese Wines: Just Say Yes”

Nancy from Pull That Cork pairs “Amêijoas na Cataplana with Soalheiro Alvarinho”

Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere  pairs “Piri Piri Chicken with Verdelho”

Wendy creator of A Day in the Life on a Farm shares “A Tawny Port from Portugal served with Grilled Figs topped with Goat Cheese”

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25 Responses to “Perfect Pairing with Port #WinePW”
  1. Great piece on the aging of bleu cheese – I can’t say I have tried a naturally aged bleu cheese but will be on the lookout.
    I’ve recently discovered the joys of Port, and really enjoyed your comments about it and always learn so much from your posts!

  2. Lots of good info about Port here. And that is a great looking piece of cheese!

  3. I love blue cheese but I had a hard enough time getting my husband to drink the port with the figs. I didn’t want to push it by giving him another item he isn’t crazy for LOL.

  4. Blue cheese, nuts and dried fruit with Port! Absolutely!!! My mouth is watering. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Kind of jealous of that scrumptiously stinky ugly looking cheese! Tawny is my fave port style.

    • I’d love to root around the cheese cave at Lovetree Farm, everything is naturally aged, so they have some pretty funky looking stuff. Always delicious, though!

  6. Love the picture of the port being poured. Awesome shot! And yes, I think a 35 mile bike ride allows you some cheese! Impressive!

    • Thanks, I’m always happy when the photographer and the hand model are the same person and the photo turns out ok! Key to the bike ride: don’t sample too much cheese, you still have 17.5 miles to go…

  7. A year in the making? Wow…now that my kind of dedication. My introduction to Port-style wines was here in California…there was a winery not far from where I lived that made a wide variety of flavored Port style wine (they had an LBV that was good)…Then I discovered Port of course there are similarities, but there are also subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences. Nowadays I prefer the real thing. Your post is a great reminder of an great alternative to traditional dessert…

    • Thanks, Martin. Sometime I’m going to find an actual velvet smoking jacket so I can actually retire to the library with a glass of Port. You’d be welcome to join me!

  8. Starting with dessert is always a good idea! Great post, fun to read and informational.

  9. Great breakdown! We struggle pairing with Port, so this helps a lot!

  10. Love your photography! Did you travel to Portugal yourself for those pics and experience it first hand? Good info on blue cheese too, interesting!

Check out what others are saying...
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  5. […] Tawny Port, I jumped at the chance! 10 Year Tawny Port is one of my favorite dessert wines (here, here, and here). I have my favorite things to pair for an after dinner treat, but I rarely think of […]

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