Let’s Talk Tawny (Port)

Chilly evenings are made for sipping Port, regardless of the season. Just a splash of Tawny Port is a delicious substitute for dessert after a quick weeknight meal. It works just as well at the end of a meal paired with dessert, cheeses or spiced nuts when you have the time and inclination to enjoy a more involved meal. Today we’re sipping two Tawny Ports, which we received as tasting samples, that can be enjoyed either way.

I don’t know about you, but I think of Tawny Port as the other Port wine. My introduction to Port wine came in the form of Ruby, LBV (late-bottled vintage) and eventually Vintage Port. It was later on that I was introduced to Tawny Port, which is quite different in color and flavor.

The moment you pour Tawny Port into a wine glass you will notice it looks different from Ruby, LBV or Vintage Port. The difference results from how the wine is aged after fermentation and fortification. Rather than being aged for a short time in barrels and then for a variable amount of time in the bottle, the opposite is true with Tawny Ports. Tawnies spend years aging in oak barrels, exposed to the oxidative effects of barrel aging, before being bottled. That time spent in barrel results in the deep, amber color and the complex flavors of dried figs, dates and brown sugar that make Tawny Port so delicious. 

As with all Port wines Tawny Ports begin as blends of the finest quality wines made from the allowed Port varieties. You will see Tawny Ports labeled 10, 20, 30 or Over 40 years. The age on the bottle isn’t necessarily the age of the wine in the bottle. The age refers to the flavor profile of the wine, which has been certified by the Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP) tasting panel. The flavor profile is achieved by blending Tawny Ports of various ages. So Tawny Ports are the result of skilled blending at more than one point in the winemaking process. For more information on the aging and blending process see this informative article in Decanter by Richard Mayson.

Port wine is made only in Portugal’s Douro River valley. Fortified wines made in this style elsewhere in the world should be called Port-style wines. Every bottle of Port wine will carry the official seal of the Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP) as a guarantee of origin and quality. Be sure to look for it.

Dow’s 10 Year Tawny Portdark amber with ruby undertones. Generous rich aromas of fried figs, burnt caramel and cedar spice are followed by flavors of dates and dried figs. Notes of cedar, brown sugar and toasted almonds add complexity. The wine has nice acidity, a roundness in the mouth and a very long, warm, alcoholic finish. 20% abv. SRP $36

Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Portdarker amber in the glass with generous aromas of dried figs, earth, hints of cedar and pine. Sweeter flavors of dried figs and dates blend with toasted hazelnut flavors, burnt caramel and crystalized honey. The wine is round, but has bright acidity, and a long, warming, alcoholic finish. 20% abv. SRP $36

Dow’s and Graham’s are part of the Symington family of wines along with Cockburn’s, Warre’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, Altano, Prats & Symington and Ataíde.

To switch things up a bit try chilling Tawny Port. It’s really delicious that way too. Using Tawny Port to make cocktails is also apparently a thing. We will be exploring the cocktail potential of white Port and Rainwater Madeira in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.


One Comment

  1. I still love a nice glass of tawny Port by the fireplace on a chilly winter day. Better yet if I’m sharing it with a friend as we catch up!