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Review: Best Ports

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.

For more information on what to look at in selecting the best port in 2021, We have listed below the ports available for you to help you decide what product is best to buy.

Comparing the Best Port

best vintage port

Cockburn's Vintage Port

Our absolute favorite port is Cockburn's Vintage Porto. 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.

best black port

Quinta Do Noval Black Port

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.

best vintage ports

Graham's Vintage Port

Flavors of red berry, dried cherry, anise, and chocolate come together to make Graham's Vintage Port one of the best ports on the market. Graham's 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.

best tawny wine port

Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

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.

Croft Fine Ruby Port.jpg

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.

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.

Bestcovery Staff
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