Port: This fortified sweet wine is made with a blend of red grapes from the Douro River Valley in Portugal. It’s often enjoyed alongside desserts (especially with chocolate) or, more modernly, served as an aperitif over ice with a simple garnish. Since there’s always a reason to have a bottle of Port on hand, here are several tips to help you enjoy it to the fullest.
How to Enjoy Port
Straight: The most sophisticated way to enjoy Port wine is to serve it straight up, or “neat,” in a proper Port glass. Of course, not all Port wines are fine enough to be enjoyed in this manner. Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and Tawny Port that is more than a decade old are the styles to look for (with a few special exceptions).
Cocktails: Port cocktails are a simple, fun, and delicious take on this very classic wine. The styles to seek out for cocktails include White, Pink, Ruby, and Tawny Port.
Cooking: Port wine reduction sauce is amazing drizzled over steaks and roasted meats, but it also works well when served ontop of ice cream or used in rich, layered chocolate cake. Although all styles of Port work well for cooking, the most economical option is a Ruby Port, which just so happens to have a long shelf life too.
A small sipper of Port is a marvelous way to wind down the day or end an evening meal. Not to mention that a sipper a day may keep the doctor away. In fact, the matriarch of Port, Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, is said to have drunk a glass of Port each night to stay healthy. Antónia also happened to live to the age of 85, which is a particularly remarkable feat in the 1800s.
Styles: Vintage Port, Late-Bottled Vintage Port, and Tawny Port
Classic Pairings: Portuguese/Spanish almonds, Stilton cheese, Portuguese blood sausage
Serving: Port is best served in 3 oz (~75 ml) portions at 55–68ºF (13–20ºC) in dessert wine or official Port wine glasses. If you do not have dessert wine glasses, use white wine glasses or sparkling wine glasses.
Serving Older Vintage Port: Vintage Ports are best enjoyed either within the first 5 years of release or after 20+ years of bottle aging. The longer they age, the more fascinating they become. Of course, old bottles of Port are challenging to open due to the fragility of the cork. A Durand wine opener or monopol are perhaps the best tools for opening these wines, but if you don’t have these tools handy, use a regular waiter’s friend and pour it through a stainless steel strainer into a decanter to remove any cork pieces. There is an even more elaborate way to open Port involving glowing hot Port tongs and a wet feather, which is amazing to see.
What are all the Port styles? Read up on Port Wine Basics.
Storing an Open Bottle of Port
Most Port wines last open for about a month. That said, we were surprised to try a 20-year-old Tawny Port that had been open for 15 years (stored in a cellar), which was quite fresh and vibrant! The ideal place to store Port is in a cellar (~53ºF) but if you don’t have one, a refrigerator will do nicely, just be sure to let it warm a bit before serving.
White Port & Tonic
- 3 oz White Port
- 3 oz Tonic
- Pour over ice into a tall glass and garnish with an orange twist.
Ruby on the Rocks
- 3 oz Ruby Port
- Pour over ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Bar Drake Manhattan by David Wondrich
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 1 oz Ruby Port
- 1 spoonful of Maple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Stir with ice in a mixing glass and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherries.
Cocktail by David Wondrich
- 3 oz Brut sparkling wine
- 1 oz Ruby Port
- Pour Ruby Port into a flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a twist of orange.
Pink Port Cocktail
- 3 oz Pink Port
- 3 oz Soda water
- 2 Strawberries and 4 mint leaves
- In a mixing glass, muddle strawberries and mint with Pink Port. Top with ice, transfer to tulip glass, and top with soda water.
Port Wine Sauce
The finishing touch
Port Reduction Sauce for savory dishes
This savory-sweet sauce is excellent with roast meats and steak. For example, try it on steak topped with blue cheese crumbles. There are many great variations of this recipe (including balsamic, rosemary, and mint), so think carefully and choose what’s best for your dish.
Port Reduction Sauce Recipe by Taylor’s
Port Reduction Sauce for sweets
This very berry sauce with faint citrus accents is delicious over plain vanilla ice cream or poured over a dried fruit pound cake.
Port Wine Reduction Sauce by Emeril Lagasse
Port Wine Brands
- Quinta do Noval
- Quinta do Vesuvio
- Ramos Pinto