Port is a sweet fortified wine. It’s made from blended red grapes found in the Portuguese Douro River Valley.
The drink was created in order to keep the red wines preserved as they made the lengthy journey from the vineyards in the valley down to the town of Porto where they are stored before being shipped worldwide.
Port is often enjoyed with the dessert course of a meal – usually with chocolate – and it can also be served as an iced aperitif. Port wine sauce can be reduced and used to great effect when cooking, too.
So, today, we’ll be exploring how you can best enjoy port wine.
Before we do that, a glimpse at the various types of port out there.
I. Types of Port
There are 8 main varieties of port, each with varying characteristics.
- White: Made from white grapes, this type of port can be dry or sweet
- Ruby: Ruby port is made from grapes spanning multiple harvests. It’s aged for a minimum of 3 years in wooden barrels
- Crusted: Crusted port is much like ruby, except it doesn’t undergo a filtering process. Resultantly, a crust of sediment accumulates in the bottle over time
- Tawny: Again, tawny port is similar to ruby. This time, though, it’s aged for up to 40 years
- Single quinta: Made in the same way as LBV – see below – single quinta only features grapes from one estate (quinta)
- Colheita: This tawny port is made using grapes from one estate in a single year
- Vintage: This single-harvest port is left to age for 2 to 3 years unfiltered. The winemaker establishes that the harvest was first-class and that the port will be exceptional. The year is declared a vintage and the port is made
- LBV (late-bottled vintage): Made from grapes harvested in a single year, LBV port is aged for 4 to 6 years
If you’re new to the world of port drinking, you can start by doing some simple research online. This should give you an idea of which variety of port might make the best fit.
Local tasting events are another great way to try before committing to purchasing a bottle of something you may not even like.
Assuming that you’ve decided on what variety of port you want, how can you press it into commission?
II. 3 Ways To Use Port Wine
Now, there are 3 principal ways to enjoy port wine:
- Straight: Drinking port neat or straight up in a designated port glass is arguably the most sophisticated way to enjoy this fine beverage. That said, the port needs to be of sufficient quality to make drinking it neat enjoyable. If you fancy some straight-up port, go for tawny port, vintage, or late-bottled vintage
- In cocktails: If you want an innovative take on this rich digestif, why not consider a port cocktail? Tawny, ruby, and white port work wonderfully for cocktails
- In cooking: A sauce made from port wine reduction makes a mouthwatering accompaniment to steaks and roasted meat. You could also introduce the sauce to layered cakes or serve it to garnish ice cream. Ruby port is the preferred option, although all ports are serviceable in the kitchen. This variety of port also has a super-long shelf-life, so stash some in the cupboard and you’ll always have some on hand
1. Drinking Port Straight
Whether you want to decompress after a hard day at the office, or you want to unwind after your evening meal, a dinky sipper of port is a great choice.
If you’re drinking port with your dinner, it complements blood sausage and Stilton cheese.
You should serve port in designated 3oz port glasses at 70F to 80F. If you don’t have any proper port glasses to hand, you could use some white wine glasses or perhaps some champagne flutes.
Before serving, ensure you stand your bottle of port upright for at least 24 hours. If you’re planning to drink a vintage port, it needs to be set upright and left for at least a week. This waiting time allows all the sediment in the bottle to sink to the very bottom. When you can see a thin layer of these particles forming on the bottom of the bottle – they have the consistency of sand – your port is ready to drink.
You should use a wine corkscrew to carefully uncork your bottle after it’s settled as above. Keep in mind that the older the port, the harder it will be to remove the cork. There’s also more chances that the cork will break in an older bottle as corks dry out as they age.
You now need to decant your port by very slowly pouring it into your chosen decanter. As you get to the end of the bottle, stop pouring when the sediment starts entering the bottle neck. If you use a decanter that’s equipped with a funnel, you’ll be able to quickly and easily spot the sediment before it makes its way out of the bottle and into the decanter. Take your time or you’ll regret it.
Leave the decanted port to rest so it achieves a temperature from 70F to 80F as mentioned above.
Pour your port from the decanter into your port glasses. According to port etiquette, you should fill the glasses no more than halfway. Of course, it’s entirely up to you whether you want to follow this tradition.
Vintage ports are great to drink within the first 5 years of their release. If you miss this window, you should allow the bottle to age for 20 years or more. The longer a port ages, the more complex and intriguing it becomes.
Now, we understand that port is not a drink you’ll be chugging down in large quantities, so what can you do to keep an opened bottle of port fresher for longer?
Well, the majority of port wines will survive for a month or so in an opened bottle. This might be long enough for your requirements.
The ideal storage spot for port is in a cellar, where it will be cooled to around 53F. A refrigerator will work, but you’ll need to allow the bottle to warm before serving.
So, now you know how to enjoy port wine neat, how about serving it in cocktails?
2. Drinking Port Cocktails
Here are a few ideas for some refreshing port cocktails:
- Bar Drake Manhattan
- Pink Port Cocktail
- Port New York Sour
- Ruby Royale
Bar Drake Manhattan
- Bourbon (2oz)
- Ruby port (1oz)
- Maple syrup (1 tsp)
- Angostura Bitters (2 dashes)
Stir your drink with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve with brandied cherries for a delicious evening beverage.
- Croft Reserve tawny port (2oz)
- Rhum Agricole (1oz)
- Cane sugar syrup (1 tsp)
- Bittermens bitters (1 dash)
Add your ingredients to a mixing glass with some ice. Stir until chilled. Strain and serve garnished with grapefruit peel.
Pink Port Cocktail
- Pink port (3oz)
- Soda water (3oz)
- Strawberries (2) and mint leaves (4)
Mix the strawberries and mint with the port in a mixing glass. Add some ice, transfer to a glass, and serve topped with soda water.
Port New York Sour
- Bourbon (2oz)
- Fresh lemon juice (0.75oz)
- Simple syrup (0.75oz)
- Tawny port (1oz)
Add the lemon juice, syrup, and bourbon to an iced shaker. Shake until it’s nicely chilled. Strain the liquid into a double shot glass with some ice. Pour in the port over a spoon. Swirl lightly and serve.
- Brut sparkling wine (3oz)
- Ruby port (1oz)
Pour your ruby port into a flute. Top with some sparkling wine and garnish with a slice of orange.
3. Cooking With Port
Now, how can you go about using your favorite bottle of port in the kitchen?
Well, port works with both savory and sweet dishes.
If you make a savory port reduction sauce, this will work with steak and also with an assortment of roasted meats.
Check out a great recipe right here.
Sweet reduction sauces are a match made in heaven with ice cream or chocolate cakes. Whether you buy a bottle for the occasion or use some leftover port, you’ll be delighted you started introducing it into your recipes.
We hope by now you have a well-rounded view of how to best use port in the kitchen and how to enjoy drinking it at its finest.
Whether you like the idea of a short, straight shot, or you prefer taking the cocktail route, you’re spoiled for choice with 8 different varieties of this magnificent beverage.
Take a moment to bookmark BriccoWine before you head off and we hope to see you very soon. We have a busy content calendar for the coming months, so be sure to pop back soon for more impartial reviews and the best how-to guides. See you soon!