Food & Drink

How to Choose a Port Dessert Wine at a Restaurant

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Have you ever been out for dinner and seen wines offered with dessert and been at a loss for what to choose? And to make matters worse, you’re too self-conscious to ask your waiter for a recommendation? First of all, your waiter or sommelier will be happy to help you, but we know that you don’t want to feel uncultured. We’ve compiled our best tips for ordering Port dessert wine at a restaurant and included some introductory facts about Port wines.

What is Port Wine?

Port wine is a type of fortified wine made in the Douro Valley region of Portugal. It is made from grapes grown in this region, known for its hot, dry climate. Most Port wines are about 20% alcohol so it is usually served in smaller amounts than other wines.

what is port wine

How is Port Wine Made?

Port wine is made by adding a neutral, high-alcohol spirit like Brandy during fermentation to stop the sugar from the grapes from converting into alcohol and you’re left with residual sweetness.

For comparison, normal (non-sweet) wines are made by harvesting grapes, crushing those grapes into juice, and adding yeast. The yeast will eat the sugar from the grapes and convert it into alcohol. Normally, the yeast will keep eating the sugar until there is none left. This is called dry fermentation or fermenting it dry.

When making a fortified wine, the process is the same as non-sweet wine until the yeast has eaten about half of the sugar. Then Brandy is added to stop the yeast from eating the rest of the sugar halting fermentation. This leaves about half of the sugar remaining so you’re left with half dry wine, half grape juice, and a hint of Brandy.

What’s the Difference Between Ruby, Tawny & Vintage?

If you are looking at a dessert wine menu you will probably see more than one type of Port. Ruby, Tawny, and Vintage are the most common and they all drink a little differently.

Ruby Port

Ruby port is going you be your least expensive option and has a purple, ruby color. They are bright, young, very juicy, and mouth-coating with soft, plushy tannins. Order this as an alternative to dessert or with chocolate.

dows fine ruby port

Dow’s Fine Ruby

offley ruby port wine
Total Wine & More

Offley Ruby Port

Tawny Port

Tawny Port is likely going to be the option with the best value. It has a brownish-red color and is intentionally oxidized and aged. It has a nutty, caramel flavor and comes in ages of 10, 20, or 30 years. Once you open it, it will stay good for about 6 months in the fridge. We like pairing ours with crème brûlée.

fonseca 20 year old tawny

Fonseca 20 Year Old Tawny

grahams 20 year tawny
Total Wine & More

Graham’s 20 Year Tawny

Vintage Port

Vintage Port is always going to be the most expensive Port wine option. Drink it on its own or pair it with cheese. It can be consumed young, but it is meant to be aged.

ferreira vintage port

Ferreira Vintage Port 2018

quinta do noval vintage nacional porto
Total Wine & More

Quinta Do Noval Vintage Nacional Porto, 2001

How to Serve Port Wine

Because Port wine has high alcohol by volume so instead of a traditional 5 to 6-ounce pour, it is served in 2 to 3-ounce increments in a slightly chilled glass. When serving port, choose an 8-10oz white wine glass or traditional port glass instead of a small cordial glass. This will give you more room to swirl and aerate the wine, allowing the full aroma and color to be appreciated.

Puik Designs Crystal Drinking Glasses
West Elm

Puik Designs Crystal Drinking Glasses

Leon 11-Oz. Red Wine Glass
Crate & Barrel

Leon 11-Oz. Red Wine Glass

Port and Dessert Wine glass set

Port and Dessert Wine Aperitif Tasting Glasses

Bodum Oktett Outdoor Red Wine Glasses
Pottery Barn

Bodum Oktett Outdoor Red Wine Glasses

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