The Perfect Port For Desserts & Cheeses (8 Top Picks)


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Selecting the best Port for dessert will amplify the fruitiness of the Port and the sweetness of your dessert. The same can be said when pairing the sweetness of Port with the saltiness of fine cheeses.

In the name of research, during the last six months of dining out, I ordered a glass of Port towards the end of each meal. Now a Port guru, coming up is my take on the best Ports to be enjoyed with desserts and cheeses.

What Is Port?

Port is a type of wine (aka Port wine or fortified wine) that is fortified with grape brandy and barrel-aged. Only wines produced in Portugal’s Douro Valley may be labelled a Port.

How Is Port Made?

Grapes are pressed and fermented with yeast to produce a standard wine. This wine is fortified with grape brandy to stop fermentation, leaving some of the natural sugars. The fortified wine is placed in wooden casks or stainless steel vats to mature for 2 to 6 years before bottling.

Best Ports For Dessert & Cheese

The following Ports have been selected by me for their quality and great dessert and cheese pairing characteristics.

1. Taylor’s Fine Tawny Port

Taylor's Fine Tawny Port
Credit: Taylor’s

Overview

  • Distiller: Taylor’s
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Deep Burgundy

Review

Taylor’s is amongst the oldest of the founding Port houses and was established in 1692. Taylor’s prides itself is being a typical port house that is dedicated to the sole production of the finest port styles.

Taylor’s Fine Tawny is made from the finest red grapes to provide the smoothness and subtle character of this Port. This Port wine is aged in large oak casks for three years in Taylor’s cellars. 

A few months before bottling, the individual wines are perfectly blended together to provide a rich and mellow Port that works well as an after-dinner digestif.

On The Nose

Ripe berries, prune, and wild fig on the nose with a light nuttiness.

On The Palate

Charming and soft on the palate with ripe strawberry preserve and almond.

Pair With

Taylor’s Fine Tawny Port will go well with dark chocolate, nutty or tangy berry dessert. Also works well with a slice of aged blue cheese and almonds. 

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

2. Graham’s 20 Yr Tawny Port

Graham's 20 Yr Tawny
Credit: Graham’s

Overview

  • Distiller: Graham’s
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Red Cherry

Review

Graham’s was founded in 1820 and owns two of the most sought-after vineyards in the picturesque Douro Valley. The vineyard is owned by the Symington family, who were the first to export their Port across the seas.  

Perfected over twenty years in seasoned white oak casks, Graham’s 20-Year-Old Tawny provides the perfect balance between age and quality. Four quality wines are selected from the Graham’s Quinta’s, blended, and left to mature in the centuries-old Vila Nova de Gaia Lodge. 

On The Nose

A lovely nutty and creamy orange on the nose with a hint of woodiness. 

On The Palate

Smooth, rich, and the fruity sweetness of orange peel and grape. The finish is long and well-balanced, giving lots of rich wood, fruit and a slight nuttiness.

Pair With

Graham’s 20-Year Tawny goes well with creamy desserts such as crème brulѐe or a tiramisu. This 20-year-old Port is just as good with a variety of nuts and soft cheeses.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

3. Croft 2016 Vintage Port

Croft 2016 Vintage Port
Credit: Croft

Overview

  • Distiller: Croft
  • ABV: 20.5% (41 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Ruby

Review

Croft is one of the oldest Port wine producers and is renowned for its Vintage, Tawny, and special reserve Ports. The family-owned property has some of the oldest vineyards in the Douro Valley. The wines produced from these age-old grapevines make Croft’s Vintage Port unique. 

Made entirely from grapes harvested in 2016, the wine is left to mature for two and a half years in stainless steel vats before bottling. The Vintage Port matures further in the bottle, locking in the unique flavours and aromas.

On The Nose

Ripe berries, blackcurrant, and a hint of eucalyptus on the nose

On The Palate

A tangy berry flavour on the palate with a slight rosemary bite.

Pair With

Croft 2016 Vintage Port will go well with sweet nougat and almond pralines, or for something different, enjoy it with a slice of smoked cheddar.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

4. Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port

Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port
Credit: Fonseca

Overview

  • Distiller: Fonseca
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Brown

Review

Founded in 1815, Fonseca has had four different Port-producing families run the estate, with the Yeatman’s bringing the brand into the new millennium. The Fonseca house owns three vineyards, each producing fruit with its own character.

Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port is made from grapes grown on the family’s three estates. The blended wine is left to mature in wooden casks with high wood-to-wind contact areas for two decades. This allows the Port to develop its tawny colouring and increase its flavour complexity.

On The Nose

A distinct toffee and marzipan aroma with hints of rich dark fruit.

On The Palate

Smooth texture on the palate, followed by hints of plum, sherry, spicy cinnamon, oak and toffee.

Pair With

Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port goes well with freshly baked apple crumble or cream cheese and crackers.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

5. Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port

Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port
Credit: Sandeman

Overview

  • Distiller: Sandeman
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Dark Amber

Review

Established in 1790 by George Sandeman, who was the first to brand his export casks with the GSC (George Sandeman & Co) label. Sandeman 20 year Tawny Port has received over 34 accolades since it was founded, proving it’s a Port of high quality. 

Hand-picked grapes are de-stalked, crushed, and fermented as per the traditional Porto winemaking methods. The wine spends time in the Douro till the following spring, and it is then placed into oak casks and matures for twenty years in the Sandeman lodges in Portugal.

On The Nose

Sweet vanilla and honey on the nose with hints of oak. 

On The Palate

A complex blend of sweet apricots, honey, hazelnut, cinnamon, and ripe berries on the palate. Almost like a fine cognac.

Pair With

Sandeman 20-Year Tawny Port pairs well with chocolate gateau or a fruity cheesecake and also goes well with a mature Swiss Appenzeller cheese.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

6. Dow’s Vintage Port 2016

Dow's Vintage Port 2016
Credit: Dow’s

Overview

  • Distiller: Dow’s
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Dark Burgundy

Review

Dow’s Vintage Ports are only produced two or three times every ten years because the weather conditions need to be just right to turn the grapes into a great Port wine. 

The wines at Dow’s are fermented longer, resulting in a slightly drier Port synonymous with the brand’s name. These wines are aged for 18 months in oak casks before bottling without being filtered.

Their vintage ports have only been produced in the following years, 1896, 1927, 1945, 1955, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1980, 1994, and 2016. Dow’s Vintage Port can be left in the bottle to mature into the perfect Port.

On The Nose

Sun-dried raisin, black pepper, and ripe berries on the nose

On The Palate

Velvety smoothness of plum and spice on the palate.

Pair With

Dow’s Vintage Port 2016 goes well with stewed fruit and custard or with various cream cheeses. 

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

7. Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Credit: Quinta Do Noval

Overview

  • Distiller: Quinta Do Noval
  • ABV: 19.5% (39 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Burgundy

Review

Quinta do Noval is known throughout the world for producing excellent Port. All their wines are produced from a 145-hectare vineyard nestled in the heart of the famous Douro Valley in Portugal. The unique climate and soil of the Noval Vineyard produce a wine with depth and complexity.

Quinta Do Noval 10-Year Old Tawny Port is blended from Vintage Ports made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Sousão, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão grapes. The Vintage Ports have been masterfully blended and aged in matured oak casks for ten years.

On The Nose

Walnuts, sundried raisins and sweet cooking spices on the nose.

On The Palate

A complex blend of rich dried fruits, spices, and ripe figs, delivering a long and flavoursome finish.

Pair With

Quinta Do Noval 10-Year Old Tawny Port goes well with a chocolate soufflé or a Camembert and Brie cheese.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

8. Cockburns Special Reserve Port

Cockburns Special Reserve Port
Credit: Cockburns

Overview

  • Distiller: Cockburns
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Ruby

Review

Cockburn’s have their own unique method of making Port and pride themselves in declaring Vintage years only when they deem it right. In 1969 the first Special Reserve was launched by Cockburn’s, successfully bridging the gap between rare vintage years and Ruby ports.

A large quantity of Touriga Nacional, a very low-yielding grape, is used for this Special Reserve Port. The grapes are hand-picked and manually pressed to produce the wine aged for five years in Coopered oak vats before being bottled.

On The Nose

A rich red cherry on the nose with subtle hints of plums and berries. 

On The Palate

A silky smooth sweetness on the palate with flavours of red berry, plum, strawberry and oak. Reminded me of a sweet vermouth.

Pair With

Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port is well paired with chocolate-coated strawberries or a Cotija or Aged Cheddar cheese.  

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

Seperator

Andrew’s Top Pick

best port for dessert and cheese

Graham’s 20 Yr Tawny Port

My top pick is Graham’s 20 Yr Tawny Port due to its rich fruity aroma and the delightful fruity sweetness of orange peel and grape on the palate. The long finish of wood, fruit and a slight nuttiness lingers nicely.

Conclusion

Andrew & Ingrid drinking Port
Don’t panic if your Port comes with orange peel tentacles as mine did! (right)

The best Ports can be enjoyed with desserts such as chocolate cakes, soufflés, and apple crumbles. These delicious Ports are also delightful with various cheeses from around the world.

If you are new to drinking Port, why not try as I did? Order a glass of Port during your meal when eating out. The first time I simply ordered the second cheapest one on the menu (to look like I knew all about Port!)

After doing this a few times and slowly creeping higher up the menu for the more expensive Port, I could easily taste the difference between cheap and eye-wateringly costly.

Further Reading

Below are some additional articles from The Drinks Geek blog. We write articles on several fascinating areas of drinks, including different brands, drink types, cocktail recipes and more.

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