Ports for a Cold Winter's Night

Four port wines to warm you from the inside-out

Michael Kwas

Michael Kwas

Port, a hot-climate wine  that tastes best in these colder months, is one of the dwindling number of classic European wines that’s still affordable. We love Port because of its opulence: rich fruit from Mediterranean climates, intensity from the addition of brandy and sweetness from very ripe grapes. Port makes a statement when you drink it—you immediately know it as Port when you taste it. What distinguishes Port from just strong sweet wine is its complexity of spicy flavors—Port almost tastes mulled. Although a glass of Port is great on its own, it’s also a classic pairing with blue cheese and chocolate. Tawny port, a pale style aged for years in barrel, is particularly delicious with aged Wisconsin cheddar. But you don’t have to get too fancy: Terrific flavor combinations emerge with just chocolate chip cookies and macaroons. The following Ports are all under $20, widely available in the Madison market and, with the exception of the Hardy’s, hail from Portugal.

Warre’s Warrior “Reserve,” $19.50
A gentle impression of raspberries and sweet herbs softens further into flavors of plum and walnuts.

Hardy’s Whiskers Blake Classic Tawny, Southeastern Australia, $15
Great complexity for the price, with aromas and flavors all over the map including citrus, rose, molasses, white raisin and tart cherry. Nevertheless, the wine’s pale hue foreshadows its delicacy.

Quinta do Noval “Black,” $18
Very stylish, with sleek flavors of blackberry, blood orange and cherry. Juicy but focused, this wine is user-friendly and better than many of the late bottled vintage styles out there today.

Taylor Fladgate “First Estate Reserve,” $18.50
Bold style with ample sweetness and flavors of chocolate and black raspberries.    

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Read more Off the Vine columns here.

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