Advertisement
Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: Tawny ports for warm weather sipping | COMMENTARY

The outdoor temperature is 90 degrees, so what is there to sip on? Red Bordeaux is out. For some reason it never works in the summer. Is it the heat or humidity? Who knows? Just save it for a few more months and it will be the perfect choice on a cool autumn afternoon. A big California cabernet sauvignon? No, it just seems too much. Pinot noir can work but give it a chill to bring out the fruit. You can always open up a rose; it goes with an array of foods and chilled it makes a nice stand-alone beverage.

Next week we’ll have a bevy of red wines to enjoy in warm weather. But today we’re here to make the case for port, the fortified and sweetish wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Leave your vintage ports aside, if you are fortunate enough to have them, and look for the tawny ports produced by most port producers.

Advertisement

Tawny ports are aged in large oak barrels, which expedites the aging and oxidative process and turns the bright red colors to a tawny brown. It also creates mature, nutty and sherry-like characteristics.

We recently tasted four tawny ports from two of our favorite port producers: Graham’s and Dow’s. Both are owned by the Symington Family Estates, arguably the most prestigious port producer in the Douro Valley.

Advertisement

Dow’s has a reputation for producing a slightly drier style of port. But don’t kid yourself: these wines are still sweet, just not overly so.

We tasted these wines over a 10-day period and could not detect any deterioration in either one. So, if you are intimidated by consuming a whole bottle of this 20% alcohol wine, don’t fret. Once the bottle is opened, store it in the refrigerator and it should stay fresh for a couple of weeks.

Following are our tasting notes.

Dow’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port ($39). Bright cherry notes, vanilla and a slight hint of tobacco are all present in this very user-friendly fortified wine. According to Dow’s, the producer loses 25% of the wine during the aging process. Great to accompany with dessert, especially chocolate ones. During the warmer months serve this chilled between 50-60 degrees.

Dow’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Port ($67). Here again a significant quantity — 35% — of the wine disappears during the aging process. Some fresh fruit notes meld with dried fruit scents and flavors to produce a complex elixir that takes port to a whole new level. Elegant, not overly sweet, this is a terrific wine for solo drinking with a light snack of cheese, nuts and dried fruit or as a dessert all by itself.

Graham’s is Dow’s sister brand in the Symington Family Estate portfolio. We found the Graham’s to not reach the same intensity as the Dow’s, but it produced a very agreeable and drinkable tawny port.

The Graham’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port ($39) is offered in an attractive squat bottle and is sealed like the Dow’s bottle with an easily removable, resealable closure. This port offers cherry notes with dark chocolate and dried fruit notes.

We really enjoyed the Graham’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Port ($65). It offered an exquisite elegance and very smooth delivery. Nuts, dried fruit, and oloroso sherry elements dominated in a whole new step in port evolution.

Advertisement

We also tasted a group of ports from Kopke, the oldest port wine house in Oporto. Our favorites of the group were the Kopke 20-Year-Old Tawny Port ($70), and the somewhat unique Kopke Colheita White Port 2003 ($85).

Dish Baltimore

Dish Baltimore

Weekly

Get the scoop on that new restaurant, learn about chef changes and discover your favorite new recipe. All your Baltimore food news is here.

The Kopke 20-year-old tasted and smelled of very deep ripe cherries with toffee notes. This classic profile appeared sweeter than either the Dow’s or Graham’s.

The Kopke Colheita white is made from indigenous, traditional white grapes from the Douro Valley and was a new experience for us. Colheita means all of the grapes are from a single vintage and aged in oak barrels. The 2003 Kopke exhibited bitter orange rind, golden raisins and dried apricot notes and appeared on the sweeter side of most ports we have experienced. According to Kopke, some of their ports are available in ½-bottle sizes at lower prices.

Wine picks

Rocim Mariana White 2020 ($13). The indigenous antao vaz, arinto and alvarinho grapes go into this simple and bright white wine with tropical fruit notes and good minerality.

Acumen Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($35). Bigger than most sauvignon blancs, this refreshing version from the Farina Vineyard has lively citrus and melon notes with a mineral thread and balanced acidity.

Clockwise Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2021 ($30). This is a pretty bold and aggressive sauvignon blanc that we were drawn to glass after glass. Its appeal is due in part to the addition of the musque clone, which provides brisk acidity and stone-fruit character. In addition, there are tropical fruit and mineral notes.

Advertisement

WillaKenzie Estate Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($40). We enjoyed the pure fruit character of this wine from the Yamill-Carlton AVA (American Viticultural Area). It’s so different from most California chardonnays with its mineral, honeysuckle, citrus and some tropical fruit notes. Rich on the palate, the oak is restrained.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at moreaboutwine.com. They can be reached at marq1948@gmail.com.


Advertisement