Tawnies are amber-coloured to brown, and nutty-dried-fruit-figgy in flavour thanks to years of slow, controlled oxidation in large wooden barrels or vats. They go by two names, either Colheita (specifying a vintage) or Aged Tawny (with a number of decades declared on the label, from 10 to 40 years). Aged tawny is leaner and more spirit the more decades it declares. When to drink & Food pairings Colheitas and Aged Tawnies are best served chilled, summer or winter. They might be an aperitif, or drunk at the end of the meal, perhaps with walnuts to nibble. 10 or 20-year-old are the best of all ports for Stilton, and delicious with Portugal’s star cheese, Queijo Serra da Estrela.
Ruby Ports, where the Vintage port is the other top-end style, are redder, firmer, slightly sweeter and fruitier than tawny. You can really taste the sweet ripeness of the hot sun of the Douro Valley in this style of port. In years of old, vintage port had to be kept for years for its tough tannin and spirit to soften to drinkability. Now the spirit used to fortify port is of finer quality, and modern methods in vineyard, cellar and warehouse make vintage port a more balanced, less tannic wine that is drinkable after only a few years, although it will still age and develop complexity. There are numerous more modest categories, like Crusted, Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), Late Bottled, Reserve, Premium Ruby and Ruby. When to drink & Food pairings Ruby is best drunk at cool room temperature, and is good with certain cheeses, Queijo Serra da Estrela, Queijo de Azeitão, Cheddar, even strong, unpasteurized Brie in the case of LBV. They are also a good match with bitter chocolate or coffee desserts. The French drink this style of port as an aperitif, the English after the meal – take your pick.
White ports come in various levels of sweetness. Seco (dry) is actually quite sweet, meio seco (medium dry) pretty sweet, and doce a drink for the seriously sweet of tooth. A new style of port, sweet, fortified and rosé, this is made to drink chilled and neat, or in cocktails. When to drink & Food pairings White Ports are drunk as an aperitif, sometimes mixed with tonic, neat on ice, or in cocktails. There are also more expensive, longer-wood-aged versions with a nuttier flavour, also best chilled and served as an aperitif.
The Port Wine is divided into three big families, White, Tawny and Ruby, being the first made from white grapes and the other two, from red grapes. The White Port offers a range of colors that can vary from pale white to amber. The Ruby family admits red tonality that extends from light red, to very dark red, almost black. The tawny family usually extends from colors like auburn, copper and amber.