Hailing from the Douro Valley in Portugal, Ports are made from still wine fortified with brandy, a practice that was used to make them more stable for the long sea-crossings to England, historically the main market for Port.
Port comes in many different styles, making it super versatile for food pairings although the more complex and rich the Port is, the more complex and intense the food needs to be so they are particularly suited for hearty winter dishes. Let's look at what you can enjoy with a glass of port, from savoury nibbles to sweet treats.
As an Aperitif
I know we said winter dishes but.....
1) White Port with Oysters : A white port and tonic is a less strong, and deliciously refreshing apéritif than its better-known gin-and-tonic counterpart. Delicious with salty crisps or even oysters.
2) Chilled Tawny with a cheese & nut platter : A slightly chilled tawny Port is another way to start a meal - pair with a plate of hard cheese, dotted with salted almonds and roasted cashews.
3) Vintage Port with roast Meat : There are some drier styles of Port around that even manage to pair with meaty main dishes. The Vintage Port of Quinta do Popa for example is relatively low in sugar meaning that it would pair well even with a roast duck breast or beef.
Game is another dish which can pair well a good vintage Port. Try meats and stews with fruity sauces paired with wines that are not too high in sweetness.
4) Ruby with Parmigiano-Reggiano: the sweetness of a ruby Port, combined with its intense, rich character, makes it a lovely contrast to salty cheese. Experiment with the different maturities of Pamesan from 12 to 36 months...
5) LBV with Blue Stilton : probably the most classic pairing of them all and a great example of contrasting pairing. The strong, savoury flavours of the cheese with the sweetness of LBV Port.
6) Tawny Port with aged Gouda : the nuttiness of a Tawny pairs superbly with the same flavours of an old Gouda, the orange-coloured cheese from the south of the Netherlands. Alternatively, try it with a Spanish Manchego.
The important thing is to pair the intensity of the cheese with the Port. In this case, we opted for a dry-ish vintage port with some white stilton with dried cranberries. The light acidity of the cheese, balanced against the slight sweetness of the port.
7) Ruby Port & Berries: “Only” aged for around two years on oak, this style of port is the most youthful and fruity of them all making it great to pair with fruity desserts Ruby Port is characterised by aromas of red and black fruits. It’s sweet and not overly tannic. Enjoy a glass of Ruby port with a piece of dark chocolate, chocolate truffles, a berry cake or a combination of fruit and chocolate such as a Black Forrest cake...
8) Late Bottled Vintage & Chocolate: LBV for short, is a Ruby Port that is aged for longer in larger oak barrels before bottling. LBVs often have slightly riper fruit flavours, as well as chocolatey and jammy notes. This is every chocolate lover’s dream wine. Really, knock yourself out in the chocolate department: molten lava cake, a deep indulgent chocolate mousse or a flourless chocolate cake.
Try the Creamy Chocolate Cake recipe we enjoyed during last year's Quaranvino goes to Portugal session : download the recipe here
9) Tawny Port & Almond Cake : Tawny ports spend time ageing in oak barrels, and their complex character depends on how much time: 10, 20 or sometimes even 40 years. They are semi-sweet, with nuances of nuts, caramel and dried fruits. So: go nuts with nuts. A traditional pairing is almond cake, but another classic is a crème brûlée or a cinnamon apple pie or pecan pie. Or try it with Italian Panforte or biscotti.
10) Vintage Port with a dried fruit & walnuts : for the easiest dessert ever, pair a vintage Port with a plate of walnuts, and dried fruits - figs, apricots, cranberries and sultanas.
Port's most perfect pairing can be as simple as a nice view and perhaps a good friend.
For more of the background on Port and how the different styles come to be, take a look at this article.