Four Ports To Warm A Winter Wine Glass

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Port wine.

Whether you have quiet plans to hibernate by the fire or head out for crowded holiday celebrations, port just might be the beverage for the occasion.

Port is that sweet, wintry wine perfect for sipping with cheese or chocolate. It's also a good companion in the fourth quarter of football games, when your team is behind.

Though traditionally produced in Portugal's Douro Valley, other areas are known to produce a good port, too, these days.

Gary Vaynerchuk is the proprietor of Wine Library and host of Wine Library TV. He joins Weekend Edition's Scott Simon for a taste of four ports worth curling up with for the winter.

A Rich Port, A Robust One -- And One Punch To The Nose

  • Hardy's Whiskers Blake Tawny Port ($15)

    Hardy's Whiskers Blake Tawny Port

    Hardy's Whiskers Blake is a popular port, Vaynerchuk says. "It's always scored quite well by the magazines. Even one year, it scored 94 points by the Wine Spectator."

    Vaynerchuk cites the wine's relatively inexpensive price and wide distribution for its popularity. "For me, this is a great entry for someone who wants to experience port but doesn't want to pay the $60-, $70-, $80-price points."

    The 18 percent alcohol content can influence the wine's initial smell, Vaynerchuk says, but the overwhelming scents are reminiscent of butterscotch, caramel and dark chocolate. "It really feels like the topping of an ice cream sundae."

    Also, the high amount of alcohol helps warm the drinker -- perfect, Vaynerchuk says, for late-season football tailgate parties.

  • Taylor Fladgate: 2003 Late Bottled Vintage ($22); 10-Year Tawny Port ($28)

    Taylor's Late-Bottled Vintage Port

    Taylor Fladgate made its first port in 1692, so the company has a true pedigree when it comes to wines. The 2003 Late-Bottle's dark color suggests a density of flavor that is surprisingly rich, considering the moderate price tag.

    The aggressive alcohol and rich flavors make it the best value among ports, Vaynerchuk says.

    The lighter color of the 10-year tawny port makes it less dense, and the flavors more subtle than its cousin, the 2003 Late Bottled Vintage. The price is mellow, and Vaynerchuk's website describes the taste as "refined" and "clean."

  • 2004 Quinta Do Noval Vintage Port ($64)

    2004 Quinta Do Noval Vintage Port

    "This wine just punched you in the nose," Vaynerchuk says. "It's taking no prisoners."

    "It's almost like an orchard, reduced somehow," Simon agrees. "It's just pumped into your nostrils."

    The 2004 Quinta Do Noval is a more traditional port -- a late-bottle vintage that comes with a second punch, too. That powerful flavor, Vaynerchuk says, makes it easier to swallow the hefty price tag. You've got a while to choose the perfect time to open it, too.

    "This wine will last in the bottle, in proper storage, let's say, 55- to 65-degree stable conditions, for the next 40 to 70 years," Vaynerchuk says.



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