A Word about Dessert Wine: Sherry and Port

“The era of the after-dinner bottle of port or Sauternes is long over,” says Eric Asimov in the New York Times. Truly, dessert wines—or any sweet wine—have fallen out of favor because people don’t know how to approach them, when to serve them, how to pair them with food . . . or they are counting calories.

This doesn’t have to be the case, and your life will be enriched with the appropriate amount of dessert wines in your monthly vinous routine. As Asimov has noted, in addition to Sauternes “other similarly sumptuous nectars, like beerenauslese riesling, Tokaji Aszu, Coteaux du Layon from the Loire or even fortified examples like port and malmsey Madeira” offer a world of gustatory pleasure.

Dessert wines should not be drunk simply for their sweetness. The residual sugar constitutes just one component of these complex wines that you can order online. Fine dessert wines usually involve impeccable attention to detail in both viticulture and winemaking. They are treasures. And the amount of calories in a small glass of sweet wine that you can savor will not ruin your diet plan. 

Dessert wines pair best not necessarily with sweet dishes or chocolates, but with savory dishes as well. Asimov recommended Sauternes with oysters, for example, or Acadian boudin noir. Ports, of course, pair well with cheese, but also, for example, roasted meat with a Tawny. 

Want to get started? Are you ready to buy dessert wine? Let’s consider suggestions for Port and Sherry. 

Port Wine

Port comes in a variety of styles and price points, including different aged Tawny port and vintage ports, including Late Bottled Vintage (LBV). Then there’s entry-level, non- vintage ruby Port and even White Port. 

Tawny ports age in wooden barrels, which exposes the wine to gradual oxidation and evaporation, leading to a gradual change in color, flavor, and aroma. Tawnies typically contain a blending wines of different vintages, which helps achieve a consistent house style. As tawny ports age, they develop flavors of nuts, dried fruits, caramel, and spices, with a smoother and mellower profile compared to ruby ports.

Some examples include the award winning Graham's 30 Year Old Tawny Port, Fonseca 20 Year Old Tawny Port, and Smith Woodhouse 10 Year Old Tawny Port. 

LBV ports are made from grapes harvested in a single vintage, like Vintage Ports, but they are aged longer in barrels before being bottled. This extended aging—typically four to six years— distinguishes them. A good example is the 2018 Gloria Late Bottled Vintage Port

Ruby port ages for a relatively short period—two to three years—in quite large oak barrels or stainless steel tanks before being bottled. This minimal aging helps to preserve the wine's vibrant fruit flavors and youthful character, giving it a fresh and fruity taste with a smooth texture. Try the Ramos Pinto Ruby Port.

As you can see, Port wines has a variety of styles, ages, and producers. The Pinnacle is perhaps vintage port, like the 1967 Sandeman Vintage Port. Yes, that’s from a single vintage in 1967. Port houses declare vintages only in especially good years.

White Port, too, is worth a try: a whole different world of Port. Try the Sandeman Apitiv Reserve White Port.

Sherry 

Not all sherry is sweet. Wonderful dry Sherries—like Fino—exist in the production region of Jerez, Spain. When you go to order dessert wine online, don’t forget Sherries like Cream or “Sweet Sherry. The sweetness is natural, using coming from Pedro Ximenez grapes that have a very high sugar content, even after fermentation. Sometimes, the sweetness emanates from Moscatel, another name for the Moscato grape. Another historical name for Sherry is “Sack.”

Sherries experience a special production process, the Solera system, that blends wines from different vintages, lending unique flavors and aromas to the wine.

Consider these Sherry wines:

So, get started on your dessert wine journey with sweet Sherry and the huge variety of Port wines!


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