- Best Port Overall
- Best Port Under $20
- Best White Port
- Best Ruby Port
- Best Vintage Port
- Best Tawny Port
Port is a style of fortified wine that hails from the Douro Valley in north Portugal. Though many New World countries now make Port-styled drinks, just as with Champagne, in order to be called Port with a capital P it technically needs to be produced in this tiny corner of the world.
Made from red or white wine grapes, port starts out its life like any late-harvest wine. It's mashed and fermented in neutral steel or tangy oak until most of the sugars have been metabolized into alcohol. It's here that port journeys in a different direction however, because at some point in the middle of the fermentation process, it's fortified with hard liquor until it reaches an alcohol content that reaches between 19 and 23 percent. The addition of extra alcohol, which is usually a distilled grape spirit, stops the fermentation, keeping sugar content high and giving port its characteristically sweet taste. Since port has a higher alcohol content than wine, it will keep for around a month after you open a bottle.
There are a number of different styles of port to choose from. Portos fortified wines that have not been barrel aged at all. Portos that that come from a single harvest will carry the vintage year and usually need to be aged for decades before they are ready to drink. Portos that are Non-Vintage are blended in such a way that they are ready to drink right away. There are also ruby ports, which have been aged in barrels for 1 to 3 years. Then there are the tawnies, which get their name from the tawny, or amber color that they fade to after 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years of aging. Both ruby and tawny ports are made to be enjoyed right away, since all the aging was done at the winery.
Best Port Overall:
If you're looking for an excellent bottle of port, some of the best port made in recent years comes from the 2011 harvest. This year saw excellent conditions in Portugal, and many of the 2011 portos are expected to age beautifully, rivaling any port made in the past hundred years. Other incredible recent vintages include 2000 and 1994, some of which are already quite drinkable, though most ports from these years would benefit from a decade or two in the wine cellar. Of course, if you want to enjoy your port at its peak right away, you could always choose a bottle of 40 year old tawny that's ready to drink right away. When making up this list, we chose high quality vintage and well-aged tawny ports that show off the best qualities of this style of fortified wine. We looked for ports that weren't priced through the roof, as well as ports that received the highest scores from professional wine critics. Whether you're looking for a port to enjoy right away, or one to hold onto for a few decades, these ports are the best of the best.
Receiving scores in the high 90's from professional wine critics, Cockburn's Vintage Porto '11 is one of the best bottles of port you can buy. It's intense, sweet, and complex, with notes of fresh flowers, earth, dried fruit, fresh berries, and chocolate. This is one bottle you'll want to put away for a while; it'll be at its peak between 2030 and 2060. Read Full Review
Made by one of the most recognizable names in port wine, Graham's Vintage Port '11 is a rare treat made from grapes grown in one of the best seasons of the past century. It's incredibly complex and has bold tannins that will help it age gracefully for the next 10 to 40 years. Read Full Review
With scores of up to 97 points by professional critics, Quinta Do Noval Vintage '11 is one of our Best Picks when it comes to top shelf port. This fortified wine is sweet and seductive, with notes of smoke, violet, and fig. It'll also be one of the first 2011 ports to mature, and should reach its peak as early as 2022. Read Full Review
With aromas of blackberry, smoke, and graphite, and flavors of berry and chocolate, Taylor's Vintage Port 2000 is a classic port wine with well a well-balanced nose and palate. It's fresh and fruity right now, but will evolve into a mellow, earthy port over the next 10 to 20 years. Read Full Review
If you don't want to wait 20 to 40 years for a bottle of port to mature, a perfectly aged tawny port is a great choice. Dow's 40 Year Old Tawny Port is one of our favorites. It has concentrated flavors of dried fruit and nuttiness and a long, acidic finish that cuts through the sweetness. Read Full Review
Best Port Under $20:
Port lovers on a budget will be happy to hear that there are plenty of excellent ports for less than $20 a bottle. Though it may not be possible to buy a vintage or 20 year old Tawny for less than $20, there are plenty of excellent ruby ports and blended portos in this price range. When putting together this list, we looked for well-made ports crafted by some of the most well-respected names in port wine. We also chose ports that have been widely praised by both professional wine critics and casual drinkers alike. Finally, we chose ports that don't require any additional time in the wine cellar. These ports are all ready to drink right away, so enjoy!
Quinta Do Noval Black is an excellent, fruity port that tops our list as the best port for under $20. It features aromas and flavors of dark fruit and has a long, full-bodied finish that has a touch of spice and chocolate to it. It's ideal as a before or after dinner drink, or as a fortified wine to enjoy alongside a plate of chocolates. Read Full Review
After 3 years aging in oak, Croft Fine Ruby Port is ready to enjoy. This port is a deep ruby color, and shows off flavors of red and black berries, plums, and cherries. It also has earthy notes of spice, smoke, and licorice, making this an incredibly complex port and one that's great on its own or paired with an after dinner cheese platter. Read Full Review
Produced continuously since the 1750s, Warre Warrior is the world's oldest brand of port. It's a fruity, complex port, with notes of ripe plum, prune, chocolate, and nuts. This award-winning fortified wine is incredibly consistent from year to year and great as a sweet way to start or end a meal. Read Full Review
One of our favorite ports for under $20 is Fonseca Bin 27. This port is incredibly fruity, with lots of big berry and ripe plum flavors. Since it's blended from a number of different vintages, it's also quite reliable from year to year, and a great go-to port to enjoy after a relaxing meal at home.
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Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port is an excellent port wine that has received three gold medals at the prestigious International Wine Challenge. It's quite fruity, with notes of plum and cherry, but also has some earthy notes of chocolate thanks to 5 years spent aging in oak barrels. This port is ready to enjoy right away and pairs very well with chocolate desserts. Read Full Review
Best White Port:
As its name suggests, white port is a special type of fortified wine that's made from white wine grapes. Like all ports, true white port is produced exclusively in Portugal, and all of the ports that made this list hail from the Douro Valley. White ports can run from quite sweet to extra dry, though most are either dry or off dry, so they can be enjoyed as a before dinner aperitif rather than a sweet drink at the end of a meal. The ports on this list range from off dry to extra dry, which is how they are preferred in their native Portugal. All of these ports are also excellent chilled and enjoyed on their own or mixed with tonic water for a traditional Portuguese port wine cocktail.
If you've avoided white ports because you were afraid they would be too sugary sweet, Fonseca Siroco White Port is the perfect choice. This port is exceptionally dry, with bold flavors of ripe fruit and nutty undertones thanks to some time spent aging in casks. It's also crisp and acidic, making it an ideal port to enjoy before dinner. Read Full Review
One of the most popular port winemakers in the world also makes one of the best white ports. Dow's Fine White Port has floral aromatics, lots of bright fruit flavors, and enough acidity to balance out the sweetness. It's also medium dry, which makes it ideal for those who like a little less sweetness in their port. Read Full Review
Aromatic and crisp, Quinta Do Noval Extra Dry White Port makes an excellent before dinner drink. It's incredibly well balanced between sweetness, alcohol, and acidity and has a long, dry finish. Though it's dry, this port still accentuates fruitiness both on the nose and the palate, which makes it a great choice for port drinkers who like fruit forward ports without a sugary aftertaste. Read Full Review
Blended from eight different white wines, Taylor's Fine White Port is a complex port with lots of character. The nose is quite aromatic, with fruity and sweet honey notes. The palate brings in plenty of fruit flavors, as well as hints of nuts and just a bit of spice on the finish. Read Full Review
Aged in oak casks for seven years, Ramos Pinto Porto Branco Reserva is one of the most flavorful, complex white ports around. It has notes of tropical fruit, oak, and spice to it, and is excellent when paired with rich appetizers, such as foie gras, or simple desserts, such as vanilla gelato. Read Full Review
Best Ruby Port:
If you're new to the world of port wine, or if you're just looking for a great bottle of port that won't break the bank, ruby port is the way to go. Ruby port is made to be enjoyed young, having been blended from a number of different harvests in order to create a consistent wine from year to year. This list of the best ruby ports includes wines made by some of the top port winemakers in Portugal. These ports are well-regarded by both professional critics and everyday port lovers, and show off lots of sweet, juicy flavors. Since ruby port doesn't improve with age, all of these ports are also ready to drink right away.
A ruby port that's been barrel aged for three years to add to its complexity, Croft's Fine Ruby Port is our favorite. It's incredibly fruity, with notes of red and black berries, plums, cherries, and spice. More complex than many ruby ports, this port is ideal for both newcomers to fortified wine and long-time ruby drinkers who are thinking of moving on to tawny ports. Read Full Review
Fonseca Ruby Porto is an excellent young port that has scored well with professional critics. It's bright and fruity, with lots of cherry and black current on both the nose and the palate. The tannins are well-developed, though not overwhelming, and the color a beautiful deep ruby. Read Full Review
If you like your port sweet, Cockburn's Fine Ruby Port is an excellent choice. This port has lots of fresh and overripe fruit flavors, as well as a sweetness reminiscent of maple syrup. It's also quite bold, with a fiery alcohol note on the finish. Read Full Review
For a port that accentuates fruity sweetness over sugary sweetness, Taylor's Fine Ruby Porto is a great choice. This port has aromas of cherry and blackcurrant that are joined by flavors of black fruit and raisin, and a lingering, bold finish. It pairs beautifully with blue cheeses and dark chocolate desserts. Read Full Review
If you're looking for a complex ruby port that balances sweetness with earthy tones usually only present in a tawny port, Warre's Ruby Port may be the port for you. It has notes of red fruit, maple syrup, leather, and smoke, flavors that come together to create a well-rounded port that pairs well with cheeses, either as an aperitif or a digestif. Read Full Review
Best Vintage Port:
Vintage port is only bottled after exceptional harvests. Though most vintage ports are excellent when they eventually reach their peak, there are some years that disappoint by falling flat or showing an unbalanced flavor profile. Of the ports that are ready to drink right now, 1963, 1970, and 1977 are widely regarded to be the best years. Though there are a number of ports from the 80's, 90's and 2000's that are shaping up to be some of the best of the century, it'll be at least another decade before these are ready to drink, which is why we've chosen older bottles for this list of the best vintage ports. We also looked for ports that have received scores in the high 90's from professional wine critics. Finally, we looked for vintage ports that are relatively easy to find either at your local wine shop or at an online retailer. The price for a bottle of old port can be quite high, which reflects the considerable amount of time, often forty years or more, that it takes port to develop to its full potential. If you're looking for an amazing bottle of port to splurge on, any of these will fit the bill.
A bottle of Dow's Vintage Port 1963 may set you back three hundred dollars but this port really is as good as it gets. It's incredibly well-balanced, with lots of concentrated berry flavor and earthy notes on the nose. The alcohol flavor isn't overly harsh, and the tannin just noticeable on the finish. Be sure to drink this one right away because it's not going to get any better than it is right now. Read Full Review
A fruit forward port that speaks to lovers of sweet ruby port and earthy tawny ports alike, Graham's Vintage Port 1970 is one of our favorite vintage ports. It has lots of big fruit flavors, including dried cherry and red berry, that are well-balanced by notes of anise and chocolate. This is a great port to enjoy on its own, or with a plate of dark chocolate truffles. Read Full Review
You'd have a hard time finding a port that even comes close to the complexity of Dow's Vintage Port 1970. This port shows off notes of soil, meat, spice, flower, plum, orange peel, and dark chocolate, and though that may sound like too many contradictory flavors, they blend together beautifully. And at under $200, this port is also one of the least expensive vintages that's ready to drink right away. Read Full Review
With notes of cherry, ginger, clove, and mint, Fonseca Vintage Port 1970 is a complex port that's been aged to perfection. The various components of the aroma and flavor fit together beautifully, ending in a smooth finish that practically coats the tongue. A bottle of this port is the perfect choice for an after dinner toast at a special occasion. Read Full Review
Taylor's Vintage Port 1977 is one of our favorite port wines. It's received scores in the mid to high 90's with wine critics and has plenty of tannic structure that has helped it hold up to many years of aging. It has notes of plum, berry, spice, and chocolate, giving it a classic port flavor profile that pairs with sweet desserts and after dinner cheese plates. Read Full Review
Best Tawny Port:
For our list of the best tawny ports, we focused on ports that have been barrel-aged for 10 or 20 years. These ports still have some of the bright fruit flavors of younger ports, as well as nutty and spicy notes that are gained through contact with high quality oak. When choosing the best tawny ports, we favored ports that offer a great value for the money, as well as those that show off a great balance between fruity and earthy flavors. We also looked for ports that are easy to find at major retailers and highly regarded by the wine community. All of the port winemakers that made our list also make 30 and 40 year old tawny ports, which have a little less fruit to them, for port drinkers who prefer their after dinner drink to have a little more bite. Though these tawny ports are also excellent, they can be quite expensive and we have decided to feature ports that are all available for under $55.
Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is our favorite, and the only port wine to make Wine Spectator's list of the Top 100 Wines of 2013. It has lots of fruit to it, with pronounced notes of ripe tree fruit and tropical fruit. Though there's lots of sweetness to this port, it's well-balanced by earthy notes and bright acidity on the finish. Read Full Review
A masterful blend of old and young port wines, Dow's 10 Year Aged Tawny Port shows off the best of both sides of port wine. It's sweet and fruity with notes of nuts, vanilla, and citrus, and a long soft finish. Drier than many other ports, this is a great choice for those who are looking for a restrained sweetness that doesn't overwhelm. Read Full Review
Amber in color and richly flavorful, Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is one of our favorite aged ports. This wine has lots of dried fruit on the palate, as well as nutty and spicy notes characteristic of older ports. There's no need age this port any longer, after 20 years in oak barrels, it's ready to enjoy right now. Read Full Review
For a sweet port wine that's ready to drink right away, Cockburn's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is an excellent choice. After 20 years in oak casks, this port is mellow and rich in flavor, with lots of butterscotch and toffee notes. It's bold and complex and ideal as a dessert all by itself. Read Full Review
Made using centuries-old techniques, Quinta Do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port is one of our favorite tawny ports. It's sweet and complex, with plenty of acidy and tannin to back up the big fruit flavors. This port is excellent on its own or paired with a strong blue cheese. Read Full Review