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5 Port Wines To Drink This Holiday Season

The holiday season is prime drinking time for several reasons. But it's hard to drink a lot of sweet wines. They come after a huge meal and many other wines. Most of the time, we are already full.
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By Gregory Dal Piaz,

The holiday season is prime dessert wine drinking time for several reasons. But it's hard to drink a lot of sweet wines. They come after a huge meal and many other wines. Most of the time, we are already full.

Add in the fact that many dessert wines are high in alcohol and pack in a ton of sugar and you can see why it can be so challenging to finish a bottle. That's where your friends and family come in! They'll finish a bottle of dessert wine in no time, right? Heck, they'll drink anything if they're like my friends and family.

That means we can't break out the swill for their disposal. Looks like it's going to have to be something decent that won't break the bank.

The signature house style Ports from the big houses fit the bill perfectly. They are great values at usually under $20 a bottle, are produced in a consistent style and are typically delicious! I've tried a few recently, along with a Late Bottle Vintage-style Port from California just for fun, and they're all worth checking out as each offers a slightly different expression of what Port should be.

Share one or more with your besties this holiday season, and here's a tip, don't save it for the end of the meal. Port makes for a great post-dinner drink as well. Serve it with a few nuts (not your friends, the other kind) and some cheese and it'll drive the conviviality well into the night!

Photo courtesy of cphoffman42 via Flickr/CC

This selection comes directly from the Porto in Portugal, making it a true Porto wine.

Tasting Notes:

Very floral and decidedly spicy with hints of juniper, coriander and balsam as well as a touch of pencil eraser framing the black raspberry and fig fruit aromas. Very smooth on entry, silky even and a touch lighter in weight than many Ports. The palate shows a fine base of tannins with unusually clear plum and cherry fruit. This is fairly structured in the mouth with good freshness to the flavors that turn spicy on the moderately long finish. Exemplary, this has it all. Balance, complexity and a wonderful texture. 90pts

Another Porto native, the Porto from Sandeman Winery is world-renowned and still family owned even after 7 generations.

Tasting Notes:

Lightly aromatic on the nose with hints of evolution that make the nose reminiscent of a tawny Port. Light touches of caramel and sweet root vegetables mingle with tight candied blackberry aromas. A bit sweet on entry, this uses its sweetness well, balancing it with flavors that mimic the edge of evolution shown on the nose. The fruit here is pretty red for Port, featuring cut plums, raspberries and a really fine edge of dried orange peel. Complexity replaces power, with lovely chocolate and liquorice tones popping on the long, very focused finish. 89pts

Another hailing from the Douro of Portugal, this winery was founded the early 1800s by Scottish brothers and they have been producing high-quality ports ever since.

Tasting Notes:

Floral and almost herbal on the nose with layers of tea like aromas adding really intriguing complexity to the base of cocoa-dusted, dried cherry fruit. Soft and easy going in the mouth, this doesn't come off as particularly sweet but might benefit from a little more acidity adding some liveliness to the palate. The flavor profile is lovely and full of black cherry. Faint medicinal tones, hints of pollen, raspberry, black currant and caramel are all melded together into one subtle and smooth package. The finish is kind of structured with dusty tannins and more than enough acidity to refresh the palate. 88pts

Arguably one of the most famous Port producers, Cockburns was also founded by a Scotsman in the early 1800s and it's still a family business.

Tasting Notes:

Tarry and licorice scented with some pencil shavings and Tootsie Rolls adding complexity over spicy, slightly jammy grapey fruit. Moderately sweet but well balanced and medium-bodied on the palate, with a nice, gentle spiciness surrounding the black grape, currant and blackberry fruit. The sweetness is a bit more obvious on the finish, which shows decent length and a nice licorice liqueur note on the finale. 88pts

Unlike the four Ports we've already discussed, Valley of the Moon is made in California. So this selection is more accurately a Port-style wine but it is still worth trying.

Tasting Notes:

With a dusty, slightly vegetal and yet sweet nose, this is very much in the classic Port model, featuring an underlay of earthy black currant and tobacco aromas. One is immediately struck by how smooth this is. The tannins slowly work their way out, but this is one velvety wine right off the bat. The fruit is a bit candied with mint, chamomile and peppermint patty nuances on the palate. The finish is a bit short with a nice if subtle return of peppery blackberry and plum skin flavors. 87pts

Want To Learn More?

Interested in learning how to pair wines from Portugal? Check out this fantastic pairing guide from Eric Guido!

And visit to get more wine news and reviews from Gregory Dal Piaz or add him to your Google+ Circles.

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