Wine Culture Magazine

The fortified wine goes well beyond dessert

Pair roasted meats and steaks with Late Bottled Vintage Port. Photo courtesy of Port and Douro Wines

Port can be highly food-friendly. There is a Port for every occasion and for every moment of the meal. However, it is sometimes difficult to choose the best dishes to pair with it, so let’s demystify the rules (and break some, too).

There are countless possibilities for food pairings with Port. In general:

White Port: appetizers, lean fish, salad, pasta, toasted almonds
Tawny Port: pâtés, dried fruit and nuts
Vintage and LBV Port: meat, cheese, red fruit desserts, chocolate
Rosé Port: appetizers or salads

Another aspect to consider is the serving temperature. Due to Port’s sweetness and high alcohol content, it is best served at low temperatures, as it will always warm up once poured. Here are the best serving temperatures for different styles of Port:

White and Rosé: 5° to 8°C
Aged Tawny and White: 8° to 12°C
Ruby (including LBV and Vintage): 12° to 16°C

Pair appetizers with white port. Photo courtesy of Port and Douro Wines

A Portonic (Port and tonic water) with toasted almonds is a great start to a meal. Pâtés go well with a 10-year-old Tawny or White Port. Creamy soups, salads or grilled fatty fish pair perfectly with White Port. For roast meat and steaks with intense sauces, peppers or spices, choose a Late Bottled Vintage.

However, if you want to be bolder, why not pair Port with Asian food? The secret is to go for fresh and elegant wines, avoiding the more structured and full-bodied Ports, which will overpower most flavours.

An extra dry White Port would go nicely with marinated or fried fish. Frying the fish gives it an added texture that is complemented by caramelized or oxidative wines. The contrast and aromatic intensity enhance and combine the flavours.

A 10-year-old White Port pairs well with the caramelized flavours of meat-and-ginger dumplings (jiao zi) or Japanese fried chicken (karaage). Or, in contrast and playing on their tangy, fried notes, why not try a Tawny Reserve?

Serve Rosé Port with nigiri sushi and you are on to a winner. Follow that with yakiniku teriyaki (Japanese-style grilled meat) and an LBV to balance the protein.

Dessert is the moment to really highlight Port. Cakes and chocolate mousses pair harmoniously with young and fruity LBVs or Vintage Port. Intense flavours can be enhanced by the delicate flavours of 10- or 20-year-old Tawnies. When it comes to desserts with red fruits, such as cheesecake, or soft, medium-intensity cheeses, Ruby Reserve or an LBV would be the choice. If the cheeses are more intense or harder, then the choice should fall on an aged Tawny Port, such as a 20-year-old.

And one of the most glorious pairings of all matches an aged Vintage, even a 30- or over-40-year-old Tawny, to a good cigar.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. Think out of the box and try any Port with food. With a few rules of thumb and some panache, it will all be delicious and memorable.

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