When Port is first made, it’s red–much like any other red wine.
But over time, red wine will gradually turn to various shades of brown. It’s simply part of the aging process. And that’s how Tawny Port got its name: Typically aged for 10, 20 or 30 years prior to release, the typical Tawny Port is auburn brown in hue.
The aging process also impacts the flavor of the fortified wine. A 10-year-old Tawny Port will still have exuberant fruit flavors, often mirroring those of much younger wines.
A 30-year-old Tawny, on the other hand, will have lost nearly all of its fruit flavor. Its aroma and flavor spectrum will be more nut-like and raisiny.
Both styles are quite good, and your preference will be based on your own palate.
That said, just about everyone enjoys a 20-year-old Tawny Port. It’s a wine that definitely could be called “mellow,” yet still typically exhibits some engaging fruit flavors. It’s like having the best of both worlds.
Better still, Tawny Port is one of the few wines in the world that is dependably enjoyable with certain kinds of desserts. Whereas other types of Port–those with stronger flavors and a more syrup-like mouthfeel–are great with roasted nuts and aged cheeses, Tawny Port better complements food with a touch of sweetness.
Among the desserts one can serve alongside Tawny Port are pecan pie, carrot cake, flan and creme brulee. The intermingling of the flavors is, in a word, amazing.
Here’s another pairing suggestion you’ll likely not see in any wine book or cookbook: Robert’s Birthday Cake.
In this case, the Robert is Robert Johnson, editor of VinesseToday.com and The Grapevine newsletter. Every year since he was 10–and that’s a lot of years–he has dined on one kind of cake each birthday…even if it meant baking it himself.
It’s really quite easy to make. First, buy a spice cake mix at the supermarket. The recipe calls for water, but in place of that ingredient, use about a cup-and-a-third of unsweetened apple sauce.
For the frosting, buy a can of already-prepared cream cheese-flavored icing. To that can, add about a third-of-a-cup of maple syrup–not some generic store-brand syrup, but the real stuff from Vermont–and stir it in.
A spice cake prepared that way, served with a glass of Tawny Port, makes middle-aged birthdays much less painful.