Port and Food Pairings

11 Feb

Until recently my knowledge and experience with port was somewhat sporadic, and I didn’t fully appreciate the full range of port types and the various foods to pair with the different types. To be sure, I had had Rubies, Tawnies, LBV, Vintage, and even white ports. However, I’m interested in all things wine and food, pairings and tastings, and now have brought in a full line of Ports to Pairings, from a small family owned Port house, where they still make port the traditional way, which includes stomping the grapes by foot (although I’m not sure now much of a plus that is). Anyway, we will be doing a pairing of 7 ports paired with foods, as listed below. Also, I wrote an article on port that was in the Winchester paper, and include that below as a primer for anyone interested in a basic explanation of port and the main types of port.

Quinta De La Rosa Port Pairing

February 15, 2011




White Roasted Almonds
Ruby  Lote No. 601 Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese
Ruby Finest Riserva  


Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Apricot Bar
Tawny Roasted Walnuts  and/or Almonds
Tonel 12 (10 Year Tawny) Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese
Late Bottled Vintage 2003 Dark Chocolate Blueberry Infusion
Vintage 2005 Cabrales Blue Cheese


Port and Food Pairings

Most ports pair well with chocolate, a good choice with Valentine’s Day coming up, but also pair well with many other foods. Example pairings for different types of port are shown in the table below. 

What is Port?

True port is from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Similar wines made in other parts of the world have “port” on the label, but technically are not port. In any case, Ports are “fortified” which means that brandy is added during winemaking. This stops the conversion of natural grape sugar to alcohol. The remaining sugars create sweetness, and the brandy leads to a high alcohol level (up to around 20%) compared to “regular” wines.

Types of Port and Pairings

The most common ports are made with red grapes, and all of them pair well with chocolate (especially dark chocolate), blue cheeses and nuts, especially almonds. Except for white port, the types listed below are in order from low to high in cost, as well as in power and complexity.

Ruby Port is aged in the bottle and meant to be drunk young.. It has a ruby-like color, typically with accents red berries on the palate. In addition to the milder types of blue cheeses (see table), ruby port pairs well with red fruits and desserts.

Tawny Port is a ruby port that was aged several years in oak barrels. This gives the port a tawny color, as well as a buttery, nutty caramel flavor. Try stronger blue cheeses, various nuts, dried fruits and desserts such as pecan pie, caramel apple desserts, etc. with tawnies. The longer the aging, the higher the price and more complex.

Late Bottled Vintage comes from port that didn’t make the grade to vintage, is aged in oak and filtered, so it doesn’t have to be decanted. Pairings are similar to those for Vintage port, and include strong blues (e.g., Stilton and Cabrales), dark chocolates and nuts, especially walnuts.

Vintage Port is at the high end of port as far as price, aging potential and prestige are concerned and made only in the best years. For a fine old vintage port sipping it in front of a fire is a fine pairing.

White Port, less common in the US, is much different from the others. White port typically is chilled as an aperitif, or poured over ice, and paired with olives, nuts, gouda and similar cheeses, or even seafood.


Vintage ports are meant to be aged and should be stored on their sides like any other wine. Once opened they should be decanted and drunk within 24 hours. All the other ports in this article are not meant to be aged, should be stored upright, and will last about one (Ruby and White) to four (Tawny) months once opened. Serve ports at around 65 degrees in a narrow glass.

Port Cheeses Desserts Fruits & Nuts
Ruby Gorgonzola Dolce, Fourme D’Ambert Chocolate (Mousse) Red fruits, cherries 


Tawny Cashel Blue, Fourme 

D’Ambert, Cheddar


Fruitcake, Mince Pie, 

Caramel Apple desserts

Dark Chocolate tart

Pecans, Hazelnuts, 

Walnuts, Almonds, Dried fruits…apricots, figs, raisins

LBV & Vintage Stilton, Cabrales Bayley Hazen Blue, Brie, Camembert Chocolate cake or truffles, Dark Chocolate tart Almonds, Walnuts 

Roasted chestnuts


White Aged gouda, Gloucester NA Olives, Dried fruit. All nuts

One Response to “Port and Food Pairings”


  1. Montesquieu Winery Explores Port and the Douro Valley - Montesquieu Wine Lovers Blog - March 23, 2012

    […] Depending on the style of Port and your personal tastes, there are many food pairing options—from classic to innovative and many in-between. For some pairing ideas, see here. […]

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