What does Port taste like?

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Port is a fortified wine, traditionally made in Portugal; these days one can find ‘port’ that is bottled in America, but only port made in Portugal can have a seal that reads “vinho de porto garantia”, ensuring it is authentic port.

– These tasting notes written by Jay, who likes sweet drinks, Irish whiskey, and highballs.

Check out all of our Port recipes, and then order some port online.

Bottle of port on kitchen counter

There are several varieties of port; I am dealing only with ruby port, so called for its rich red color.  It is typically drunk as an apertif or a dessert wine; my bottle of Sandeman Ruby Port says that it is “rich and gloriously red, with plum and berry notes” and that it is meant to be savoured with “creamy cheeses, chocolate desserts, or fruit pies”.  Sounds like my kind of stuff.

Glass of port on kitchen counter

Taste of Port

And it proved to be, completely.  I have sampled red wine on occasion (only a few kinds), and it was never to my taste; too tart and dry.  Port is almost the opposite of that.  The label was not in any way exaggerating about the “plum and berry notes”…this stuff practically sang on my tongue when I drank it.  It was very thick and heavy in the mouth, almost syrupy.  While sweet, it had a distinct bite at the end.  It also hits the head very quickly; ordinary wine is typically 12-15% ABV, while port (at least, the bottle I have) is 19.5%.

Close up of label on bottle of port

It was fairly enjoyable drunk straight, but I acquired it primarily for its use in cocktails, so I sampled a few.

Port cocktails

The Crimson is made with gin, fresh lemon juice and grenadine, all shaken with ice, with ruby port floated on top.  I mixed mine a little heavy on the grenadine (I like sweet drinks).  It was quite palatable; the sweet of the port and grenadine contrasted with the sour of the lemon and the juniper of the gin (I happen to like gin, so this suited me well).  I’d recommend it only if you enjoy gin…that flavor comes through pretty strongly.

The Rum Sangaree is 2 oz. of rum (dark rum recommended; I used 10 Cane rum, my favorite brand, which is a more gold rum), mixed with 0.5 oz. of cointreau and 0.5 oz. of ruby port.  I liked this much better than the crimson; 10 Cane rum is very smooth with vanilla hints, which blended very well with the sweet port and the citrus of the cointreau.  Considering how much booze is in this drink, it goes down deceptively mild.  The recipe I have also calls for a sprinkle of nutmeg, which I skipped.

After a few samples, I invented a drink of my own which I’m calling a Brilliant Ruby.  To a half glass (about 3 oz.) of ruby port, I added a healthy shot of sloe gin (about 1 oz.) and then a dash of grenadine for some extra sweet, all over ice in a wineglass.  In the opinion of a lover of sweet fruity drinks…perfection.

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Last Updated:

October 25, 2023