Port is one of the most unusual wines on earth, and one of the most misunderstood, as well.
It is pigeonholed as an expensive tipple of the elite, despite being one of the most democratically priced fine wines there is. It is typecast as an after-dinner drink, even though it makes a delicious aperitif and partners brilliantly with a wide array of foods.
And, as if to add insult to injury, port is more often served at an unflattering temperature than any other wine style. The root of the problem is that sweet, liqueur-like port wines are so far outside the winemaking norm that they defy expectations and break unwritten rules.
It is true that the most rarefied style of port — known as “vintage port” — can be wildly expensive, but the region makes plenty of wines that are more accessibly priced, too, such as this simple “ruby port.” Such wines are quite affordable once you factor in that each bottle contains 12 servings instead of the usual five.
It’s also the case that most people think port is best served after dinner, because it tastes divine with everything from blue cheeses to chocolate. But what many don’t know is how delightful it is as a drink before dinner, whether on its own or with a splash of soda on the rocks. And because other red wines taste best at room temperature, wine drinkers understandably assume that red port will, too.
But the intensity and sweetness of wines such as this one, with their flavors of brandied cherries and fig jam, taste better chilled, so serve them right out of the fridge.
Sandeman Founder’s Reserve, Porto Portugal. $17.99 (regularly $20.99; sale price through Feb. 24). PLCB Item #6332.