Whoever loves chocolate (and who doesn’t?) needs to know about port. I first discovered the delicious Portuguese fortified wine at a dinner many years ago, and I was astonished at how much combining one decadent pleasure with another could magnify the enjoyment of both. Whether chocolate is in the picture or not, a frigid winter night is the ideal time to savor this rich, luscious, 20 percent alcohol wine, as just a few sips will warm you to a glowing contentment and more than satisfy your sweet tooth. But with so many different styles available, the port category can be confusing. The following three are moderately priced and will keep after opening—with no appreciable loss of character—for up to two weeks.
Sandy Block is the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.
Fonseca, “Bin 27” Reserve Port
($17, Blanchard’s, Jamaica Plain)
Bin 27 is the leader in the so-called reserve category. An upgrade from basic ruby port, this deep purple blend is aged in wood for an average of four years before bottling. It’s got dark berry and cocoa aromas, lush black fruit flavors and a very moderate level of tannin. One of the most prestigious port producers, Fonseca’s vintage selections often rate higher than any in the region. This silky, mellow wine is a bargain selection and a fine brownie accompaniment.
Fonseca, 10 Year Old Tawny
($35, V. Cirace & Son, Boston)
Mahogany brown in color with hints of red, 10-year-old aged tawnies tend to present a completely different flavor profile: butterscotch, maple and dried fig. Fonseca’s is among the finest. With each sip, this silky, soft-textured, melt-in-your-mouth port reveals layers of complexity: apricot, baked cherry, cinnamon, toffee, orange zest and mocha. Its warm spicy overtones and lingering dried-fruit flavors make this an ideal choice for custard-filled desserts or honey-based pastries as well as milk-chocolate cakes.
Taylor Fladgate, “Late Bottled Vintage,” 2007
($22, The Wine & Cheese Cask, Somerville)
LBVs are made from the grapes of a single harvest (in this case the highly regarded 2007 vintage) and bottled after five to six years in cask. The originator of this style back in the late ’50s, Taylor Fladgate continues to make a classic powerhouse. With blackberry, coffee and walnut flavors, it’s a bit fiery on the palate, with tannins intense and lingering. This bold, somewhat raisiny style pairs nicely with full-flavored aged cheeses as well as bittersweet chocolate desserts.