In the chilliest weeks of the year, it’s any Port in a snowstorm. Or at least when a few moments outside are just frosty enough.
Port, the great fortified wine of Portugal, comes in 10 styles and many more price points. To make it, grape spirits are added to red wine. The neutral, clear brandy halts fermentation. What results is a sweet, potent wine with alcohol at or near 20 percent. Portugal also produces another distinctive, fortified wine, Madeira.
Packaged in red and suitable for a Valentine’s Day toast is Cockburn’s Special Reserve Porto ($18), an accessible introduction. Befitting the color of the container, the Special Reserve has a cherry note, as well as hints of spice. The wine, which is aged four to five years in oak, pairs well with chocolate desserts.
Croft Reserve Tawny Porto ($20) is aged seven years, putting it about midway between the producer’s fine (three-to-five year) and aged (10 year) bottlings. It’s an easy-drinking Port, ready to imbibe now, with suggestions of raisins, red currant, spice and caramel. You’ll like the Reserve Tawny with creamy sweets, nuts and dried fruits.
Vintage Port is the peak of fortified wines. Sandeman released a special bottling of its 2000 vintage Porto, called The Hat & Cape. This limited-edition Port celebrates the producer’s 225th anniversary; its name reflects the Sandeman silhouette symbol of a don with wide-brimmed hat and long cape. Rich, elegant, plummy and perfect with a wedge of blue cheese, The Hat & Cape is about $100.