“Claret is the liquor for boys, port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.”

Samuel Johnson

If the quote is true then I can at least take solace in the fact that I'm a man.

Tawny, for want of a long and complicated explanation, is normal port aged forever it often seems in oak barrels rather than in glass, and the exchange between wine and wood is extraordinary. Port has a transformational relationship with wood in much the same way chardonnay and tempranillo do, but unlike the former, the nature of port means it can stand up to a lot more of this relationship and therefore the transformation can be mind blowing.

First of all, try to avoid any Tawny under ten years old, as they can be a bit medicinal or chemical with too little age. While there are bound to be exceptions to my rule, I haven't had much luck finding them over the years and to be honest, with aged port being such a bargain, I gave up the search long ago.

Tawny ports are lighter in colour than their big cousins and they exchange the heady blackcurrants and chocolate for burnt sugar, vanilla and rich, brandy-soaked Christmas cake. The key to the flavours, however, is definitely the age and the longer they spend in wood, the more they diverge from their darker brethren.

None of which explains why I'm writing about Tawny port in the middle of the year, so with bated breath, here it is; aged Tawnies are fabulous when chilled to about the same temperature as a penguin's butt and they are remarkably good with barbecues. In essence, aged Tawnies are like sweet wine on steroids and like all sweet wines, they have really good acidity that becomes ever so refreshing when the mercury drops. The burnt sugar flavours can become variations of marmalade on your palate while caramel and vanilla are just sublime whatever the temperature.

So, while they can be fabulously refreshing sippers if served chilled, their complexity also allows them to envelop the worst burnt offerings from your in-laws' barbeque and may even make the experience a lot more palatable.




Quinta De Romaneira 10 year old Tawny

What a find this one was. Its too easy with port to be over focussed on the major houses but then you miss classics like this. All the typical characteristics of an aged tawny but with a lovely herby touch to the finish.

Lea & Sandeman £23.50

Epping Forest Guardian:

Taylors 20 yr old Tawny

If you are looking for a treat then this is the baby. The extra decade in wood softens the fruit and enhances all the sticky bits that I adore. Expect lashings of burnt caramel, figs and vanilla.

Taylors Fine Wine £39.00

  • Gerard Richardson is a wine columnist for Newsquest