It’s wintertime and the weather is cold, making it the best time of year to warm up with a smooth tawny port and fabulous cheese pairing.
Like all port wines, tawnies are fortified, meaning there is grape spirit (brandy) added to the wine as it’s fermenting. This addition halts the fermentation process, allowing the wine to retain sweetness while boosting the alcohol level to 19-20%.
Tawnies are aged for an extended period of time in wooden barrels. Through this aging process, the wine loses its fruity character and gains a tawny, brown, oxidized and nutty taste. The wine is still sweet, but the fruit-based flavors are no longer detectable. This unique flavor profile makes tawny port a flexible pairing for many exceptional cheeses.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started on your tasting journey:
10 Year Tawny & Jeffs’ Select Gouda
This is a great pairing in which the sweetness of the port combines with the sweet and caramelized notes within this artisan cheese. Jeffs’ Select Gouda is an old-world, European-style Gouda made in Wisconsin and aged in the Caves of Faribault in Minnesota.
20 Year Tawny & Heinen’s Hand-Selected 9 Year Aged Cheddar
As the port blend ages, its flavors intensify. The caramel, dried fig and roasted nut nuances of this port pair perfectly with the 9 Year Aged Cheddar from Wisconsin. The cheese adds a pleasant balance of salt and cream, which only serves to highlight the sweetness of the port.
30 Year Tawny & Sao Jorge DOP
At an average age of 30 years, this tawny showcases characteristic intensity of flavor. Notes of browned butter, dried apricots and toffee lend themselves perfectly to match with the famous Sao Jorge cheese made only on the island of the same name. This pairing speaks to the successful marriage of a Portuguese wine and a Portuguese cheese.
40 Year Tawny & Webster’s Stilton
Finally, we come to the “quintessential” and most classic pairing of them all—aged tawny port and Stilton Blue. The intense flavors of the port and the cheese ensure this is a match made in heaven! Sweet, nutty, caramel, candied fruit flavors combine with the richness of the handcrafted, farmstead Stilton Blue made by the Webster sisters in the smallest creamery in England. This cheese is a wonderful, creamy, salty, toothsome delight, but when paired with the tawny port, it develops a flavor profile not unlike bittersweet chocolate fudge!
To round out your pairing adventures, you might consider these additional accompaniments: fresh and dried figs, dried apricots, dark chocolate, dark chocolate with coffee beans and Portuguese fried Douro almonds.