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Tawny vs. Port Wines from the same producer

December 2, 2011
Question by: Scott, USA

Q:

In general, which is better, a tawny or late bottled vintage port from a high quality producer such as Graham's or Taylor?

A:

Hi Scott, Firstly, as you probably know, neither of these wines are Vintage Ports and come under two different categories - Tawny style and Ruby style (for the LBV). 

Graham's produces several Tawnies: Graham’s Tawny (a standard tawny of around 3 yrs of age), The Tawny (7-9 yrs of age) as well as the magnificent 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Old Tawnies, all of which are aged in small barrels called pipes or pipas (550 lts).  Ageing in small barrels means these wines have had a greater exposure to oxygen, which reduces and concentrates the wines, and changes the colour as well as the flavours quite dramatically.  A wood aged Tawny port will be characterised by aromas and flavours of dried fruit, citrus, honey and nuts, and as they age to 30 years or more, you will get woderful complex aromas such as saddle leather, herbs and tobacco, and the finish just goes on and on.  The Graham's Blog has an article comparing several of our Tawnies that might interest you.

Ruby ports are aged in large barrels, called balseiros, containing anything up to 75,000 litres, so the wine actually has very little exposure to oxygen during its ageing.  Late Bottled Vintage is aged five or six years in these balseiros before bottling.  As a result, the port retains its primary fruit flavours and Graham's LBV is has a dark, opaque ruby colour and a complex nose packed with opulent and powerful aromas of rich dark blackberries, black cherries and hints of chocolate.

As to which is better, naturally we think they are all very good!  Your choice will depend on your personal taste preferences, and the occasion.  Whilst both Tawny and LBV are appropriate to serve after a meal with a dessert or cheese course, Tawnies are very refreshing served chilled as an aperitif, or to accompany a first course such as foie gras.  If price is a consideration, LBV and younger Tawnies are quite accessible, with the older Tawnies being naturally more expensive.  Again, we can refer you to an article on the Graham's Blog which compares the LBV to two Tawny styles.



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