For the past two decades, Port producers have been finding ways to adapt to a curious phenomenon – while people around the world steadily buy less and less of the historic fortified wine, what they are buying is the expensive stuff.
As I report in the current October 2023 issue of The Drinks Business, Port producers are expanding more into the table wine business, both in their home Douro appellation and elsewhere in Portugal. They are also emphasizing different formats, such as rosé or “pink Port”, and single-vintage, aged tawnies called “Colheitas”.
They have also updated their marketing, especially with entry-level Ports aimed at the younger market, with new bottle shapes, labels, and an emphasis on blending them into cocktails. We have some new looks from Cockburn’s this edition, in addition to our usually lineup of good-drinking red and white table wines.
NV Cockburn’s “Tales of the Unexpected – White Heights” White Port ($32) – Velvety texture – very luxurious on the palate – with limpid flavors of vanilla and light creaminess. While it can be drunk with a cube of ice, traditionally it is mixed with soda or tonic with a sprig of mint.
NV Cockburn’s “Tails of the Unexpected – Ruby Soho” Ruby Port ($31) – For those new to category, rubies are Ports that are not aged in wood, with the best ones becoming vintage Ports. This one has fruity cherry flavors like those at the bottom of a Manhattan cocktail and is accentuated by nutty tannins – a dessert wine that actually can be enjoyed with white cakes, mousses and fresh cheeses.
NV Cockburn’s “Tales of the Unexpected – Tawny Eyes” Tawny Port ($31) – (Incidentally, the name is pronounced “Co-burns” so you won’t embarrass yourself at the wine store.) Tawnies are wooded Ports, and this one is smooth with dark cherry flavors, but also savory wood notes, some hints of leather and nice bitters at the finish.
2022 Luke Wahluke Slope Sauvignon Blanc ($20) – The first of three great-value wines we are featuring from this Columbia River Valley appellation, it is elegant and silky, yet with a crisp, minerally finish and lingering flavors of lime, green gooseberries and Anjou pear.
2019 Torre Rosazza Friuli Colli Orientali Pinot Grigio ($23) – Quite nice, with lively fruitiness and a minerally, tangy edginess.
2021 Three Sticks “Alana Vineyard” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($80) – Lush-bodied with vanilla and apple spiciness, a metallic minerality, good acidity and a clean finish – very enjoyable.
2021 Yering Station “Little Yering” Victoria Pinot Noir ($19) – Fresh, tart cherry flavors with good mouth feel and acidity – pair with lighter foods and salads with meats.
2020 Luke Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) – A very pleasant middle-of-the-road Cab with blackberry fruit, a somewhat lean structure, flavorful tannins and herbal savory notes.
2020 Luke “The Companion” Columbia Valley Red Blend ($25) – Smooth, with dark cherry savory fruitiness and some leathery notes around the edges – great companion for big red meats.
2021 Flora Spring “All Hallows’ Eve” Napa Valley Cabernet Franc ($75) – One of the increasing number of Cab Francs popping up in the valley, this is a pleasant, lighter one with bright cherry flavors, hints of barrels and light tannins.
2021 Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel ($45) – A big, fruity wine – black raspberries and cherries – fruit-forward and full-bodied with a few savory notes.
2020 Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino ($112) – The second label of this famous Brunello is estate is bigger and more expansive than you would expect at first sip – smooth, lean, almost linear in structure with flavors of dried cherry, a hint of rustiness, and good tannins. Pair this with your Kobe steak.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.