We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible pairing for food. We serve it with stilton, obviously and with hard cheeses like cheddar, with nuts and dried fruits and over Christmas with fruit cake and mince pies but that’s usually as far as it goes.
True, its sweetness suggests desserts and cakes rather than savoury dishes but like other strong dessert wines it can do sterling service at the start of a meal, particularly if it’s - as is increasingly fashionable - lightly chilled. And even with sweet things you should ensure - as is the case with other dessert wines - that your dessert is not far sweeter than your port.
On the spot
A Portuguese favourite with tawny port are the rich eggy pastries that you find in the pastelerias (patisseries) and creamy desserts such as crème caramel. Figs and (elvas) plums are also considered good matches. (According to Christian Seely of Quinta do Noval tawny is superb with fig tart) My own star match, improbable as it might sound, is bread pudding, a brilliant combination I came across on a visit to Lisbon a few years ago.
Sheep's cheeses also work well especially what is by common consent one of Portugal’s finest, the rich creamy Queijo Serra - highly prized by cheese connoisseurs
Why not try:
10 year old tawnies with:
20 year old tawnies with:
In the kitchen
Tawny port is a useful ingredient for any cook to have to hand, especially for deglazing pans. It works particularly well with chicken livers, lambs liver and kidneys and will also add richness to slow-braised meat sauces.You can also use it as a base for a sabayon or zabaglione
A version of this article was first published in Decanter magazine
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