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Best Port Wine & Cigar Pairings

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Port is decadent and sweet. It’s an unusual wine, but full of distinct nuances you won’t find in other wines. That’s because Port is fortified. It’s a distilled spirit. Most often brandy is added. Port is named for its country of origin, Portugal. Flavors of raspberry, blackberry, caramel, butterscotch, almonds, cinnamon, and chocolate characterize many Ports. It’s a wine that pairs well with rich chocolate and caramel-based desserts, vintage cheeses, smoked or salty nuts, and sweet and smoky meats like barbecue. And of course, cigars. If your mouth isn’t watering by now, get your pulse checked.

There are four key categories of Port: Ruby, Tawny, White, and Rosé. Port is derived from a distinct variety of native Portuguese grapes: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cao. More than 52 total grape varietals exist within these five types and each provides specific tasting notes like cinnamon, vanilla, and blueberry. Port hails from Portugal’s historic and beautiful Douro Valley.

Quirky details set Port apart such as its traditional fermentation (the grapes are stomped in lagars). Port should be served just below room temperature (around 60° F) in special glasses – slightly smaller and narrower than your typical wine glass. Port is generally poured in 3 oz. servings.

Many Ports that you’ll discover in a grocery store are of mediocre quality. Plenty of phenomenal Ports exist, though. The best are aged for a considerable period of time. Port is right at home in front of a roaring fireplace but is not strictly a seasonal wine. It’s a perfect after-dinner drink which is another reason it pairs well with cigars. Here are five exquisite Port and cigar pairings.

#1 - Dow’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port & Ashton VSG

Derived exclusively from class-A vineyard grapes, Dow’s 40 Year is a treat from the top shelf. Four decades of rest in oak casks reveal an especially refined profile of walnuts, figs, dried fruit, apricot, and honey with a resounding finish. At around $200 a bottle, only a handful of prominent cigars are befitting of an occasion to pop the cork on Dow’s 40 Year. Ashton VSG is our first choice. Its legendary pedigree is owed to the extensive fermentation renowned cigar-maker Carlito Fuente insists upon for every leaf of tobacco in the blend. A lustrous Ecuador Sumatra wrapper harbors a rich and silky interior of ultra-premium Dominican long-fillers. Notes of cedar, leather, and espresso beans meld with leathery texture in an opulent finish. Raise a toast to the next milestone on the calendar with this selection.

#2 - Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny & San Cristobal Ovation

Hints of orange peel, almonds, and well-aged fruits weave a smooth and well-rounded tapestry over the palate in Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny. Raisins, hazelnut, dried plum, and a touch of mushrooms make Graham’s a magnificent match for the deep, full-bodied taste and aroma of San Cristobal Ovation. The ultra-rare limited edition cigar is blended by the award-winning Garcia family in Estelí, Nicaragua. A premium aged recipe of Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos is bound by a profound San Andrés Oscuro wrapper. Every leaf of tobacco is optimally fermented in a decadent and creamy profile of cocoa, wood, toasted almonds, and sweetened hickory. The hearty, tannins in Graham’s 20 Year embrace the smoky character of Ovation in an excellent marriage of caramel and spice. A bottle of Graham’s 20 Year Tawny is in the vicinity of $60.

#3 - Sandeman 30 Year Old Tawny & Arturo Fuente Anejo

Candied almonds, vanilla, honey, spices, and chocolate flavors emerge in Sandeman 30 Year Old Tawny as a result of special wooden casks employed to mature this extraordinarily refined edition. Only the finest grapes are considered in an exceptional Port that sells for around $100 a bottle. Gradual exposure to air creates an elegant concentration of flavor and a partially dry but caramelized texture. Equal selectivity is applied in the recipe of premium and rare tobaccos found in Arturo Fuente Anejo. A vibrant interior of vintage binder and filler tobaccos grown on the Fuente family’s celebrated Dominican estate, Chateau de la Fuente, rests beneath a glistening Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that has been fermented inside a cognac barrel for an extended period. Notes of black cherries, dark chocolate, cognac, and cedar converge with lingering, buttery spices and an exquisite room note.

#4 - Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny & La Aroma de Cuba Reserva

Two decades of rest mellow the luscious, jammy profile of Taylor Fladgate in a 20 Year Tawny that delivers a blissfully nutty and spicy taste. For roughly $49 per bottle, Taylor Fladgate makes a brilliant companion for La Aroma de Cuba Reserva, blended by legendary cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia. A complex core of vintage binder and filler tobaccos grown on select Garcia family estates is finished in an oily and rich San Andrés Oscuro wrapper leaf. Notes of hickory, dark chocolate, and black pepper perk up as a perfect companion to the dense lingering taste of Taylor Fladgate’s celebrated Tawny.

#5 - Fonseca 10 Year Tawny & Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro

For around $35 a bottle, Fonseca 10 Year Tawny reveals a classic introduction to Port in a delicious profile of fruit cake, nuts, pepper, plum, and wood. Vibrant crimson highlights trace the russet and amber color Fonseca 10 Year displays. Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro features a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and a full-bodied interior of Nicaraguan tobaccos. The 95-rated blend was ranked the ‘#2 Cigar of the Year’ for 2016 by Cigar Aficionado. Notes of dark chocolate, chestnuts, minerals, and earth harmonize nicely with the sweet and syrupy taste of Fonseca 10 Year. Start your cigar and Port journey with this rich and complex combination.

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