The two main styles of port are ruby and tawny. The first, after fermentation, spends most of its time in the bottle and retains a dark red color. The second is barrel aged, becoming lightly oxidized and acquiring a nut brown color. Both are a delicious antidote to frigid winter weather. Classic pairings are Stilton (ruby), aged cheddar (tawny) and dark chocolate (both)
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto, $23
Most port houses produce what is often called a "vintage character" port. It's a house style that strives for consistency from year to year, and the Six Grapes is my current favorite. It's fresh and fruity with mocha, licorice and cassis aromas, and dark berry and cherry fruit flavors.
2008 Quarles Harris Late Bottled Vintage Porto, $13
True vintage port is bottled young, then needs 10 to 15 more years before it's ready. Late bottled vintage is made with grapes from one year, but spends four or more years in barrel, mellowing and gaining complexity. It's the poor—or impatient—man's vintage. The Quarles Harris, which is an outstanding value, offers chocolate, plum, candied cherry, anise and almond aromas. Chocolate covered cherry flavors lead to a smooth and velvety finish.
Porto Kopke 10 Years Old Tawny, $32
A blend of ports from different vintages, the 10 refers to the average age of those wines (some are younger, some older), but average age here is closer to 15. This sublime port experience offers tawny's characteristic combo of nuts and caramel on the nose. The flavors are a rich mix of buttery caramel, vanilla and fruit cake backed by candied walnut and pecan.