10 best ports - for Christmas and beyond
Discover the best ports to buy. From ruby and tawny to vintage, there's a port to suit your taste and budget. See how our reviewer rated them during our taste test.
I don't think I have ever enjoyed a taste test as much as this one. The quality of port is at an all-time high, from the cheapest rubies on supermarket shelves, to vintage ports. It was very hard narrowing it down to ten bottles.
Port is made by taking very ripe grapes grown in the Douro Valley and crushing them to extract as much colour and flavour as possible (the top wines are still trodden by foot). Then, while there is still lots of unfermented sugar, brandy is added which kills the yeasts and stops fermentation.
The wines then spend some time in wood, with the lowest quality sold ready to drink as ruby port and the best, only made in special years, bottled as vintage port. Vintage ports need 15-20 years minimum in bottle before being ready to drink and require decanting.
Then there are tawny ports which are barrel-aged for longer with oxygen contact, like with sherry, until they lose their colour and take on a nutty quality. They can be superb and are sold ready to drink with no need to decant. Whereas most port should be drunk within a week or so of opening, an open bottle of tawny will last for months, if not years.
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Finally, there is white port made from white grapes which, though still sweet, is usually drier than the red version. It makes an excellent aperitif.
In Britain, we tend to associate port with stilton but it is a surprisingly versatile wine: white port is great with tonic; ruby and cheaper tawnies can be used in cocktails in place of vermouth; a chilled tawny makes a nice aperitif; and young vintages are a perfect fit with dark chocolate. In short, port is for life, not just for Christmas.
Read on to find which ports are best. For more, visit our review section and find over 200 buyer's guides including taste tests of gin, whisky, vodka, rum, brandy and more.
The best port to buy at a glance
- Best port for cocktails: Graham’s Blend No 5 White Port, £24.99
- Best white port: Churchill’s white port, £19.77
- Best ruby port: Berry Bros. & Rudd St James’s finest reserve port, £17.50
- Best value port: Tesco Finest 10-year-old tawny port, £12
- Best tawny port: Sandeman 20-year-old tawny port, £41.99
- Best single Quinta port: Fonseca Guimaraens 2004 vintage port, £28.95
- Best LBV port: Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 2017, £13.99
- Best crusted port: The Society's Exhibition Crusted Port, Bottled 2013, £17.50
- Best with Stilton: Taylor’s Vargellas 2013, £30.95
- Best premium port: Quinta do Noval Colheita 2005/7, £54.98
The best port to buy 2023
Graham’s Blend No 5 white port
- Available from Waitrose, £24.99, Amazon (£19.70), John Lewis (£24.99)
Best port for cocktails
A modern take on white port made with two grape varieties, Malvasia Fina and Moscatel Gallega which are cold-fermented and sold unaged to preserve primary fruit. It’s intensely aromatic with floral, honey and citrus fruits, and makes a cracking alternative to gin when mixed with tonic.
Read our full review of Graham’s Blend No 5 white port.
John Lewis (£24.99)
Churchill's white port
Best white port
More of a traditional style of white port, aged in oak with a little oxygen contact. It smells like muscovado sugar wrapped in orange peel, on the palate more oranges and tangerines with nutty notes on the finish. Makes the ultimate white port and tonic but also delicious with cheese and fresh fruit.
Read our full review of Churchill's white port
Berry Bros. & Rudd St James’s finest reserve port
- Available from Berry Bros. & Rudd, £17.50
Best ruby port
The cheapest style of port but made one of the Douro Valley’s smaller producers, Quinta de la Rosa, there’s not a shortage of class. Spicy but mellow on the palate, floral and aromatic. With its ripe dark fruit and subtle spicing, it comes across like a younger softer vintage port.
Read our full review of Berry Bros. & Rudd St James’s finest reserve port
Berry Bros. & Rudd, £17.50
Tesco Finest 10-year-old tawny port
- Available from Tesco (£12)
Best value port
Made by one of Porto's great families, the Symingtons, this is another wine that offers great value. It's a blend of wines with an average age of 10 years, giving it the ripe strawberry fruit of young wines but with the nuttiness of older ones. One to give people who think they don't like port.
Read our full review of Tesco Finest 10-year-old tawny
Sandeman 20-year-old tawny port
Best tawny port
The complexity is astounding with orange peel, tobacco and masses of candied fruit. And just when you think it's over, a wave of walnuts hits you and goes on for a good 15 minutes. I don’t think you will find so much pleasure anywhere for the money. Blimey!
Read our full review of Sandeman 20-year-old tawny
Fonseca Guimaraens 2004 vintage port
- Available from The Whisky Exchange, £28.95, Harvey Nichols, £32
Best single Quinta port
In years that aren't quite good enough for vintage port, producers will release a wine under a second label. These tend to offer exceptional value and generally mature quicker. Here, there is lots of youthful black cherry and plum, but age has brought out leather and a little tobacco.
Read our full review of Fonseca Guimaraens 2004.
The Whisky Exchange (£28.95)
Harvey Nichols (£32)
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 2017
Best LBV port
A late bottled vintage is from a single year but aged for up to six years in wood, so once bottled it's ready to drink. This delicious example from Graham’s is at the lighter end of the style, with soft tannins and a delicious cherry and almond flavour. It’s beautifully balanced – not heavy or too sweet.
The Society's Exhibition Crusted Port, Bottled 2013
- Available from The Wine Society, £17.50
Best crusted port
Crusted port is made from a blend of vintages, bottled with very little aging and kept, like a vintage port, to mature in bottle. It’s rarely seen these days, but when you try this delicious example that's bottled in 2013, you'll wonder why. This is big and ripe on the palate, with sweet fruit, dark spices and leathery tannins. It tastes like it’ll last 20 years, at the very least.
The Wine Society, £17.50
Taylor’s Vargellas 2013
Best with stilton
Another single quinta port but in a different style. Despite its youth, it’s already open and very drinkable with a nice fruity fragrance to it. This is trying to be a proper vintage and all the better for it. We can see this bottle disappearing quickly with a nice wedge of stilton.
Quinta do Noval Colheita 2005/7
- Available from Sandhams Wine Merchants, £54.98
Best premium port
A colheita is simply a tawny port from a single vintage. The smell is quite incredible with ripe strawberries, menthol and orange. It has the most amazing acidity with ripe candied fruit, toffee and walnuts. We wish we could give this more than five out of five. The 2007 is even better, if you can find it.
Sandhams Wine Merchants, £54.98
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This review was last updated in October 2022. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on alcohol guidelines, read our guide to drinking responsibly.
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