Liquid Dessert – by Jennifer Gaydeski

There are a lot of things in this world that I can live without, but dessert is not one of them! No meal is complete for me without a little taste of something sweet, or in some cases, a little sip. Don’t get me wrong. I can cut a swath through a chocolate cake that would put any sweet tooth like mine to shame, but my favorite ending to a fabulous meal is a good glass of Port, a Portuguese fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. The wine received its name, “Port,” in the late 17th century from the seaport city of Porto, where much of the product was brought to market or for export. The Douro Valley was established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756, which makes it the third oldest defined and protected wine region in the world. Generations of wine drinkers have enjoyed this sweet liquid indulgence.

Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, heavier, and possesses higher alcohol content than most other wines. These qualities are the result of adding distilled grape spirits, similar to brandy and referred to as aguardente. This process fortifies the wine and stops the progress of fermentation, resulting in a wine that is usually either 19.5% or 20% alcohol. Port is often served with cheese, and more commonly served as a dessert wine. Personally, I won’t turn down any glass of port, whether offered before, during, or after a meal; however, if I had to pick one port as my favorite dessert wine, without hesitation, I would choose a Tawny.

Tawny ports are made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels, exposing them to steady oxidation and evaporation. The result is a golden-brown color and the addition of nutty flavors, which are blended to match the house style. Official categories of Tawny port are 10, 20, 30 and over 40 years. The average age of the vintage is at least that of the given category. My preferred Tawny among the array of alternatives has always been a 20 year old Tawny, specifically Taylor’s. Taylor is considered by most wine authorities to be the finest of all port producers, and in fact, for over 300 years, still remains independent and family owned, which I’m sure, in no small part, contributes to their magnificent old and distinguished Tawny ports. I still remember my first taste…

When I peered into the glass of Taylor 20 Year Tawny Port, it was a vision of intense amber color, quickly followed by a rich nose of nuttiness, jammy fruit and spice. Once I took a sip, I discovered a rich, complex and supple wine, showing characteristics of plum, raisiny fruit, almonds, honey and caramel. The sweetness of this medium bodied wine lingered with gentle complexity and balance, insisting that I have a second glass. I was easily wooed into a second and third, and I was officially hooked. I can tell you from personal experience, usually the whole bottle disappears, especially when sharing with friends who never turn down another glass. If your mouth is watering right now and you have never had the pleasure of a fine glass of port, come on in and pull up a chair. I am delighted to introduce guests to the world of port and liquid dessert. If you are already a fan, then from one port lover to another…Cheers!

Reprinted with permission from AquaC Green Publishing and Aqua Cabana Magazine

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