Sherry vs Port – What is Fortified Wine?

We are all probably familiar with white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, reds such as Merlot and Chianti, and sparkling wines such as Champagne and Prosecco. However, in recent years,  there has been a surge in popularity in fortified wines such as Sherry and Port. Madeira is another fortified wine, but we won’t be looking at this wine in this article. Perhaps, however, you are not too familiar with fortified wine. So what is fortified wine? It is a wine that contains a spirit such as brandy, giving it a higher alcohol content than regular wine. 

It is predicted that sales of fortified wines will rise by 4% over the next few years. In the US, it is believed that by 2024 fortified wines will account for almost 53 billion US dollars in sales. This is pretty substantial as you can see. 

In this article, we will be taking a look at both Sherry and Port, at their history, at their differences, and what you can pair them with. 

What are the Main Differences Between Sherry and Port?

  1. Port wine is sweet, but Sherry can be either dry or sweet.
  2. The fortifying spirit is added during fermentation when making Port wine. With Sherry, the fortifying spirit is added at the end.
  3. Sherry is produced using the Solera aging system. Casks are stocked on top of each other in this method. Small amounts of the younger wines which are stored in the upper tier of casks are blended with the more mature Sherry in the casks below. With Port, the casks are stored next to each other.
  4. Port wine is Portuguese and comes from the Douro Valley. Sherry is Spanish and comes from Jerez De la Frontera.

What was the Reason For Creating Fortified Wine?

Fortified wines have been around for centuries. The reason they were first produced was that they last longer when opened than regular wines do because of the addition of a spirit. Wine was often taken on voyages around the world and these journeys could take many months centuries ago. Increasing the amount of alcohol in the wine meant that the wine had a longer shelf life. As time went on, fortified wines became popular in their own right, not just for long sea journeys. 

So, What is Fortified Wine?

Fortified wine has a spirit added to it which gives it a higher alcohol content than regular wine. Brandy is the most common spirit added. You will find that Port wine has a marginally higher alcohol content than Sherry. This is because the spirit is added during fermentation.

How Do Fortified Wines Compare with Traditional Wines When it Comes to Alcohol Content?

All wines and spirits are measured in alcohol by volume, or ABV.  Generally traditional wines vary between 11% and 12%. Some are below 10% which means that they have a low ABV. Examples are Riesling from Germany and Moscato from Italy. Some sparkling wines also have a low alcohol content. Wines over 11 ½ % are considered to have a medium to higher alcohol content. Red wines tend to have a higher alcohol content than white wines. Pinot Noir and Malbec are examples. Sherry and Port have an ABV between 15% and 20% which is higher than nearly all traditional wines. However, a bold and spicy Zinfandel can have an ABV of 16%. 

Are There Any Differences in Fortified Wines From Different Countries?

Yes, there are differences. In some countries, the spirit added can be as diverse as sugar cane or beets. However, in the US for example, the only spirit allowed has to be made from grapes. The most common spirits are brandy and cognac. 

Do Fortified Wines Have Any Health Benefits?

You have probably heard that if drunk in moderation, wine, in particular, red wine, has health benefits. The same goes for fortified wines, again as long as you don’t overdo it. They have natural antioxidants and silicon which improves bone density. They also help to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and bad cholesterol.

The only negative aspect of fortified wine is that it is high in calories so can put on weight. This can lead to health problems such as heart failure and high cholesterol. Fortified wine definitely needs to be drunk in moderation. Limit yourself to one glass a day for optimum health benefits.

Are All Fortified Wines Sweet, or Are There Some that are Dry?

You can buy both sweet and dry fortified wines. It is, however, interesting to note that they are both produced in the same way. The main difference is how much sugar is added when the spirit is added. The more sugar added, the sweeter the wine will be. 

If you want a sweeter wine, it is best to add the spirits early in the fermentation process. THis is why Port is sweeter than Sherry.

What Varieties of Fortified Wine Are There?

  1. Sherry. It comes from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain.
  2. Port. It comes from the Douro Valley in Portugal.
  3. Madeira. It comes from the Portuguese island of Madeira near the tip of Northwest Africa. It is often compared to Sherry, but it is sweeter.
  4. Marsala. This wine is made with brandy and comes from the Italian island of Sicily.

So, What is Sherry?

Sherry can be produced from three different grapes.

  1. Palomino Fino, which is the most used grape.
  2. Pedro Ximenez – aka PX
  3. Moscatel

Sherry, unlike Port, is produced by the Solera System. Younger casks of wine are put on top of older casks and the wine is blended. 

There are two methods of categorizing Sherry:

  1. Dry or sweet
  2. Oxidative or non-oxidative

Flinoand Manzanilla  are dry sherries, are non-oxidative and taste of almonds, and citrus.  Olorosa is also dry, but is oxidative. It is a dark brown in colour and tastes of vanilla, coffee, and caramel. Amontillado and Palo Cortado are both dry, are semi-biological, and taste of nuts, herbas, and tobacco. Cream Sherry, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximenez are all sweet sherries. They are oxidative and you can often taste figs. They are aged, as are Amontillado and Palo Cortado.

The History of Sherry

Sherry can only be produced in the triangular area in Spain between Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucer de Barrameda. It is one of the oldest types of wine and it originated with the Phoenicians on the Iberian Peninsula. The Greek geographer, Strabo, mentions Sherry in his writings  in the first century B.C. The Phoenicians established a trading post, Cadiz, in 1104 B.C. and brought grape vines with them. 

In 206 B.C., the Romans conquered the area and sherry continued to be produced, under the name Ceretanum. To concentrate the sugar and make the wine sweet, the Romans used boiled grape must. Sherry was exported from Spain throughout the Roman Empire. 

The area was then taken over by the Moors in 711 A.D. and they ruled until 1262 A.D. The Moors were, of course, Islamic and  they weren’t allowed to drink alcohol, but they still produced the sherry to trade with other countries. They also produced a grape liquor and added the wine to perfume, ointments, and medicines. 

Jerez was named Ceret by the Romans, but the Moors called it Sherish. It was only when King Alfonso X of Castile reclaimed the area from the Moors, was it known as Jerez de la Frontera. It was the border town between the kingdom of the Moors and Christian Spain, hence the name. 

King Alfonso owned a vineyard and one of his officers, Fernan Ibanez Palomino, gave his name to the grape, Palomino.

In the 15th century, Christopher Columbus travelled to the New World and East Indies and no doubt took sherry with him, introducing the continent to this wine. At the same time, sherry was transported from Spain to Italy. The Venetians had been supplied with sweet wine from Hungary, Cyprus, and Greece, but these countries were now ruled by the Ottoman Empirewhich didn’t allow trade with the Venetians.

England  had imported Bordeaux wines from France for some time, but because of the Hundred Years War between France and England, this stopped. They turned to Spain and started importing sherry. This was a good deal for them as the Spanish abolished the export tax on wine and gave them preferential treatment. However, in 1533, Henry 8th of England divorced his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon and trade became difficult. Some English merchants were even jailed by the Spanish Inquisition. In the 1580s, King Philip 11 of Spain built the Armada in order to invade England. However, the English admiral, Sir Francis Drake knew what was going on and sailed a fleet to Cadiz where the Armada was anchored, waiting to set sail to invade England. The English managed to burn all the  Spanish ships and they stole 2900 butts of sherry. One butt is about 1008 pints so it was a sizable haul. Sherry, as you can imagine, became even more popular in England.

The Spanish exported sherry to the West Indies at this time but it was often seized by pirates. They took the sherry to England where they sold it in London at an inflated price. 

The war of the Spanish Succession in the 18th century and the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century affected the sale of sherry. In addition, Port was becoming popular at this time. This led to there being excess stocks of sherry. This sherry started to oxidize and become nuttier in flavour. To solve this problem, winemakers would mix the old wine with the new and so began the solera system. This system produced new flavours and characteristics as well as allowing the merchants to produce a consistent product.

Until this time, sherry wasn’t fortified and had an ABV of 16%. Port, on the other hand, was fortified with Brandy and lasted much longer in the barrel than Sherry. Sherry winemakers decided to try this and were pleased with the results. The Brandy  killed off the flor-yeast which was the cause of the sherry oxidizing and as a result, it had a longer life. It also gave the sherry a higher alcohol content. 

In the 19th century, Sherry and Rioja competed with each other to become the best known Spanish wine. At this time, countries such as the US, France, Australia, South Africa, and Germany started to produce wines similar to Sherry so there was competition.

At this time, there was also another problem that affected the production of Sherry. The phylloxera plague, created by an insect from Africa,  destroyed many vines and so there was a decline in the production of Sherry. In the end, all the vines were uprooted and replaced by American vines which were resistant to the African insect. Sherry was once again produced and was popular again. 

In the early 20th century, Australia, Canada and South Africa expanded their production of their own Sherry. In 1935 , the Jerez Sherry was awarded a Denominacion de Origen status, but sales of authentic Sherry declined.

The Different Varieties of Sherry

There are different varieties of Sherry and we’ll take a look at them here.


Fino is a dry Sherry and is pale white in colour. The grape used is the Palomino and the Sherry is aged biologically under a layer of flor for at least two years in wooden casks. However, it is best aged for up to seven years. The flavour is of fresh dough, almonds, and herbs.

There are three types of Fino.

  1. Fino, which is a traditional dry Sherry which is aged for four to seven years.
  2. Manzanilla , which is a delicate type of Fino from Sanlucar de Barrameda. There are two different characteristics of Manzanilla. There is the Manzanilla Fino which is bottled after three to five years. Then there is the Manzanilla Pasada which is richer than traditional Fino and is aged for between six and seven years.
  3. Fino Amontillado which is darker and richer than traditional Fino. It is aged for up to 15 years. There are three types of this Sherry which are produced in different regions in Spain. There is Amontillado de Puerto which is aged in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Then there is Manzanilla Amontillado which is aged in Savalucer. The final variety of Fino Amontillado is Jerez Amontillado which is aged in Jerez de la Frontera.


Olorosa is produced without flor or yeast and is full bodied, more so than Fino. It is usually dry, but there is a variety which is sweeter and is made by adding Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Oloroso tastes of leather, spices, wood, nuts, and dried fruits.

Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is the least produced of all the Sherry varieties. Each year, just 100,000 bottles are sold. This isn’t a lot if you think that 60 million bottles of Sherry are produced a year. It is aromatic like an Amontillado and full-bodied like an Oloroso. It spends less than three years under flor, sometimes not at all. It is fortified and aged oxidatively.


Moscatel is a sweet Sherry. The grapes are dried in the sun for around three weeks which gives them the sweet taste. To make this Sherry, the winemakers must use a minimum of 85% Moscatel de Alejandria grapes. The musts are very sugary and when the wine is fortified fermentation stops. It tastes of honey and raisins and there is a floral aroma. 

Pedro Ximenez

Like Moscatel, the Pedro Ximenez grapes are dried in the sun. They are picked when they are very ripe and they turn into raisins which makes the Sherry sweet. Pedro Ximenenez  pairs well with a cheese board or a chocolate or coffee dessert. Try it with tiramisu or chocolatre fondant. You could also pair it with a cheesy pasta or even pour it over ice cream. 

Pedro Ximenez is produced in the D.O. Montilla-Montrez area. This area isn’t humid, but is still very warm. The lack of humidity stops the grapes from rotting. The wine is aged in casks in Jerez, enabling them to be labeled as Sherry. The D.O. Montilla-Montrez region isn’t part of the Sherry producing area.

When you taste this Sherry, you will get flavours of spices, coffee, chocolate, dates, and figs. It is very much a drink to be enjoyed at Christmas when these flavours are prevalent in your food.

Cream Sherry

Cream Sherries are sweet. They are usually produced by combining a sweet Pedro Ximanez or Moscatel with a dry Amontillado or Oloroso.  There are five different varieties of Cream Sherry.

  1. Cream Sherry which has between 115 and 140 grams of sugar to each litre. It is the sweetest of the Cream Sherries. Amontillado or Oloroso is combined with Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel to make Cream Sherry. It can definitely be thought of as a dessert wine.
  2. Pale Cream Sherry isn’t quite as sweet as Cream Sherry. It has between 45 and 115 grams of sugar per litre. It is produced from biologically-aged grapes such as Fino or Manzanilla with an addition of rectified grape must. This grape must makes it sweeter. 
  3. Medium Sherry is produced mainly with Amontillado and has between five and 115 grams of sugar per litre.
  4. Dulce Sherry is produced in a similar way to Oloroso, that is, it is made without flor. However, it is made with Pedro Ximenez grapes, making it sweet. Fermentation stops early and this also helps to make it a sweet Sherry.
  5. East India Solera is made by blending Pedro Ximenez with Oloroso. It is aged in the warmest part of the bodega which helps give it its sweetness. It is the sweetest of all the Sherries.

What Food Can You Pair Sherry With?

The variety of Sherry you are drinking will help you to decide what food to serve with your fortified wine. You may want to drink it with snacks before a meal or you may want to pair it with a cheese board or dessert. However, there’s nothing wrong with pairing it with a main course, even though this is more unusual. 

These are the foods we think go well with the different varieties of Sherry.

  • Fino: You should serve Fino Sherry chilled at a temperature between 38 and 48F. This is a good Sherry to serve with nibbles before dinner, such as olives and nuts. It also goes well with a cheese board after a meal or salted meat. However, you could also serve it with a main course of seafood such as prawns or crab.
    • Manzanillo: This Sherry should also be served chilled at a temperature between 39 and 48F. This Sherry pairs well with most of the same foods as Fino, in particular olives, salted meats, and seafood. However, it also complements sushi.
  • Amontillado: This sherry should be served at around 54F or higher than this if you are drinking an aged Amontillado. It pairs well with a starter of chicken liver pate and melba toast. It will even go with a main course of chicken or turkey with all the trimmings and also a cheese board. Spicy sausage is also a good match.
  • Palo Cortado: Serve this Sherry at 47F or thereabouts. It goes well with an antipasto platter of cured meats, blue cheese like gorgonzola, olives, nuts, and focaccia.
  • Oloroso: This Sherry should be served between 53 and 61F.  This is a good Sherry to serve with a main course of roast beef or steak. It also complements games meat such as venison.
  • Moscatel: This sweet Sherry should be served at temperatures between 54 – 57F. It is usually served as a dessert wine and especially compliments fruit desserts like crumbles and pies. It also goes well with ice cream and ice cream desserts. Cheese is also a good match, especially a mature cheddar. 

In Which Way Should You Store Bottles of Sherry?

You should put Sherry in a dark and cool place. If you are lucky enough to have a cellar, this is ideal. An alternative is a wine fridge. Make sure that the bottles are standing upright.

How Long Can You Keep an Unopened and an Opened Bottle of Sherry?

The length of time that you can keep Sherry varies on the variety. Fino and Manzanilla will keep for 12 – 18 months unopened and then two weeks when opened. Once opened, it is best to keep it in the fridge, otherwise it might not last as long. Amontillado and Medium Sweet Sherry last for 18 -36 months sealed and four to six weeks when opened. It doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. Pedro Ximenez and lasts  the longest when sealed, between 24 and 48 months. It keeps for one to two months when opened and doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. You can keep Palo Cortado for up to three years unopened, but it only lasts for one week when opened and has to be kept in the fridge. Oloroso lasts for two to three years unopened and for four to six weeks when opened. Moscatel is good for up to three years when sealed and one to two months when opened. Cream Sherry lasts for two to three years when sealed and four to six weeks when opened. The last three don’t need to be kept in the fridge.

The Best Sherries Out There

  • Pedro Ximenez Jerez Viego from the Bodegas Osborne Winery
  • Pedro Ximenez Jerez Noe Vors Aged 30 Years from the Gonzalez Byass Winery
  • Pedro Ximénez Jerez from the Bodegas Fernando de Castilla Winery
  • Pedro Ximénez Jerez Premium from the Bodegas Fernando de Castilla Winery
  • Oloroso Jerez from the Bodegas Dios Bac Winery
  • Pedro Ximénez Jerez Viejo from the Marqués Del Real Tesoro Winery
  • Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barra from the Bodegas Barbadillo
  • Manzanilla Jerez from the Bodegas Osborne Winery

So, What is Port?

Unlike Sherry, Port is always sweet, but like Sherry it comes in different varieties. You can get Ruby, White, Rose and Tawny port and these varieties all come in different styles. In fact, there are 52 styles of Port.

Port is produced in the Douro Valley in Portugal. Traditionally it was aged down river, but now a lot of wineries age the Port in the Douro Valley. The main grape used is the Touriga Nacional and it is blended with the Touriga Franca grape, the Tinto Barroca, the Tinto Roriz (which is also used to make Tempranillo), and Tinto Cao. Touriga Nacional is the national grape of Portugal and has flavours of blueberry and vanilla.

With Port, unlike Sherry, the fortifying spirit (Brandy) is added while the wine is fermenting. This leaves the wine with more residual sugar as the active yeast is killed off.  As a result, the wine is sweet and has a higher alcoholic content than Sherry. Port is fermented in containers called lagers. In the old days, the grapes were treaded by human feet but now mechanical feet are used. 

The History of Port

The Phoenicians from the Middle East conquered Portugal in the 10th century B.C. and they brought different grape varieties with them. They also introduced the Portuguese to new winemaking techniques. In the 7th century B.C. the Greeks brought other winemaking techniques with them. 

Wine has been produced in the Tagus vineyards near Setubal in Portugal since 2000 B.C. This is one of the most successful areas for producing wine. 

Between the 3rd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., the Romans ruled Portugal, which they called Lusitania. It was at this time that winemaking expanded and was established in the Douro Valley. It was consumed both in Portugal and also exported to Italy and the rest of the Roman Empire. 

Once the Roman Empire fell, Ordono, King of Northern Spain, took control of Portugal and gave all the vineyards to a monastic Christian order. However, in 1143 A,D, Portugal was established as a separate kingdom and traditional wine became an important export. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that Port was exported. The English had regular shipments of wine from Portugal from the 12th century. Due to tensions and wars between England and France, England couldn’t rely on shipments from France so they turned to Portugal. In 1386, the Treaty of Windsor was signed by England and Portugal and this solidified their alliance. In the 15th century, England exchanged salt cod for wine.

In 1679 the English Parliament banned the import of wine from France completely. This led France to import wine from Portugal. By 1685, they were importing 14000 tuns of wine a year. One tun is equal to 252 gallons which is a considerable amount. 

Around this time, English wine merchants discovered the Douro Valley and Port. They felt that because the wine was fortified it would cope with the journey to England. It would be just as good when it arrived in England as when it left. The Port was transported down the Douro Valley to the coast and was shipped from Vinto do Porto from where Port got its name. 

The first mention of Port we have in English records is from 1678. The records state that it was fortified with either Brandy or wine must at the end of fermentation. Now Brandy is added during fermentation which makes it sweeter and stronger. 

Initially prices were high but the 1703 Methuen Treaty decreased tariffs on Portuguese wines, while increasing them on French wines. During the War of Spanish Succession between 1701 and 1714, England only imported 4% of their wines from France while they were getting 66% from Portugal. 

Unfortunately, because Port and other wines from Portugal were popular, it did lead to some winemakers taking shortcuts which would save them money. They added extra sugar and elderberry juice to the Port which increased the alcohol content. They would also add spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper to increase the flavour. In addition, grapes from other vineyards were used instead of the Douro Valley grapes. This all led to a decrease in orders from England. 

The scandal led the Marquis of Pombal to create the Douro Wine Valley Company in 1756 in an attempt to stamp out the fraudsters. One of the first things he arranged was a demarcation of the Douro Valley vineyards. 335 stone pillars were set up and only grapes grown in this area were allowed to be used to make Port. It is one of the first established wine regions in the world. The Douro Wine Company supervised the whole production of Port starting at harvesting, then fermenting, ageing, and shipping to all corners of the globe. Because adding elderberry plants was a temptation to save costs, they were all destroyed.  

In 1757, Port wines were classified from the best down. The top Ports were Vintio de Feitoria. Winemakers could export them at a higher price than other Ports. Vintio de Ramo was cheaper and could only be sold in Portugal. 

The import of Port to England grew throughout the 18th century. In 1799, England purchased 44 million liters of Port, no mean feat. 

Adding wine must to Port decreased as the 18th century led to the 19th. Brandy was soon the only fortifying agent. It was more appreciated by the general public as it was sweeter, more alcoholic, and more aromatic.  

However, during the Napoleonic Wars , the Spanish and the French invaded Portugal and closed the ports to exports. Between 1807 and 1809, the French invaded the Douro Valley twice and stole as much Port as they could. They were unscrupulous and the winemakers suffered severe financial losses. The Portuguese were able to drive the French out by 1809 and exports of Port to England resumed. However, the tastes of the English had diversified and they were now importing Sherry, beer, chocolate, tea, and coffee. This led to a stagnant market despite the population of England growing. 

The Portuguese needed to do something to recoup the losses. They decreed that their colonies in West Africa and South America could only import wines from Portugal. To make matters worse, they charged them high prices. These could be five times as much as they charged England. 

In 1822, Brazil gained independence from Portugal and so that market was closed. Then, in the late 19th century, the vines were destroyed by the phylloxera plague as also happened in Spain with the Sherry grapes. To solve this problem, the winemakers uprooted the vines and replanted with vines from North America. These were resistant to the plague.

In 1932, Oliveira Salazart became the dictator of the second Republic of Portugal. His party was the Junta Nacional do Vintos and they persuaded small vineyard landowners to combine into a cooperative. This did bring structure to the wine industry, but later in the 20th century, Portugal became a democracy again. When the country joined the European Union in 1986, the legislation that helped cooperatives was overturned. However, all was not lost as the EU gave grants and subsidies to Portuguese winegrowers which gave them the opportunity to improve their wineries and the technologies used to make the wines. 

Throughout the 20th century, there has been a change in the type of person who has drunk Port. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the typical consumers were rich. It was very much an after dinner drink in wealthy households and it was generally Vintage Port which was served. However, by the 1970s, Port had become popular amongst all classes. In 1970, Taylor Fladgate introduced a Late Bottled Vintage which was high in quality, but also reasonably priced. An advantage it has over Vintage Port is that it is ready to drink when it is released as it is aged for a longer time.

The Different Varieties of Port

There are four varieties of Port.

Ruby Port

Ruby Port is mainly drunk as a dessert wine as it is sweet. It particularly pairs well with fruity desserts such as poached pears or an apple crumble. As the name suggests, it has a ruby red colour which is eye catching. It has flavours of fruits such as blackberries and raspberries, as well as notes of chocolate and cinnamon. It shouldn’t be served too cold, 60F is ideal.  

Ruby Port comes in four styles:

  • Ruby: Standard Ruby Port hasn’t been aged for long and is meant to be drunk while it is young. It is sweet with prominent fruit flavours. 
  • Reserve: Although this Port is similar to Vintage, it is meant to be drunk young.
  • Late Bottle Vintage: This Port is aged for between four and six years in wooden barrels. It is also supposed to be drunk young.
  • Vintage: Vintage Ruby Port is different to the other styles. It is first aged for two to three years in wooden barrels. Then it is bottled and aged for a further 20 to 40 years. There are two types of Vintage Ruby Port. The first is Crusted which has more than one vintage in it or harvest year. The other is Single Quinta. The grapes to make this Port come from just one single winery.

Tawny Port

Tawny Port should be served slightly chilled at a temperature between 50 – 58F. Unlike Ruby Port, Tawny Port is amber in colour. It has flavours of winter spices such as clove and cinnamon, figs, hazelnuts, raspberries and caramel. It is aged oxidatively.

There are six styles of Tawny Port:

  • Basic Tawny: This Port is aged for two years. It doesn’t have as much of a nutty flavour as other Tawny Ports do.
  • Colheita: This Port is aged for 10 years and is from a single harvest.
  • 10 Year Tawny Port: This Port is aged for at least 10 years and is a blend of vintages. The most prominent flavours are cinnamon and raspberry.
  • 20 Year Tawny Port: This is another blend and as the name suggests, it is aged for 20 years. You will taste cinnamon and caramel above all other flavours.
  • 30 Year Tawny Port: This is also a blend and is aged for a minimum of 30 years. It is nutty, smooth, and tastes of caramel.
  • 40 Year Tawny Port: This Tawny Port is aged for at least 40 years and is a blend. It has flavours of butterscotch and vanilla, it is nutty, and is very smooth.

White Port

White Port, which is golden in colour, is made in a similar way to red Port, but it has a shorter maceration time. It has flavours of citrus peel, toasted nuts, baked apples, apricot, and honey.

White Port is aged for up to seven years. It isn’t aged in wood, but in stainless steel or concrete.  It ranges from off-dry to very sweet and is low in acidity. It should be served chilled at temperatures between 42 and 50F. 

There are two types of White Port:

  • Standard: This is aged for a maximum of three years. It is light, off-dry, and tastes more of citrus than nuts.
  • Reserve: This is aged for seven years. It is bold, sweet, and tastes mainly of nuts.

Rose Port

Rose Port was first produced in 2005, aged for three years, and then released in 2008. It is like Ruby Port, but is fermented like a rose wine, meaning that it doesn’t have much exposure to grape skins. It is fruity, with flavours of cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry, with notes of caramel. It should be served nice and cold at around 39F.

What Food Can You Pair Port With?

Port can be served with main courses, especially barbecued foods, but it also goes well with cheese and biscuits, in particular, richly flavoured cheeses. Because of its nutty flavour, it pairs well with smoked nuts. Surprisingly, it also goes well with chocolate and caramel desserts. Remember that you serve Port in a glass smaller than a wine glass, one that holds approximately three ounces.

Port can be used in cooking. It can be added to chocolate cakes and sauces and as a reduction for savoury sauces. Ruby Port is the best Port to use in cooking. It gives flavours of cinnamon and red berries, such as raspberries and strawberries. 

Here’s what we think are the best choices for the different varieties of Port:

Ruby Port: Chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate fondant, poached pears, mature cheddar, blue cheeses like danablu and gorgonzola

Ruby Port Late Bottle Vintage: Stilton cheese, aged parmesan, chocolate, chocolate cake

Ruby Port Vintage: Plain chocolate, nuts, especially walnuts, figs, dates, blue cheeses such as gorgonzola and stilton

Tawny Port: Cheeses such as manchego, parmesan, pecorino, and cheddar, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, coconut cream pie, creme brulee, nuts such as almonds, and nutty biscuits

White Port: Salted Almonds and cashews, shellfish such as crabs and lobster, smoked salmon, sushi, cheeses such as gruyere and gouda, smoked meats, olives, fruit

How Long Can You Keep a Sealed and an Opened Bottle of Port For?

Vintage Port can be kept for a long time. Did you know that there are some bottles that are over 100 years old? However, all other Ports are best drunk soon after purchase. The cork determines how long you can keep a sealed bottle of Port. Most have plastic tops meaning that they should be drunk quickly. However, Vintage Ports have long traditional corks for which you need a corkscrew.

Sealed Port should be kept in a dark and cool place. A wine fridge is ideal as you can set the temperature. Port should be stored at around 60F. You can store them upright apart from Vintage and Crushed Port which should be kept on their sides. This helps to keep the cork moist which will stop it from breaking when you come to uncork the bottle. 

Once you open the Port, it should be kept in the fridge. You will need to remove it in good time before drinking so that it reaches the right temperature. Ruby Port can be kept for up to one month. Tawny Port, on the other hand, will last for up to two months. Unfortunately, Vintage Port doesn’t last as long. Young Vintage Port, that is Port which has been aged for less than five years, can be kept for four to five days. Older Vintage Port will only last for between two and three days.

Similar Wines to Port

Other fortified wines that are similar to Port are Madeira from the Portuguese island of Madeira, and Marsala from Sicily in Italy. There are some traditional wines that go well with desserts as does Port. These include Black Muscat, Chardonnay, Riesling, White Zinfandel, Syrah, and Chianti. Dry Vermouth also goes with desserts. This is a wine fortified with herbs and botanicals.

The Best Ports Out There

  • Vintage Port from the Quinta winery
  • Vintage Port from the Fonseca winery
  • Vintage Port from the Dow winery
  • Vintage Port from the Taylor Fladgate winery
  • Nacional Port from the Novel winery
  • Vintage Port from the Croft winery
  • Vintage Port From the Quinta al Vesuvio winery
  • Vintage Port from the Graham winery
  • Vintage Port Quinta da Eira Elba from the Martinez winery
  • Tawny Port 10 Year Old from the Niepoort winery
  • Vintage Port from the Martinez winery
  • Vintage Port from the Fonseca winery
  • Port Fine from the Delaforce winery
  • Vintage Character Port from the Dow winery

A Comparison Between Sherry and Port

Sherry and Port are both fortified wines and on the surface, they can seem quite similar. However, there are differences between them and in this part of the article we are going to take a look at both the similarities and differences. Chances are that you will prefer one over the other. Or maybe you like both, just for different occasions and food pairings. 

What is the Difference in Price Between Sherry and Port?

You don’t have to spend a fortune if you want to buy a fortified wine, although of course, you can find more expensive bottles of both Sherry and Port just as you can with traditional wines.  The price of Sherry starts from as little as around five pounds, although you’re probably looking at around 15 pounds for a decent bottle. However, if you want a Sherry which has been aged for 10, 20, or even 30 years, you could be looking at paying a few hundred pounds.

Port also starts at around five pounds, However, when you’re looking at the top end, you can pay more than for a Vintage bottle of Sherry. Believe it or not, a bottle of Port can cost as much as a few thousand pounds. You certainly wouldn’t want to knock over a glass of that! However, as with Sherry, you can buy a reasonable bottle of Port for around 15 pounds. 

Does the Process of Producing Sherry Differ From Port?

Both Sherry and Port are fortified with a distilled spirit, giving them a higher ABV than traditional wine. The spirit used is usually Brandy. However, the way in which the Brandy is added differs. With Sherry, the spirit is added at the end of the fermentation process. On the other hand, the spirit is added to Port halfway through the fermentation process. This kills the yeast and stops the fermentation process early. It also makes for a sweeter wine.

What Difference is There in Residual Sugars?

Sweet and dry wines refer to the residual sugars in the wine. Port is the sweeter wine because of the way it is fermented. If you want to make a sweet Sherry, you have to add the sugar at the end of the fermentation process. 

Port is made from many different grapes, while Sherry is made from just three, Palomino, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximenez. Red and Rose Port are made from Tinto Cao, Tinto Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca. White Port is made from Viosinto, Rabigato, Moscatel Galego, Malvasia Fina, and Gouveia.

What are the Varieties of Sherry and Port

Sherry comes in both sweet and dry varieties.

The dry varieties include;

  • Fino. This Sherry has an ABV of 15 – 17%. It is light-bodied and pale in colour.
  • Palo Cortado. This Sherry has limited production so is in demand. It is decadent and has more body than Fino.
  • Manzanillo Pasada. This Sherry is aged for a minimum of seven years. It is amber in colour, fragrant, full-bodied, and crisp.
  • Amontillado. This Sherry is also amber in colour, but is nutty rather than fragrant.
  • Oloroso. This is the darkest dry Sherry out there. It is a beautiful golden brown, It is full-bodied and tastes of raisins.

The sweet varieties include:

  • East India Sherry. This Sherry is very sweet and is a rich, brown colour. 
  • Moscatel. Moscatel is even sweeter than East India Sherry. It is almost like a syrup and would be great poured over ice cream. It is dark brown and has a low ABV compared to some other Sherries, usually around 15%. It isn’t produced in bulk so you may have to search for it.
  • Pale Cream. This is the least sweet of the sweet Sherries. It is golden in colour and has characteristics of Amontillado and Fino.
  • Medium Sherry.  This is also lightly sweetened. It has characteristics of Oloroso and Amontillado.
  • Brown Sherry. This Sherry is rich and dark. It is one of the best Sherries to have as a dessert wine.

There are just four main varieties of Port:

  • Ruby Port. This Port can be bought as either traditional or reserve. The reserve variety has to be aged for at least five years. It is a very fruity Port, with flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants, plums, and cherries.
  • Tawny Port. This comes in either traditional or vintage. It is a complex wine with flavours of caramel, raspberry, and baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • White Port. This Port can also be found in reserve varieties which have been aged for longer than seven years. It is light-bodied, not as sweet as other Ports, and has flavours of apricots, apples, nuts, and citrus.
  • Rose Port. Rose Port is rarely aged. It is very sweet and has flavours of strawberries and raspberries. There are also some caramel notes.

What are the Differences in Flavour Between Port and Sherry?

Port is more fruit-forward than Sherry. You can often taste berries and citrus. Sherry tends to taste more of caramel, toffee and molasses.

Are There Any Differences in How Long You Can Store Sherry and Port?

Port generally lasts a little bit longer than Sherry. For example, Fino and Manzanilla Sherry should be drunk within a few days while Tawny Port can last as long as six months after it has been opened.

A Summary of the Differences Between Sherry and Port

Although Sherry and Port are both fortified wines, there are many differences between them.

  • Sherry comes in both dry and sweet options, while Port is sweet.
  • Sherry has many varieties, while Port has just four.
  • Sherry is made from just three grapes while Port is made from many.
  • Sherry doesn’t last long once it is opened while Port can last for up to six months,
  • Sherry tastes of dried fruit, caramel, toffee, and molasses. Port tastes of fruit, especially citrus and berry, with some caramel notes.
  • Sherry pairs well with seafood, light chocolate desserts, cured meats, and cheeses. Port also goes well with cheese, but it goes better with dark chocolate desserts and fruit desserts.
  • Sherry is aged in wooden casks. Pork is aged in stainless steel or concrete barrels.
  • Sherry is lighter than Port.
  • Sherry has an ABV of around 15 – 18%, while Port can go up to an ABV of 20%
  • Sherry comes from Spain. Port comes from Portugal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Sherry Stronger Than Wine?

Yes, Sherry, like most fortified wines, is stronger than traditional wines. The average ABV of wine is between 11 and 13 ABV, while Sherry ranges from 15 – 18 ABV Sherry, however, does not have as high an ABV as Port does.

How Long Can I Keep Port For?

Port can be kept for up to six months as long as you keep it in the fridge.

Is Port Calorific?

Fortified wines contain around twice as much sugar as traditional wine. A two ounce glass of Port comes in at around 100 calories.

Excellent Port Wines and Sherries

Perhaps you are new to Sherry or Port and feel a bit overwhelmed by the choice out there. If so, let us help you with a few suggestions.


  • Bodegas Dios Baco Cream Sherry. This is a cream sherry from Jerez. It is gold in colour and has notes of caramel and baking spices, especially cinnamon. There is also a hint of toffee, chocolate, and honey. This is a great Sherry to have with nibbles before a meal., such as nuts and olives. However, you can also have it with a meal. It pairs especially well with seafood such as prawns and mussels.
  • Gonzalez Byass Del Duque Amontillado. This is an Amontillado Sherry from Jerez. It is dry, full-bodied, and has notes of caramel, almonds and hazelnuts. It would go well with an antipasti plate of cured meats, cheeses, olives, and focaccia. Mature cheese like Asiago is a great accompaniment to this Sherry.
  • Osborne Cream Sherry. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love this Sherry as it is very sweet. It tastes of caramel, dried fruit, and oak. It pairs well with fruit -based desserts like poached pears and apple pie.
  • Emilio Lustau East India Solera. This is another sweet Sherry with notes of toasted almonds, dried fruit, chocolate, and baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. It pairs well with chocolate desserts like mousse or chocolate fondant and baked apples. It would also go well with a sweet and spicy chicken.


  • Taylor’s Fine Ruby Port. This Port is a classic and it goes with a wide variety of foods. Pair it with appetizers such as prawn cocktail, chicken liver pate, or mussels. It is also good with a cheese board. The best cheeses to choose are blue cheeses such as gorgonzola and stilton. This Port has flavours of berries such as raspberries and blackberries, with a hint of dark chocolate.
  • Quinta Das Cacvaltias Tawny. This is a full-bodied and rich Tawny Port, but it’s not too overpowering. You will taste nuts, marmalade, toffee and raisins. It goes well with all sorts of desserts, both fruit-based and chocolate-based.
  • Quinta Nova Late Bottle Vintage Port 2013. This is inexpensive for a vintage Port. It is fruity, with notes of blackberries, blackcurrants, and plums. It  pairs well with fruit based desserts such as apple pie and baked apples. It also wouldn’t go amiss with a pumpkin pie.
  • Fonseca Ruby Port. This is a great Port to serve at a party. It is silky and just slides down. The main flavour you will taste is cherry. It pairs well with fruit, fruit desserts, and chocolate desserts. Try it with cherry pie or you could even just have it with chocolates.

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