Very dark chocolate and pungent runny cheeses are two of our favorite holiday desserts and nothing complements them better than a nice port. Port wines are fortified and carry an alcohol content of about 20 percent by volume, making them both a muscular match for assertively flavored after dinner treats and drinkable for six to eight weeks after opening. A good port also makes an excellent gift for hosts at this peak party season.
One of the best values around, and one of our longtime favorites, is Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto (about $20 at big box stores and some wine shops) from Portugal's Douro Valley, the region best known for fine ports.
This lovely and beautifully balanced blend is aged in oak for three years before bottling, and so is a relatively young and fresh example of its kind. It is smoothly fruit forward (ripe plum, fig and dark cherry), deep red in the glass (serve it in a white wine glass rather than tiny cordial glasses to appreciate its full savor) and darkly sweet overall with plenty of tannin backbone. Its finish is long and lingering.
This is a stylish port at a very good price and has been called "everyday port for the vintage port drinker," a judgment in which we heartily concur.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.