Beginners Corner

Snooth User: InsaneLampshade

Tawny wines?

Posted by InsaneLampshade, Jan 16, 2012.

I'm really not much of a wine drinker, but I do like the occasional glass of port (the well aged tawny ports especially), is there an equivalent in the wine world? Basically very oaky and smooth like an aged tawny port, but with wine levels of alcohol and viscosity?

I'm finding most of the (admittedly cheap) red wines people keep giving me to try are harsh and a bit too fruity for my liking (more like a ruby port than a tawny port). Is it just a case of going for something expensive and well aged, or would there be a paticular type more suited to me?


Reply by Matt Walker, Apr 10, 2012.

Something that might help is to understand what makes Tawny Port different than other wines.  The way a port becomes tawny of course is from extended BARREL aging.  The wine's fruit components are slowly replaced by secondary flavors from oxidation and wood contact.  So the question becomes, what other wines go through this? 

It sounds like you're looking to find non-fortified, perhaps non-dessert wines that might have a similar flavor profile.

And you're in luck as there is one, common enough wine, that does spend a great deal of its time in barrel: Rioja Gran Reservas.  These wines by law must sit in barrel for 2 years but many spend considerabley more time there. Now these wines aren't cheap but they are not always extraordinarily expensive either.  These wines also benefit from extra long bottle aging before release which gives their tannins (the component of red wine that can be "harsh" "dry" or "astringent") time to mellow and mature.  Note this is a dry wine, it will have no sweetness like a port whatsoever.  Riojas are not the only wines like this but they're probably the most available and affordable.

There is another dessert wine (non-fortified) that has a similar flavor profile to Tawny port which is Vin Santo from Tuscany.

Hope at least some of this is helpful/useful!


Reply by GregT, Apr 11, 2012.

"very oaky and smooth like an aged tawny port, but with wine levels of alcohol and viscosity"

Well, as you know Port is fortified, so wine will have lower alcohol levels. And the viscosity of Port comes in large part from the very high sugar levels. So you're aware of the fact that the alcohol and viscosity levels of table wine will be different.

In addition, one of the things that you seem to be liking about tawney is the oxidized nature of the wine. That comes from aging but you can get oxidized wines other ways - by allowing them to oxidize from exposure to air.  The tawneys get the oxygen through extended barrel aging, but if the barrels are sealed and topped regularly, you don't really get the same level of oxidation.  The oxidation is what gives you the caramel and toffee notes in a tawny.

So if you like that, you can try oloroso sherries.  That would be the logical next step. Those are also fortified and oxidized and can be aged for many years.  Some can be sweetened with dried, raisined grapes.  Or you can try Madeira, which is similar to Port but is also put thru heating. Those are the most likely.

Then in the south of France, in Hungary, and in other parts of Spain, they also make oxidized wines but you're less likely to find them on the store shelves.

If you want something less oxidized but smooth and non-tannic, I second the notion to go for an older Rioja.  They'll be non-fortified and won't be nearly as oxidized and will have fairly high acidity levels.  Some will be more oaky than others. Ditto Barolo or Barbaresco or any wine that's been aged for a long time.  The idea is that the tannins soften over time, which is one reason for aging wine.

Good luck.

Reply by joebernardinoATyahoo, Apr 11, 2012.

Oaky earthy cabernet maybe? Beringer Knight's Valley Cabernet is one of my favorites

Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

125836 Snooth User: dmcker
87 posts
1498622 Snooth User: Really Big Al
1498622Really Big Al
79 posts
324443 Snooth User: outthere
68 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network