When it comes to cooking, wine brings out the best in a dish whether you are cooking with it or drinking it. It enhances and brings out the flavor of a dish and even magnifies the aroma, turning a simple dish into a multi-sensorial experience.
Despite what many believe, wine isn’t meant to mask the flavor of your food, but rather to make it stronger, which is why you should care, not only about the quality of the wine you’re using, but also the amount and the type.
Indeed, cooking with wine is not a task you should take lightly so what can you do if you’re cooking something that requires wine and you’re all out of it? See below for a list of substitutes for port wine that can help you cook a wonderful dish without having to rush to the store!
How To Choose The Best Substitute For Port Wine
What is Port Wine?
Port is a fortified wine, made with distilled grapes so it has a higher alcohol content than traditional wine. It is much sweeter, and is usually a dessert wine.
Traditionally, Port is made in Portugal. However, port-style wines are also made in other places throughout the world, including the US. Like all wines, there are different varietals of port based on grapes used. Port often has flavors of raspberry, blackberry, caramel, cinnamon and chocolate.
As noted below, there are a few varietals of Port wine, but the two primary styles are Ruby port and Tawny port. The difference between the two is the amount of time spent aging in casks; Ruby is younger. Ruby tends to be a bit less sweet with berry and chocolate flavors. Tawny has more nut and caramel flavors.
There are also aged Tawny ports. When you go to a restaurant with Port wine, you will see the Tawny ports listed by age, with the oldest most often being the sweetest and the most expensive. As Tawny port ages, it develops complex characteristics and often has more jammy notes with flavors from peppercorn to butterscotch.
Port wine- like any wine- has different notes and flavors so before you find the best substitute for port wine, there a few things to keep in mind.
Like most wines, port wine comes in different varietals. You have to make sure you know which one your recipe calls for so you can choose the best replacement. As discussed above, the most common varietals of Port wine are Ruby and Tawny.
- Ruby Port: a deeply-colored red Port, often less sweet with berry and chocolate notes
- Tawny Port: a very sweet barrel-aged port with caramel and hazelnut notes
- White Port: is made with white grapes
- Rosé Port: is made like rosé wine with more floral flavors like violet and strawberry
If the recipe doesn’t clarify what kind of port wine it needs, then you can always make an educated guess:
Tawny Port is commonly used for fish recipes, though it can also be used for chicken and poultry as well.
In general, you can say that the wine you’d pair a dish with is also the wine you’d use to cook it with.
It goes without saying that the quality of the wine is important. You don’t have to buy expensive wine to cook with, but as a general rule, avoid cooking with wine you wouldn’t drink on its own.
With that in mind, below are the list of substitutes for port wine that can help you have a great recipe. However, when substituting red wine for port, keep in mind it is best to add to the sweetness and alcohol content. If you use any of the below red wines, consider adding 1 part alcohol (vodka or brandy) and 1/4 part sugar for every 2 parts of red wine you use.
Substitutes for Ruby Port
When finding a substitute for port wine, try to match the flavors. Keep in mind that these wines listed below can vary so try to find red wines with notes of berry and chocolate when replacing ruby port. Try to find a red wine with caramel or hazelnut notes when replacing a tawny port. Because of its sweet and fruity flavor, Port wine can be substituted by wines with the same characteristics, such as:
Chianti has a fruity flavor with hints of cherry that make it a decent substitute for Port. Keep in mind that the acidity that the wine will cut through the rich fat of some dishes so use carefully.
One of the post popular wines for beginners, Zinfandel has a fruity flavor and medium acidity that can work as a substitute for Port. However, since this is one of the wines with the lowest alcoholic contents, the texture of the food may change so again, consider adding 1 part brandy and 1/4 part sugar for 2 parts Zinfandel. Particularly if you’re using the wine for a sauce.
This popular wine can serve as replacement for port when you’re in a hurry. It has a fruity flavor that goes well with various ingredients and its full bodied characteristics bring it close to the port in texture.
We’ve come to the end of the list of substitutes for port wine, thank you very much for reading!
If you have any comments, questions, doubts or you know of another substitute for port wine, we should add to this list let us know in the comments.
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Other Substitutes for Port Wine
Other good substitutes for Port are Madeira, Dry Vermouth, Black Muscat, Fruit Juice and even Chicken Stock.
Just like the port, this is a fortified wine that can give a lot of hints of flavor to your dish. While it can be used as a substitute to ruby port, this wine works much better with poultry, sauces and acidic recipes.
5. Dry Vermouth
Vermouth is a fortified wine, just as madeira and port. This means it can be used for cooking and it can be infused with herbs and spices. However, you have to keep in mind that vermouth has a very strong flavor and alcoholic content which can alter the flavor of your dish or even overwhelm it if you’re using too much.
6. Black Muscat
Thanks to its sweet and fruity flavors, black muscat is a good replacement for ruby ports but keep in mind that muscat is often considerably sweeter so it might change the flavor of your dish if you’re not careful.
7. Fruit Juice
As you can imagine, fruit juice can be a great replacement for port wine. You can also add 1 part brandy with 2 parts fruit juice to maintain the benefits of cooking with alcohol.
As we discussed above, port wine has many varietals. It is important to stay true to the flavors you are trying to replace when choosing a substitute for port wine in your recipe. If you are replacing a ruby port wine, try to choose a red wine with berry notes. If you are trying to replace a tawny port, then look for a red wine with more caramel, jammy flavors. You can also add 1 part alcohol and 1/4 sugar to the 2 parts of wine that you use to make up for the alcohol content and sweetness.
I hope this helps you find a substitute for port wine! Please leave us a comment and let us know what worked for you!
You may also enjoy reading: Wine and Cheese Pairing.