Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin
When it comes to wine, there’s a fascinating face-off between Tawny and Ruby Port, two treasures from Portugal. These wines have been pleasing the taste buds of wine lovers for centuries.
As a wine enthusiast, I’ve dived into both Tawny and Ruby Port extensively. If you’re torn between Tawny vs Ruby Port wines, I’m here to share my observations on this fascinating comparison.
Tawny & Ruby Port Wines In-Depth Comparison
Let me start by dissecting the key differences and similarities between Tawny and Ruby Port.
Tawny Port and Ruby Port are different styles of Port wine (alongside Vintage Port, White Port, and Rosé Port), but both are fortified wines.
Although they both hail from Douro Valley, Portugal, they diverge significantly in several aspects.
Tawny Port displays an amber hue with complex, nutty flavors. Using wooden barrels, it gains its distinct character from the longer aging process, often decades.
This longer aging process exposes the wine to oxygen, leading to oxidation that imparts a mellow, rounded taste.
What I like most about Tawny Port is its different styles and nuanced flavors, with notes of dried fruits, caramel, and nuts. I can say that Tawny Port is a wine that exudes elegance and sophistication.
“Port wine is where time, tradition, and terroir merge to create a timeless symphony of flavors in every glass.” – Liquor Laboratory
On the other hand, Ruby Port boasts a deep ruby color with a bold, fruity flavor. Unlike Tawny, which has a lighter color, Ruby Port spends less time in contact with oxygen, preserving its youthful vigor and robust berry notes.
This wine is typically aged for a shorter period, making it my go-to choice whenever I seek a fresher, fruit-forward wine experience.
Ruby Port is a fruity wine, having flavors of black fruits and red fruits, like ripe red berries, plums, and cherries, with a hint of spice. I can say that Ruby Ports are wines bursting with youthful energy.
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Ruby Port vs Tawny Port Comparison Table
|Characteristic||Tawny Port||Ruby Port|
|Flavor Profile||Nutty, Caramel, Dried Fruits||Fruity, Berry, Spice|
|Aging||Extended, Decades||Shorter Duration|
|Sweetness||Varies (Dry to Sweet)||Sweet|
|Body||Medium to Full||Full|
|Serve Temperature||Slightly Chilled (58-65°F)||Room Temperature (65-70°F)|
|Occasions||After-Dinner Sipper, Special Occasions||Everyday Enjoyment|
|Popular Brands||Taylor’s, Graham’s, Dow’s||Fonseca, Sandeman, Cockburn|
Head-To-Head Port Wine Battle
Ruby and Tawny Port diverge dramatically in their aging processes. Tawny undergoes a longer aging process using wooden barrels, which allows it to develop rich, complex flavors over time.
In contrast, Ruby Port is aged for a shorter duration in a way that retains its youthful fruitiness.
So, if you’re after single vintage Ports, aged Tawny Port wines are the best picks, particularly the Fonseca 40-Year-Old Tawny Port and Dow’s 40-Year-Old Tawny Port wines.
Both the Ruby and Tawny Port are fortified wines that start as red grapes, primarily Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca grapes.
However, the key difference lies in the fermentation process. Tawny’s fermentation is typically stopped early, preserving its sweetness.
Meanwhile, Ruby Ports ferment longer, giving Port a more intense, tannic profile.
The grape varieties used for Tawny Ports and Ruby Ports are the same. When making Ruby and Tawny Ports, the grape varieties  used include:
- Touriga Nacional (the best Port grapes)
- Touriga Franca
- Tinta Roriz
- Tinta Barroca
- Tinto Cão
However, it’s the decisions of the Port houses during production that set them apart, making another major difference between the two.
Tawny Port styles rely on careful oxidation and barrel aging, whereas Ruby Ports aim to preserve the natural vibrancy of the grape spirit.
Tawny Port and Ruby Port share a similar ABV range of around 19-20% ABV.
Another big difference between these wines is the complexity of their flavors. Tawny’s long aging and oxidation result in a more intricate flavor profile, exuding nuts, caramel, and dried fruit notes.
In contrast, Ruby Port wine boasts a straightforward, fruit-forward flavor characterized by red berries and spices. It’s an excellent introduction to the world of fortified wine.
In short, whenever I prefer complexity, Tawny Port, specifically older Tawny Ports, are my go-to wines.
Sizes of Oak Barrels
Both Ruby and Tawny Ports  are typically aged in oak barrels, but the size of the barrels differs.
Tawny Ports matured in small oak barrels, allowing greater interaction with the wood. So, using small wooden barrels makes for a bolder oak influence.
On the other hand, Ruby Port wines are aged in larger wood barrels, imparting a subtler influence.
I find Tawny’s complexity and versatility an excellent choice for sipping after dinner or on special occasions, particularly the aged Tawny Ports, like Taylor Fladgate and Quinta do Noval.
While a Ruby Port wine, with its youthful character, can be enjoyed on a special occasion, I find it much suited as an everyday enjoyment, especially basic Ruby Port wines.
How It’s Served
I prefer Tawny Port slightly chilled, while Ruby Port wine shines at room temperature. Actually, the serving temperature depends on your preference.
Price & Value
Tawny Port often commands a higher price per bottle due to its longer period of aging, making it a higher-quality wine option.
- Aged Tawny Ports (bottle aged for decades) can cost hundreds of dollars per bottle.
- Basic Tawny Ports (aged 2-3 years) and Tawny Reserve (aged at least six years) are priced at around $20 per bottle.
Conversely, Ruby Port presents excellent value for its fruity character and affordability.
- A basic Ruby Port wine (aged 2-3 years) is usually priced at around $15 per bottle.
- But high-quality Ruby Ports can be as pricey as Tawny Ports with age indication.
Depending on your budget, one might be a more appealing choice than the other.
With its dried fruit, nutty, and caramel notes, Tawny Port pairs well with Foie Gras, desserts like crème brûlée and pecan pie, and aged hard cheeses.
“Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.” – Joan Collins, Actress and Writer
Ruby Port’s fruitiness and floral notes make it an excellent match for chocolate-based desserts, berry tarts, and blue cheese.
Which is better for cooking, Port or Tawny Port?
Tawny’s nutty and caramel notes are better for cooking rich, savory dishes, while a regular Port wine  can add a fruity sweetness to sauces and desserts.
Is Tawny Port dry or sweet?
Tawny Port can range from dry to sweet, depending on the style and aging process. You can find basic Tawny Ports that span the entire sweetness spectrum, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet.
Both Tawny and Ruby Port have their well-deserved spots, each shining in its unique way. But if I were to pick the best fortified wine, I would prefer Tawny over Ruby Ports.
The nuances of aging and the more complex flavor profile of Tawny Port impress me the most. Its extended barrel aging creates a wine that exudes sophistication and depth of flavor.
But I would suggest Ruby Port if you seek a wine  that bursts with youthful vitality. You’ll appreciate its vibrant hue and bold fruity flavor, perfect for everyday enjoyment.