Recommended aged tawny ports

Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 12:37 PM

In general, a 10-year-old tawny port will taste of roasted nuts, with some caramel and a hint of citrus and spice. A 20-year-old will emphasize dried citrus and exotic wood spice. Aged tawny can be savored over a few weeks: Keep the opened bottle in the refrigerator to preserve its freshness, and allow the wine to warm up somewhat before drinking. Aged tawny typically notes the bottling year on the back label; the more recent (within two or three years), the better.

Fonseca 20 Year Old

Portugal, $53

This really should be three stars with a rocket. Fonseca is a sister house of Taylor Fladgate, and the wines of both are made by David Guimaraens. Fonseca ports, however, tend to be more exuberant and lusty than the Taylors. The Fonseca 20 is seductive, with a lush palate and flavors of earth, wood, dried fig and tea. One sip of this, and life is good. If your store has only the 10 Year Old, don't hesitate to try it, but keep looking for the 20.

Kobrand/Republic National: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, Calvert Woodley, Circle Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Martin's Wine & Spirits, Schneider's of Capitol Hill; on the list at CityZen, Kinkead's, Legal Seafoods, Morton's, Taberna del Alabardero.

Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old

Portugal, $53

Richer than most, the Taylor's 20 keeps a stiff upper lip of respectability, coated with caramel and orange and seasoned with cloves and cardamom. The 10 Year Old ($30, 2 stars) is more widely available in stores and restaurants, and is also terrific.

Kobrand/Republic National: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, Ace Beverage, Bell Wine & Spirits, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Continental Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Magruder's, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Washington Wine & Liquor; on the list at 1789, Bourbon Steak, Cafe Milano, Charlie Palmer Steak, Morton's, Occidental Grille, many others.

Sao Pedro Aged 10 Years

* 1/2
Portugal, $35-$37

This wine comes in an attractive bottle that is reusable as a decanter, making it an extra-nice gift. Don't let the flashy packaging fool you: The wine is quite good, tasting of creme caramel, roasted cashews and spice.

M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, Barrel House Liquors, Bloomingdale Liquor, Cairo Wine & Liquor, Mayfair Liquors, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Sherry's Fine Wine & Spirits, Watergate Wine & Beverage. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac; Frederick Wine House; Meridian Market and Wine and Montgomery Gourmet Beer & Wine in Bethesda; the Perfect Pour in Elkridge; Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City; Pinky's West Street Liquors in Annapolis; Richburn Discount Liquors in Columbia; Rodman's in White Flint; Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; Sugarloaf Wine Cellar in Germantown; the Wine Shoppe in Waldorf. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and the Italian Store in Arlington; Balducci's locations in McLean and Alexandria; various Wegmans locations; Cork & Fork in Gainesville; Leesburg Vintner; Tastings and Round Hill Gourmet in Charlottesville; on the list at Julien's Cafe in Middleburg.

Dow's 20 Year Old

** 1/2
Portugal, $53

Dow's house style features an iodine, saline quality in both the 10- and 20-year-old tawnies, adding an intriguing note to the butterscotch and spicy citrus flavors.

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