Tawny vs Ruby Port Wine – What is the Difference?

tawny port vs port


Wine lovers, welcome to another wonderful adventure around the wine world! Today, we begin an exciting investigation into the enduring rivalry between Tawny and Ruby Port, two adored members of the Port wine family.

Each taste of these Port wines conveys a story of legacy, artistry, and charm, from the sun-kissed terraced vineyards to the vaults where time works its magic. 

Join us as we explore the subtleties, tastes, and traits that distinguish Tawny and Ruby Port wines in a fun contest of taste and customs!

I. Ruby Port vs Tawny Port Grapes

Despite having similar Portuguese roots, Tawny and Ruby Ports are produced from different grape varietals, giving them unique qualities that make them stand out.

Ruby Port Wine Grapes

The brilliant red fruits that come from a combination of indigenous grape varietals like Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca form the basis of Ruby Port.

The deep crimson color, full-bodied structure, and exquisite fruity flavors of Ruby Port wine are a result of these young, vivacious grapes.

Tawny Port Wine Grapes

On the other hand, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão are just a few of the older grape varietals that go into the making of Tawny Port. These mature grapes give Tawny Port its exquisite amber tone, which distinguishes it from its ruby-colored sibling.

We’ll soon find out that aging has a significant impact on how Tawny Ports turns out in the end.

II. Difference Between Ruby and Tawny Port Color

One of the most significant differences between Tawny and Ruby Port wines lies in their mesmerizing hues.

Ruby Port Wine Color

True to its name, Ruby Port has a vivid, deep-red color that exudes freshness and vigor. This rich color is the consequence of the wine’s brief maturation in hardwood barrels, which was done to maintain the wine’s youthful fruity qualities.

Tawny Port Wine Color

Tawny Port encompasses a spectrum of alluring hues that range from deep, reddish-brown tones to golden amber. The prolonged aging of the wine in wooden barrels, which allows it to mellow, oxidize, and acquire nuanced nutty, spicy, and caramel notes, is the key to this kaleidoscope of colors.

III. Maturation: The Aging Journey

When it comes to the maturation process, there is a distinction between the two wines.

Ruby Port Maturation

After fermentation, Ruby Ports are normally aged for a short amount of time, usually a few years, in stainless steel tanks or big oak barrels.

This method retains the wine’s youth and brings out the best flavors of the ripe fruit. The result is a rich and robust Ruby Port wine with a pleasant flavor profile that is bursting with the scent of fresh berries and cherries.

The short maturation time of Ruby Port ensures that it retains its vivid fruit-forward character, making it the ideal choice for those looking for instant enjoyment.

Tawny Port Maturation

Tawny Ports purposefully have a longer aging process than Ruby Ports. Smaller oak barrels are used to age the wine for a prolonged period, allowing for regulated oxygen exposure.

Tawny Port gains a captivating range of nutty, caramel, and toffee flavors from this oxidation, as well as a silky-smooth texture. The wine becomes more complex as it ages because it acquires flavors of dried fruits, spices, and a faint hint of wood.

The oldest and most magnificent Tawny Ports, which are frequently matured for several decades, exhibit a tapestry of flavors that appear to defy the passage of time.

IV. Time’s Embrace: Age Indications

Age is another characteristic that distinguishes Ruby and Tawny Ports.

Ruby Ports Age

Ruby Port labels clearly state the age of the product. Three classifications are frequently found: Ruby Port, Reserve Ruby Port, and Late Bottled Vintage Port(LBV). Ruby Ports are a blend of fresh wines with fruity explosions that have undergone minimal aging.

Reserve Ruby Port wines are aged a little bit longer, adding richness and depth. LBVs, on the other hand, are aged in barrels for a long time without decanting, approaching the complexity of Vintage Port.

The age indicators provide consumers with flexibility in choosing the ideal wine for their preferences and occasions by providing information about the wine’s general character and suitability for consumption.

Tawny Ports Age

The age indicators on Tawny Port labels merit special attention since they reflect the meticulous craftsmanship invested in these fine elixirs. Typically, the classifications are 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old; on rare occasions, a 20, 30, or 40 years old with the word “Colheita” (meaning harvest) is also included.

These names denote the average age of the blend; as the wine ages in oak barrels, it develops greater levels of sophistication, refinement, and complexity.

Aged Tawny Ports can acquire a fascinating variety of flavors due to the prolonged maturing process, ranging from vivid dried fruits and honeyed nuts in the younger expressions to luxurious toffee, aged leather, and exotic spices in the elderly expressions.

With each sip, we are invited to learn more about the wine’s lengthy and illustrious history through the labels, which bear their age indications.

V. Serving Temperatures: The Temperature Tango

We reach a critical component of wine appreciation – the art of serving temperatures for Tawny and Ruby Port wines.

Ruby Port Serving Temperature

When served cold and refreshing, Ruby Port thrives, much like a vivacious dance partner. Typically, Ruby Port should be served at a temperature between 60°F and 65°F (15°C and 18°C). With each sip, your senses are captivated by the wine’s bright, fruit-forward characteristics thanks to this chilly embrace.

At this temperature, the robust flavors of cherries, blackberries, and plums spring forth, revitalizing the palette with their youthful energy. When combined with the fruit’s exuberance, the touch of wood from the brief maturing period adds a delicate depth as well.

Consider slightly chilling Ruby Port to the lower end of the advised range if you are going to consume the wine during warm summer evenings or lively gatherings.

As a result of the cooler temperature, the Ruby Port wine will become even more refreshing, turning into a lovely aperitif before a delicious dinner or a delightful companion for outdoor parties.

Tawny Port Serving Temperature

As we tango to the more subtle and time-honored elegance of Tawny Port, we realize that it prefers a somewhat warmer temperature than its younger counterpart. To allow its complex flavors to develop elegantly on the palate, Tawny Port should be served between 65°F and 68°F (18°C and 20°C).

The prolonged maturing of Tawny Port in little wood casks has created a tapestry of aromas that call for a loving embrace. At this temperature, the notes of dried fruits, toasted nuts, and delicate spices emerge, inviting you to feel the beautiful richness that time has bestowed upon this fine wine.

Serving Tawny Port at the top end of the range enhances its velvety mouthfeel and brings out its complex flavors during cooler evenings or small gatherings. The wine is prompted by the soft heat to exhibit its undiscovered allure, giving you a lingering and unforgettable experience.

VI. The Perfect Occasion

But what about the perfect occasion for both Ruby Port and Tawny Port wines?

Ruby Port

Ruby Port has a vibrant and fruity taste that pairs remarkably well with a variety of cheeses, chocolate desserts, and even spicy foods, making it the perfect wine companion for informal gatherings. Its vivacious nature makes it a go-to option for those impromptu occasions.

Infusing the occasion with enthusiasm and camaraderie, Ruby Port adds its vivid personality to the table, whether it’s a fun picnic with friends or a warm evening by the fireside.

Tawny Port

With its elegant and sophisticated profile, aged Tawny Port needs some quiet time for reflection. Enjoy it alone as a post-meal treat or with aged cheeses, almonds, or rich desserts like crème brûlée or pecan pie. Your favorite moments will be made memorable by its flavorful harmony. Explore some more wine and dessert pairing ideas here.

The versatility of Tawny Port extends to those who enjoy exquisite cigars since it enhances the taste of both wine and smoke by blending flavors that go well together.


Tawny and Ruby Ports are two exceptional pillars of excellence in the wonderful world of Portuguese wines, each with its special qualities and allure.

While the mature and polished Tawny Port enchants with its delicate nutty and caramel overtones, the youthful and vivacious Ruby Port charms with its exuberant fruitiness.

Exploring both Tawny and Ruby Port wines will take you on a spectacular journey of discovery and delight, whether you are drawn to the vivacity of youth or the experience of age. So grab a bottle of wine and join us on our journey through the fascinating Portuguese winemaking tapestry!

Stan Kushkin