Brawny Tawny

There are two things you can count on with holiday drinks: That they're sweet and high in alcohol. If you like those two aspects yet you don't want to skip out on wine, we suggest you sip port through the holiday party season.

No, port is not just for old men playing pinochle. It's incredibly flavorful, and pairs perfectly with nuts, fruit, cheese and chocolate. Although there are several types of port, all aged differently (they start out the same, with the grapes crushed and fermentation stopped by adding brandy), we suggest you start with tawny port.

Tawnies are affordable and strike a beautiful balance of fruity and nutty characters. The ones you're most likely to find are 10-, 20- and 40-year tawny ports, with the 10-years starting at about $25 a bottle. To be called a 10-year tawny, the majority of the wine's blend is at least 10 years of age or older. In a 20-year tawny, the majority of the blend must be at least 20 years old. And so on.

In general, the older the tawny port, the nuttier and more complex the wine tends to be. But the best part is that once you open a tawny, you can take your time with the bottle over a month or so. Since the wine aged for several years in big barrels — unlike ruby ports, which are bottled soon after fermentation — it's already been exposed to oxygen. A little more doesn't hurt it, so you can relax and sip the wine slowly.

Have a favorite port? Tell us about it below.