13 Wines Most Similar to Port That You Can Use for Cooking

It’s no secret that cooking with wine is a popular hobby. 

Whether you like to experiment with the different flavors or just want to make that dinner special for your loved ones, cooking with wine is a surefire way to do so. 

But what about using wine as an ingredient? How would we use it if we don’t have any sauces or other seasoning? 

Wouldn’t it be better to avoid using the odd food altogether? 

Unfortunately, there are no exact matches when it comes to pairing Port and other dishes. 

However, some wines also have similar taste and appearance once they’re used in cooking. 

The wines most similar to port would include Chianti, Sherry, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Madeira.

What is Special About Port Wine?

Port wine is a fortified wine made from one-of-a-kind blend of Portuguese grapes indigenous to the country. 

This means that during the aging process brandy is added to the mix leaving Port wine with much higher alcohol content at the end.

Most wines land around 12.5% to 14.5% whereas Port clocks in at 17-20%.

How is Port Wine Different from Regular Wine?

Port wine, due to its alcohol content and sweet nature tends to serve as an aperitif or dessert wine. It’s designed for sipping.

There are 4 types of Port:

  • Red
  • Tawny (aged)
  • Rosé
  • White

Despite being a sweeter wine, its acidity levels are unusually low, which is why it’s used in many desserts and pairs well with chocolate, cheesecake, pies, and truffles. 

What Kind of Wine is Similar to Port in Cooking?

  1. Chianti

Chianti shares Port wine’s sweet and fruity flavors alongside that full-bodied nature. 

Known for its cherry notes, chianti can make a great Port wine cooking substitute with adjustments.

Chianti is considered a dryer wine, more so than Port. In addition, it also is more acidic. These two characteristics will make it a more noticeable addition to your dish, especially if it has a higher fat content.

While Chianti is a wine most similar to Port, you’ll want to use less and taste as you go. It can quickly overpower all your other flavors. 

  1. Zinfandel

While much lighter in color, zinfandel still carries those fruity notes similar to Port. 

Taking a step further you’ll find notes of cherry, nectarines, and raspberry. 

Zinfandel can easily replace Port in recipes that have poultry as the main affair, as well as casseroles or even desserts.

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Its drier nature doesn’t make it the best replacement in sauces though.

  1. Shiraz

This darker, spicy wine is a great Port wine substitute in cooking. 

Its fruity base carries notes of black pepper making it fantastic for stews and dark meats.

Aged in wood barrels, much like port, Shiraz will impart many of the same flavors to your dish.

  1. Merlot

Why not pair another ruby red wine to match that brilliant red color of your favorite, if not missing bottle of Port?

Merlot also prides itself on a brilliant color combined with those desired fruity notes. 

With the addition of plums and a smooth, velvety texture, Merlot can replace Port in almost any dish.

As a full-bodied wine, Merlot compliments dishes of lamb or beef the best, but will also compliment those based in tomato sauce.

A full-bodied red reduces splendidly so it’s also a great addition to those slow-cooked dishes like a stew. 

  1. Sherry

Sherry could be called Port’s cousin. While Port hails from Portugal, this wine is most similar to Port as it hails from neighboring Spain. 

They’re so close that they’re often confused for one another. 

Sherry is sharper and drier in flavor so consider that when substituting for Port. It also doesn’t carry the iconic fruit flavors.

Also a fortified wine, sherry can make an excellent Port wine substitute when cooking. 

  1. Dry Vermouth

With two types, dry and sweet, and also being fortified, vermouth makes an excellent Port wine substitute in cooking. 

While some chefs may turn their nose up at this, you can match that level of sweetness you’re looking for without your Port easily with vermouth. And it’s inexpensive.

Just be careful, unlike liquor wines don’t age after they’re opened, they spoil and vermouth will do the same. Many people stash their vermouth, waiting for a rainy day and end up out of luck because their substitute is spoiled. 

  1. Unsweetened Fruit Juice

If you’re avoiding alcohol for any reason, but don’t want to lose out on the depth of flavor, give unsweetened fruit juice a try. 

This is best when substituting in dessert recipes, but can be used with meat dishes as well. It all depends on your tastes. 

Even these unsweetened varieties will still be a little sweet. Some of the sugars are transformed during the fermenting process of wine, so you’ll want to adjust your fruit juice with some acid. 

Adding some citrus, like squeezing  little lemon juice into your cranberry juice, should do the trick. Or try some lime zest in your concord grape juice. 

You can use cup for cup of unsweetened fruit juice to Port wine. If your recipe calls for lighter Port, then think about using apple or orange juice. 

  1. Madeira
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Madeira is another delicious fortified wine. 

While Madeira comes in many varieties that run on a varying price range accordingly, it still works well as a port wine substitute in cooking.

Most chefs will tell you that when it comes to cooking, cheap wine is okay too. 

Since this is about cooking with Port wine, a cheaper blended Madeira would work just fine as a Port wine substitute. 

  1. Sweet Red Wine Blend

If you’re one to enjoy a sweet red aperitif or dessert accompaniment, then you’ll likely have something on this list in your cupboard at any given time.

If you don’t know what fortified wine is, then you’ll be less likely to own any of the above. 

Don’t fret. If you don’t know those wines, then you won’t notice their flavors missing in your dish either!

Simple, sweet red wine blends are equally good substitutes for port wine in cooking. 

In fact, these red blends are the most popular substitute when other fortified wines aren’t available. 

  1. Riesling

Riesling is the dessert substitute for Port wine when cooking. 

As a favorite dessert wine, it’s easy to find and might be something you already have on hand. 

A late-season riesling will carry even sweeter tones like an apricot rather than the more citrus tones of a young riesling.

  1. Broth or Stock

For a non-wine replacement in your recipe, broth or stock will work in most recipes that involve meat.

It seems silly to say it, but broth won’t work well in your dessert recipes!

Match which broth you choose with the meat of the dish. For instance, a dish that uses lamb would use beef broth as a substitute as they’re both dark meats, whereas poultry should be paired with chicken broth. 

  1. Marsala

An Italian form of fortified wine, Marsala is often used in recipes with thick sauces that need to be caramelized.

Marsala serves as a good Port wine substitute in cooking because you can find it not only in multiple colors but also in sweetness levels.

  1. Bouillon Cubes

If you want to boost those flavors without the alcohol, boullion cubes are an option as a substitute for Port wine. 

Bursting with flavors that work well in those savory meat or veggie dishes will enhance the other flavors, just as Port does. It won’t have the same flavor profile, but will be a good tasting dish all the same.

Make sure to dissolve your bouillon in water before adding and don’t try this with dessert recipes.

Match your bouillon to the meats much like you would with stock or broth.

You Can Choose Not to Use a Port Wine Substitute

It’s important to keep in mind that these recipes that call for the addition of Port wine do so for the flavors of the dish. They don’t add the flavors, the Port wine enhances them.

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Not to mean that there’s no reason for the recipe to call for Port. The wine adds depth to the flavors already there and makes them better. 

If you don’t have Port wine, or even any of the other substitutes listed here, don’t fret or run to the store. You can still make the dish, just without the Port. 

Most of these recipes don’t depend on the Port wine for all the flavors. Think of soups for example, plenty of flavor all on their own.

While you should be aware of all the options available to you, doesn’t mean you have to add it. Improvise and see what you can create on your own. 

Final Thoughts

Port is a delicious fortified wine that makes an excellent dessert wine and is better when combined with some sweet red vermouth. 

​​If you love to cook and would love to try something new, then you should definitely give Port a try! 

You’ll find that it’s perfect for pairing with hot dishes like stews, sauces, and braises. It will give depth and balance that you’ll look forward to throughout your meal.

If Port is out of your price range, unavailable, or not something you want to use, try any of these alternatives. 

The type of wine you choose will impact the flavor you get in your dish. 

Sherry is a dry-style wine and has the most similarities to Port, but it has higher acidity and less sweetness than Port. 

Madeira and Zinfandel are both dryer than Sherry, but still have a fruity side to them. Both are suitable as Port wine substitutes as long as you use less than you would for Sherry. 

Merlot is slightly sweeter than the other red wines mentioned here, but still with those signature fruity note.

In the end, the chef decides the flavors of the dish, Experiment and see if you even need to find a replacement for the Port wine in your recipe.