Best Substitutes for Port Wine

Say, you have a dish that you want to prepare. You have accumulated all the ingredients needed, but you missed out on the main component – port wine. While you can step out of the house and get a bottle, why not look up the best port wine substitute?

You might not know this, but there are plenty. Some match up with the fruity flavor and amazing aftertaste and some alternatives are for the refined taste that comes with aging.

Irrespective of whatever you are stuck with, we have a list of the best substitutes for port wine that you can take a look into.

What is Port Wine?

If you know what fortified wines are, port wine is one of them. It means that some portion of extra alcohol is added to it during the fermentation process.

While the majority of the wines that you come across have an alcohol percentage of 12.5-14.5%, port wine contains 17-20% alcohol, a lot more than the standard options. It is one of the reasons why it is served as an aperitif most of the time. It also complements some dishes quite well.

There are quite a few varieties of port wine available, the red and white being the most popular ones.

Best Substitutes for Port Wine

Substitutes for Port Wine

When it comes to selecting the best substitute for port wine, you need to realize that the options are quite limited. But, given that there are two types of Port – red or ruby and white or tawny port, you need to check for the substitutes accordingly.

Whichever substitute for port wine you pick, it is essential that it goes with what your recipe calls for. That is what makes the difference. If you pick a substitute for port wine that is too overpowering, it will end up ruining your dish.

That said, let us take a look at a list of some of the best substitutes for port wine.

1. Sherry

Also known as the “Cousin of Port Wine,” Sherry is the closest alternative that you will come across. While port wine originates from Portugal, Sherry is from its neighboring country, Spain. The taste and the aftertaste of both these wines are quite similar, making them suitable substitutes for each other.

The one difference between the two is that Sherry is a little dryer and sharper in taste compared to port, especially the sweet port. Sherry has higher berry content, thus, a fruitier flavor in it.

Much like port, even the added alcohol in Sherry is added after the fermentation process, meaning that it has much lower sugar content.

2. Chianti

If you have been specifically looking for an alternative for Ruby port, Chianti is a good option. It has a very heavily concentrated fruit flavor in it, which works amazing with poultry dishes. The slight overwhelming cherry note in the drink further makes it a worthwhile option.

Since the berry content in Chianti is more, it has a more acidic taste to it. So, in case you are cooking it with some high-fat dishes, it will cut through it. Make sure you are aware of that.

The flavor of both Chianti and Ruby port is a lot similar, so you wouldn’t regret that.

3. Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a good choice for non-alcoholic peeps who always wanted to find a substitute for port. The combination of the fruity flavor and mild acidity makes for a fantastic option.

In case you want the characteristic taste and flavor of the alcohol that port wine brings along, we wouldn’t suggest this. Since it has a very low alcohol content, it does affect the texture and flavor of the food once you are done cooking it.

It especially works amazingly with the desserts because of the fruity flavors that it has.

4. Marsala

When it comes to wine, you can’t necessarily beat the Italians. Marsala is a fantastic wine in itself, but when compared as a substitute for port wine, it works just as fine. It finds its origins from the southern island of Sicily.

This wine works best as a substitute for those dishes with thick and caramelized sauces. The best thing about Marsala is the variety that you get. It comes in multiple colors of amber (Ambra) and Rubino or the red variant. The former is made with white grapes while the latter is made with red grapes.

Marsala also comes in different tiers of sweetness – the dry, semisweet, and sweet. So, depending on the requirements of your dish, you can pick one accordingly.

4. Syrah

Syrah has an alcohol percentage between 14-20% and is one of the best red port wine substitutes that you can look into. Even with the less alcohol percentage, this mimics the texture of a port wine a lot more than you could even think of.

The dark fruit flavor enhances the taste even more. The combination of blueberries and blackberries in Syrah adds a sweet and subtle flavor to the wine you will grow to love.

In case you have been looking for a good replacement for port wine, this is hands down one of the best.

5. Madeira

Madeira is a good option if you are a professional chef looking for a substitute for port wines. This fortified wine comes in varying levels of sweetness, which you can choose from. Single-varietal Madeira is considered the best option, even though it is one of the most expensive.

Some of the Madeira types that work well as port wine substitutes include Boal, Sercial, Verdelho, etc. But, in case you are cooking with the wine, we would suggest you opt for the cheaper variant as that works just as good.

6. Shiraz

Many people often confuse Syrah and Shiraz, thinking that both have similar tastes and flavors. The reason for the confusion is because they are made from the same grapes.

If you want a wine with a deep and rich fruity flavor to substitute port wine with, this is a fantastic option, hands down.

7. Riesling

When it comes to picking the best port wine substitute, not many consider Riesling.

Not only is it one of the most aromatic wine options, but it also has a very sweet and tart flavor, making it perfect for you to drink on its own or even cook with it.

The alcoholic content of this wine is quite high, so cooking with it is often a favored option. Poultry works best with the sweet and tart flavors.

8. Vermouth

If you ask a professional chef whether Vermouth is a good alternative for the Port, they’ll probably shake their heads. Trust us on this; it works with any dish that calls for a drizzle of the port.

Keep in mind that this one is a fortified wine like port wine is, which means that the alcohol content in this is a lot more than usual. So, it has a slightly more acidic taste to it as well. Vermouth also comes in two different variants, the dry and sweet. You can pick one as per the dish calls.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, we would suggest that you do opt for Vermouth without any further thoughts. But, avoid keeping Vermouth in the cupboards for years on end. It will end up spoiling.

9. Merlot

If you are cooking red meat and want a good alternative for port wine, Merlot is your answer. Combining the characteristic fruity flavors paired with the rich texture of the wine makes it the right option for cooking any meat.

This is available easily as well, which further makes it quite a good option for you to take a look into.

10. Chardonnay

This is not the best substitute for port wine, but it gets the job done just as fine. It has a very acidic taste to it, so it works well with cooking meat and poultry. It cuts through the fat, so make sure you keep an eye out on that.

It also has a low alcoholic content, so it is quite a fantastic option if you want to sip on something aside from port wine.

11. Sweet Red Wine Blend

If you are cooking something that calls for red port wine, switching it out with the sweet red wine blend works quite well.

Finding the right red wine blend is easy, and it is cheaper compared to the other variants in the market.

So, you can enjoy cooking with it, sip on it as an aperitif after your meals, and even find it for a very cheaper price.

12. Lambrusco

In case you have nothing on your hand to replace port wine with, Lambrusco does the job just fine. It might not necessarily be the best option for the port wine substitute, but it is a close second.

Lambrusco has a very light and fizzy texture to it, while the port wine has a much deeper and richer taste.

If you want to add the sweetness to a dish that port wine brings in, this is a fantastic alternative, hands down.

It comes in four variants of Lambrusco Secco, Semisecco, Amabile, and Lambrusco Dolce. You can pick one based on your requirements.

13. Broths

If you want to skip out on the alcohol and want some non-alcoholic options, chicken or vegetable broth work quite well.

These work well with savory dishes and add in a depth of flavor that you might have been seeking with the port wine.

You need to use the type of broth, depending on the kind of dish you are cooking. In case you are cooking something with red meat, opt for the red meat bone broths. In case you are cooking some vegetable dish, use the plain veggie broths.

14. Bouillon Cubes

If you are stuck in times with nothing available around you, one of the best options is to opt for Bouillon Cubes. These are probably the least favorite substitute, but when you have nothing around, this is the best option.

In case you don’t have the port wine, or the broth available, this is your last resort.

It is not the worst, but the flavor isn’t the best, either. So, in case you can manage any of the above port wine substitutes, we would suggest you opt for that instead.

What Can I Use Instead of Port in a Recipe?

When it comes to talking about the replacement for the port for a recipe, it depends on the recipe characteristically.

In case you are looking for something to add to your savory dishes, Sherry and Shiraz work wonderfully. For getting the rich, sweet, and caramelized texture, Marsala works amazingly. But, if you want some for your dessert, Zinfandel is the best option.

In case you want to make your dish non-alcoholic, the chicken or vegetable broth along with bouillon cubes works just as fine.

So, depending on what the recipe calls for, you can pick out an alternative accordingly.

Is Red Wine and Port Wine the Same?

One of the reasons why people confuse red wine and port wine to be the same is because they are both red. Port wine indeed comes in different types and flavors aside from red but that is the most commonly used variant.

That said, both these wines are not necessarily the same because they differ in the way they are processed and manufactured.

While red wine undergoes the standard fermentation and distillation process, port wine is fortified wine with more alcohol during the fermentation process. It could be with brandy or any other alcohol with a grape base.

It is why port wine has a lot more alcohol content than the standard red wine you come across.

Can You Substitute Sherry For Port in a Recipe?

Yes, if there is one replacement for port wine that mimics the taste, texture, and flavor of the wine, it is Sherry. These are called “cousin” wines as they are from neighboring countries of Portugal and Spain.

In terms of taste and the after taste, they are a lot similar too.

So, yes, in case you are looking for an alternative, this works quite amazingly.


If you have been looking for some good quality port wine substitute, we hope this gives you a clear idea of all the available options. Keep in mind to learn more about the wines instead of blindly picking up one. While some work well with savory dishes, some work well with desserts.

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