I made a trip to BevMo, and over to our local Grocery Outlet today, to pick up some cheap Port. I wanted to get an idea of what the low-end stuff is like, before I can appreciate the better stuff.
I actually picked up three bottles of the Christian Brothers Ruby Port, since it was only $4.47 a bottle. I wanted to do a bit of experimenting with a cheap port, so one bottle I left stock for sipping. But the other two bottles received a vanilla bean (sliced down the middle) in one, and a small plank of Medium Toast French Oak. I figured I would let them age for a month and see how the flavor is enhanced.
But back to the stock bottle of the Christian Brothers. It is totally different than the two different types of Tawny Port I've had recently. Much thicker, and surprisingly much more full bodied. It is also sweeter, with stronger plum/prune notes. Since we both like sweet and fruity meads, we're not surprised we actually liked this so much.
The Gibson Port was even cheaper, breaking the bank at $3.50 at Grocery Outlet. There is an immediate difference between the two. The Gibson is thinner, a bit darker, less fruity, and less full-bodied. If anything, it is much closer to the Tawny Ports. Less aggressive overall, with a nice smooth finish. Surprisingly good for $3.50.