By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 18 December 2021
Don’t forget to serve a delectable sweet dessert or fortified wine with the Christmas pudding, mince pies or Stilton cheese. It is a great time of year to buy fortified wines in particular as retailers often discount this style of wine heavily during the festive period – so it often offers brilliant value for money.
Check out my recommendations below:
Jurancon, SW France: JURANCON 2018 Domaine Lasserre (12%)
£7 hf bt Co-op
Wonderful Co-op bargain made from Jurancon’s duo grapes, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng. These sweet wines made in the shadow of the Pyrenees are so vibrant, refreshing with beautiful delicate sweetness, usually lighter than Sauternes. Dried apricots and zesty citric flavours make this delicious sipped on its own or with blue cheese – too delicate to match with plum pudding.
Nelson, New Zealand: SWEET AGNES RIESLING 2018 Seifried (10.2%) ***STAR BUY***
£13.99 hf bt Laithwaites
The most awarded Kiwi late-harvest wine comes from Nelson’s pioneering winery Seifried, set up by Austrian-born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes. Wonderfully complex Riesling with spicy citric flavours, hints of marmalade and honeyed – with enough richness to match Christmas pud.
Riverina, Australia: TESCO FINEST DESSERT SEMILLON 2017 de Bortoli (11.5%)
£6 hf bt Tesco
Late picked Semillon made in partnership with sweet wine specialists, De Bortoli, in the hot inland Riverina region. Semillon is left on the vine to develop a touch of noble rot creating a luscious deep gold, fresh citric fruit, hints of toffee, richly succulent sweetness, but still fresh to finish.
Sauternes, Bordeaux: MORRISONS THE BEST SAUTERNES (14%) ***STAR BUY***
£10-£12 hf bt Morrisons
Clear winner in our recent supermarket tasting, made for Morrisons by a top Sauternes chateau, whose identify is not divulged. Deep gold, slightly caramel notes with a toffee finish, fresh acidity stops it becoming cloying with a lingering length [pictured above].
Monbazillac, SW France: LES PINS 20015 Chateau Tirecul La Graviere (12%)
£14.99 for 50 cl bt Raeburn Wines
Claudie and Bruno Cilancini, the masters of Monbazillac, own eight hectares of old vines on Monbazillac’s best hillsides with organic Moscatel, Semillon and Chenin Blanc affected by the famous ‘noble rot’ which concentrates sugars. Slow press, ferment and maturation in oak, creating delicately smooth sweet wine with crystallised apricot, spice, vibrant clean acidity, long finish.
Tokay, Hungary: OREG KIRALY SWEET SZAMARODNI 2013 Barta (11.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£25 for 50 cl bt Corney & Barrow
Superb late-harvest Furmint made by winemaker Vivien Ujvari from low yielding Old King’s vineyard. Szamardoni is an old Polish word meaning ‘as it comes’ with bunches left on vines with some noble rot forming, slowly fermented and matured in small Hungarian oak barrels for 18 months. Caramel, dried apricots, marmalade and rich plummy fruits, succulent texture with fabulous freshness. My top choice this year with plum pudding.
SWEET FESTIVE FORTIFIERS
Jerez, Spain: EAST INDIA SOLERA OLOROSO Bodegas Lustau (20%)
£11.99 hf bt Waitrose; £18 bt Bancroft Wines; Noble Green; Drinkmonger
One of the most complex and tangiest of rich sweetened Olorosos. Crafted from 12 year old Oloroso made from Palomino grape, with 20% Pedro Ximenez grape. First the wines are aged separately for 12 years, before blending in a 45 cask solera for 3 years in the warmest part of the bodega to replicate a warm sea voyage. Serve slightly chilled with cheeses.
Douro, Portugal: GRAHAMS LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE 2015 (19%) ***GOOD VALUE***
£8.99 bt reduced from £13.99 until 29 Dec Waitrose; £9 Morrisons
For a premium ruby port, this price is hard to beat coming from the reputable Symington stable’s prime vineyards. Graham’s house style is often more luscious and velvet smooth than other port houses - and this LBV from warm 2015 vintage is jammed with rich opulent damson fruits.
Douro, Portugal: MORRISONS THE BEST 10 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT (19%)
£11 bt reduced from £12 until 1 Jan at Morrisons
Another Symington family collaboration, this was a popular choice in our tasting of supermarket own label tawny port. This was more authentically tawny in style compared to others, some of which were as dark as rubies. Morrisons’ 10 year old has an attractive tawny brown hue, attractive raisiny, dried fruit and nutty flavours.
Douro, Portugal: MOSCATEL DOURO FORTIFICADO Niepoort Vinhos (19%)
£16.99 hf bt Raeburn Wines
Maverick winemaker Dirk Niepoort is reviving an old Douro tradition with this fortified Moscatel aiming to enhance the orange peel notes of Muscat grape. Grapes are foot trodden in lagares, macerated on skins, fortified like a normal port and aged in 550 litre old Portuguese pipe casks. Aromatic, vividly fresh with enticing floral notes.
Madeira: MALVASIA RESERVA NV Barbeito (19%)
£15 for 50 cl bt Oddbins; Luvians; Fareham Wine; Whisky Exchange
Barbeito, run by enterprising innovative Ricardo Freitas, is unusual amongst the handful of wineries left on Madeira with its fun bright eye-catching labels and fresh distinctive style. Malvasia makes Madeira’s sweetest style here matured 5 years by the canteiro method. Lusciously tangibly sweet with dried figs, hazelnut and caramel notes with fresh clean finish. Sip with cheese and nuts.
Jerez, Spain: IRRESISTIBLE PEDRO XIMENEZ Bodegas Lustau (17%)
£6 hf bt Co-op
Loved this eight year old PX bargain made by highly respected Lustau; deep dark colour, figgy raisiny and treacly delight made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes. A decadent sweet bargain – at its best drizzled over vanilla icecream or sipped with the mincepies.
Join Rose’s ‘Wines of Georgia’ Masterclass on 10 March in Edinburgh www.rosemurraybrown.com