Fortified wines are among the wine world's great bargains. They make excellent presents and it's worth pointing out here that the rare Terrantez Madeira and the Pedro Ximénez (aka PX) can be kept for months once opened (although the need may well not arise...). I have also included, below the four fortifieds, a gem of a Canadian Ice Wine. It, too, is a bargain.
The fortifieds are listed in ascending order of sweetness, starting with a dry sherry. Watch out for last-order dates for Christmas delivery and find overseas and other UK stockists on wine-searcher.com
Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Sherry, Spain
Dry, but rich and nutty flavoured Palo Cortado – the rarest style of sherry. It has been aged in wood for 12 years. Drink it lightly chilled as an aperitif with nuts or serve it with hard cheeses
£14.50, The Wine Society, thewinesociety.com. (Last orders for Christmas delivery: midnight on Sunday.)
Blandy’s Terrantez 20 Years Old Madeira
Splendid, amber coloured Madeira made from the rare Terrantez grape. Described on the label as medium-rich, it is complex, nutty and spicy with dried fruit sweetness, a hint of maple syrup and a mouthwateringly fresh finish. Have it with blue cheese, biscuits, nuts, or as an aperitif or digestif. I drink it very lightly chilled/cool, i.e., below room temperature. Once opened, it will keep well in a stoppered bottle in the fridge for months.
£45, The Wine Society, thewinesociety.com (last orders for Christmas delivery: midnight on Sunday); £45.99, Fareham Wine Cellar, farehamwinecellar.com
Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, Portugal
This is as close as an LBV port gets to true vintage port. The grapes come entirely from the Quinta do Noval estate and the resulting port is all the more sumptuous for being unfiltered. Decant it or pour it gently (it hasn’t thrown a lot of sediment yet) and serve it with blue or hard cheeses or chocolate. Delicious.
£19.50 in a wooden box, Oddbins, oddbins.com; £19.99, Soho Wine Supply, sohowine.co.uk; £15.99, ocado.com
Barbadillo Pedro Ximénez Sherry, Spain
The sweetest of sherry styles and one of the sweetest in the world. Brown, syrupy, raisiny and chocolaty, but this one has a freshness that many lack. Sip it with chocolate truffles, Christmas pudding or mince pies, or with, and poured over, ice cream. Once opened, it will keep well in a stoppered bottle in the fridge for months.
£11.53, Cambridge Wine Merchants, cambridgewine.com; £11.27, thedrinkshop.com, £11.99, Harrogate Fine Wine Co., harrogatefinewinecompany.com; and many other independents
Pillitteri Estates Winery Vidal Ice Wine 2013, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Not fortified (instead, a modest 10.5% abv), but lusciously rich and sweet with peach and candied fruit flavours balanced by racy acidity. Versatile with desserts and with blue cheeses. A bargain.
£14.99 for 37.5cl, Lidl
Opening photograph by Joanna Simon