The Festive Sweet, Sticky and Fortified Guide 2018



SWEET WINE

Domaine Cady Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin Les Varennes 2015, France

Old-vine Chenin made from botrytis (aka noble rot) affected grapes. Lovely intensity and depth of honeyed peach, apricot and spice flavours allied to riveting freshness. Those with willpower could cellar it for a decade. Those without could drink it with a wide variety of puddings (but ideally not chocolate) and cheeses, or instead of them. 12%.

for 75cl: £17, The Wine Society

Château Roumieu Sauternes 2013, France

It was a much better vintage for sweet wines in Bordeaux than it was for reds in 2013 and it shows here, although this estate is consistently good. Honey and crème brûlée opulence cut by tangerine zip and zing. 14%.

for 37.5cl: £9 until 3 January, then back to £13, selected Co-op

Domaine Pieretti Muscat du Cap Corse 2017, France

A sweet, semi-fortified (Vin Doux Naturel) made in Corsica from late-harvested Muscat. Pristine purity and mouthwatering flavours of Muscat grapes, spiced oranges and apricot. Suited especially to fresh fruit desserts, including tarts. 16%.

for 75cl: £23.75, Yapp Brothers

Cantina di Negrar Recioto della Valpolicella 2015, Italy

Red alert! The sweet counterpart to Amarone is a great partner for chocolate and can also be drawn in to service for the Christmas pudding and/or Stilton. Velvety cherry-pie, spicy raisin, coffee, almond and balsamic flavours. 12.5%.

for 50cl, £15.99, or £14.39 in any 12-bottle mix, Roberts & Speight; £15.99, selected Waitrose and waitrosecellar.com

Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016, New Zealand

Multi-award winning Riesling from Nelson on the South Island. Dazzling and delicious intensity of lime marmalade, apricot, passion fruit, spicy toffee-apple and citrus flavours. Match to stollen, mince pies, fruit tarts and cakes or ice cream. 10.5%.

for 37.5cl: £16.29, Waitrose; £16.99, or £15.99 in any 12-bottle mix, Roberts & Speight

Denbies Noble Harvest 2016, England

Luscious, beautifully balanced sweet wine made from botrytised (noble rot) Ortega grapes picked in early October in Denbies vineyard in Dorking and fermented partly in French oak to add richness and complexity. Spicy mango, pineapple and baked apple flavours. Pair with tropical fruit salads, apple desserts or blue cheese. 12%.

for 37.5cl: £19.99, selected Waitrose and waitrosecellar.com; £24.95, denbies.co.uk

SHERRY

Mil Pesetas Manzanilla Sherry

If your local Co-op stocks Barbadillo's refreshing, pale, bone-dry Mil Pesetas, it may well be conveniently ready chilled. Textbook salty sea-spray, apple-skin, lemon-peel and yeast flavours. Bring on the tapas. 15%.

for 50cl: £6.50, selected Co-op

Lustau Emperatriz Eugenia Very Rare Oloroso Sherry

Smoky, honeyed walnuts on the nose and flavours of walnuts, hazelnuts, orange zest and bread crust. From a solera started in 1921 and aged for at least 15 years. 20%.

for 75cl: £13.49 until 1 January, then £15.99, Waitrose

Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado Sherry 12 Años

Solera-aged in American oak for an average of 12 years. Complex, nutty aromas and flavours shot with pithy orange and a hint of vanilla. Dry, rounded and long. 20%

for 75cl: £14.15, The Whisky Exchange; £16.40, Tanners; £16.99, Hennings

Very Rare Dry Palo Cortado Sherry

Dry, smooth but tangy Palo Cortado with flavours of walnuts and orange marmalade. Made for M&S by the renowned Emilio Lustau. 19%.

for 37.5cl: £9, selected Marks & Spencer

Sanchez Romate Oloroso Sherry Encontrado 1/5

Immensely concentrated, full-bodied, very old, rare, dry Oloroso, bottled for the first time. Green-edged, dark amber with walnuts and pine honey on the nose and a layer upon layer of flavours including balsam polish and cocoa. Complex and very special. Serve it with game, meaty stews and powerful hard cheeses. 20%.

for 37.5cl: £17, The Wine Society

Lustau Añada 1998 Sherry

A rare single-vintage, i.e. non-solera, sherry. Dark, sweet and complex with nutty toffee, coffee, chocolate, clotted cream and fudge flavours. Try it with the likes of strong cheese, nuts and dried fruit, mince pies or panforte. 21%.

for 37.5cl: £20, selected Marks & Spencer

Gonzalez Byass Noé Pedro Ximénez VORS Sherry, Spain

The sweetest of all sherry styles and, in this instance, with complexity bestowed by cask-ageing in a solera for an average of 30 years. Dark brown and viscous with flavours of dried figs, raisins, nutmeg and cinnamon, coffee and chocolate. Serve with the likes of sticky toffee pudding or pour over ice cream. 15.5%.

for 37.5cl: £21.78, TheDrinkShop; £22, Laithwaites; £22, Bon Coeur Fine Wines. (Majestic, Ocado and Waitrose are all out of stock online, but you may be lucky and find the odd half bottle in a store.)

PORT

Waitrose Late Bottled Vintage Port Symington Family Estates

Mellow and warming, briary black fruit, fig, prune and nutmeg flavours. Good with chocolate desserts as well as Stilton. 20%.

£10.99, Waitrose

10 Year Old Tawny Port

Marks & Spencer's own-label Tawny made by David Guimaraens of Taylor's. 20%

Gentle nuttiness with flavours of sweet, fresh red berry and figs and chocolaty smoothness. Serve lightly chilled with light chocolate desserts or blue cheese.

£17, selected Marks & Spencer

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2001 Port

Opulent, full-bodied vintage port with sweet, ripe plum and violet fruit and meaty, gamey, savoury richness. Ready to drink, but will give many more years of drinking pleasure. A great buy. If you want something cheaper, Fonseca Reserve Ruby Port is also one of the best of its kind (£13.99, Ocado and Waitrose). 20.5%.

£26.99 until 1 January, then £29.99, Waitrose

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2004 Port

Violet-perfumed with rich black cherry, liquorice and dark chocolate flavours and velvet-smooth tannins. Ready now, but it'll keep for years. 20.5%.

£24.99, Waitrose; £26.99 in a six-bottle mix, £31.99 individually, Majestic; £28.95, slurp.co.uk; £30, selected Co-op

Sandeman 20 Years Old Tawny Porto, Portugal

Mouthfillingly smooth, yet effortlessly fresh, with flavours of dried apricot and fig, spice, walnuts, coffee and crème caramel. Drink lightly chilled with cheese, desserts or as a winter aperitif. Once opened, it will keep in the fridge, re-stoppered, for several weeks.

£32.95, or £31.25 in any 6-bottle mix of Champagne, spirits or fortified, Lea & Sandeman; £29.99 until 1 January, then £38.99, Waitrose

Photograph by Joanna Simon

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Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia