I have always had a sweet-tooth. I’m overly sensitive to sour and bitter flavour profiles, so much so that I find regular wines make my jaw muscles clench in reaction to the taste – to me even those usually described as medium taste far too much like vinegar. It’s also the reason I struggle with beers, especially given the current trend for bitter hop monsters.
So I usually opt for sweeter choices such as dessert wines, sweet sherries and ports. I have a soft spot for liqueurs too, though I’ve not included any in this list. Next time!
Here are my sweet choices for Christmas 2013.
Peller Estate Cabernet Franc Icewine (375 ml)
When I tried this beautiful dusky pink icewine at a Morrisons’ press event, I was amazed to be told that no, it didn’t have any strawberries in it, so clearly did that fruit flavour sing out to me. Raspberries, rhubarb and pomegranate come through too. In fact, this dessert wine is made wholly from Canadian Cabernet Franc grapes, picked when naturally frozen by winter temperatures of around minus 10 C and immediately pressed.
ABV 11.5% – £45 from Morrisons
Harveys Pedro Ximenez VORS (50 cl)
I adore PX; an intensely rich, gloriously sticky, syrupy-sweet sherry with its flavours of figs, prunes and raisins is utterly redolent of Christmas. Made in Jerez, in the heart of Cadiz province in Andalusia, this is a drink I enjoy all year round. I have tried many brands over the years and this is one I go back to again and again. Harveys’ VORS tag tells us this PX has been aged using the traditional solera process for at least 30 years. A shot over good quality vanilla ice cream makes a simple but decadent dessert.
ABV 16% – £21.00 from Waitrose Direct
Neige Core de Glace Premiere Ice Cider (375 ml)
Listed as ice wine on the Harvey Nichols website, this is more accurately an iced cider – apples are picked and pressed in a frozen condition, using the same techniques applied to grapes to make ice wine. Produced by François Pouliot in his Québec cidery La Face Cachée de la Pomme (The Hidden Face of the Apple), it is described as crisp and sweet and, of course, full of apple fruit flavours. I think it would be a delicious alternative to the usual grape offerings.
ABV 11% – £28.50 from Harvey Nichols
Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375 ml)
The muscat grape is not only fabulous to eat, it also produces a wonderfully perfumed wine. This golden Australian muscat is made from partially raisined grapes, and fortified with neutral grape spirit, to preserve the floral and citrus notes inherent in the grape. Beautifully sweet, it’s a classic dessert wine.
ABV 18% – £11.99 from Morrisons
Kourtaki Mavrodaphne of Patras (75 cl)
I was first given a bottle several years ago by a friend who was intrigued by the idea of a properly dark red dessert wine, and one made in Greece at that. I’ve bought it again a number of times since, appreciative of its full-bodied black berries and dried fruits richness. The mavrodaphne is a black grape variety indigenous to the Achaea region of Greece (the capital of which is Patras). The wine is vinified in large vats exposed to the sun; once matured, distillate prepared from previous vintages is added, and then the wine is transferred to underground cellars for maturation; there, the solera method of adding older vintages to new ones is used to create a balanced blend.
ABV 15% – Priced from £5 to £6.50 a bottle, available from major supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons.
Quady Winery Elysium Black Muscat (375 ml)
Another muscat, produced by Quady Winery in the United States, Elysium Black is, as the name suggests, made from black grapes. I first came across it on a restaurant wine list a few years ago and have enjoyed it a few times since then. Rich and sweet, with a very floral flavour.
ABV 15% – £12.50 from Fortnum & Mason or £12.49 from Majestic Wine (available vintages may vary)
Royal Tokaji Aszu Gold Label 2006 (50 cl)
Tokaji is wine made in the Tokaj wine region of Hungary; Tokaji Aszu is the region’s well known dessert wine. It is produced by harvesting grapes after they’ve been shrivelled by botrytis (noble rot), which concentrates their natural sugar content. Categorised according to sweetness (on a scale of 3 to 6 puttonyos), I’ve particularly enjoyed the sweeter Tokaji Aszu wines I have tried. I’d dearly love to try a Tokaji Aszu Essencia, an even sweeter variant with an unusually high residual sugar count, but am yet to come across this at an affordable price. I’ve not tried this specific 6 puttonyos Aszu from Majestic, but I have loved others by the same brand, The Royal Tokaji Wine Company.
ABV 9% – £28 from Majestic Wine
Rubis Chocolate Wine (50 cl)
I came across this chocolate-flavoured fortified wine at a food festival or show. A nice balance between chocolate and the fruity tempranillo grape, it’s best served chilled. My only criticism of this product is the lack of information about which chocolate is used and how it’s sourced.
ABV 15% – £14.38 (incl. delivery) from Amazon UK
Maynard’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port (75 cl)
Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks rather than in large tanks or bottles, like their Ruby counterparts. The wood gives them a lighter body and colour, and a wonderful smoothness on the palate. I love the nutty sweetness, with far less tannin than other styles of port. Most commonly served at room temperature, I think tawny ports are also lovely chilled. Although I’ve not tried this 30 year old, the Maynard’s 10 year old that Aldi sold last winter was well reviewed.
ABV 20% – £29.99 from Aldi
Castelnau de Suduiraut 2009 Sauternes (375 ml)
I adore Sauternes, with it’s intense floral and citrus honeyed notes and straw honey colour. I’ve tried Château Suduiraut a few times; it’s a much more affordable premier cru classé than it’s neighbour Château d’Yquem. Another to look out for is Château Rieussec, usually a touch more expensive.
ABV 14% – £11.99 from Majestic Wine
Please note that this post includes an Amazon affiliate link. The price you pay doesn’t change but I receive a tiny referral commission for items you buy after following such links.