They’re some of the most delicious drinks on the planet, with incredibly rich heritages – the fortified giants of Port, sherry and Madeira in particular – but all too often, sweet and fortified wines are overlooked and underloved. We’ve picked out the top IWSC award-winners for you to sip and savour with family and friends this Christmas – even if you’ll be toasting each other on Zoom. Are they delicious? Do they go incredibly well with a cheeseboard? Are they also perfect with sweet puddings? Yes, yes and yes.
Sweet wines hail from all over the world, with a range of different styles, production methods and grape varieties. Take Canada’s Andrew Peller Signature Series Vidal Blanc Icewine, that can only be made in tiny quantities when temperatures reach -8 Celsius or lower. Or perhaps the Hungarian Trophy-winning Mád Late Harvest Tokaji, with its classic dried apricot, honey, straw and lime peel aromas.
On the fortified front, Port and Madeira are the most traditional Christmas options, with vintage Port arguably the most vaunted style. Around the 20-year mark, vintages opens up wonderfully to release the sort of aromas found in Kopke’s Colheita 2001 with its sweet notes of orange peel, raisins and succulent pineapple. If you’re craving the unique, deep flavour that only Madeira can bring, thanks to its special ageing process, then look no further than D’Oliveira’s Malvazia, with its intense tones of marmalade, spicy oak and fine acidity, all knitted together to create the smoothest texture.
Drizzle Pedro Ximenez generously over vanilla ice cream for pudding
Sherry is arguably the most varied and best value wine on the market. Rather than fresh, zingy Fino that’s perfect in summer, opt instead for a rich, sweet style that’s great (whisper it) with an ice cube in your glass or – and you can thank us for this later – drizzled generously over vanilla ice cream for pudding. Lustau’s San Emilio Pedro Ximenez is a great example that oozes dark treacle, sweet raisins and plums.