Sweet wines are delightful at the end of a Christmas meal

Jen Pfeiffer Rutherglen Tawny

SWEET doesn’t  always mean  sickly and in the  interests of making your  Christmas special, with the person of your dreams.

It might not be one of  your things to seek out sweet wines to sip with your  Christmas pud or  cheese.

You may think they’re too expensive a risk if you shouldn’t like  them.  But you know  what, I’ve spent £30 on  shoes I’ve never  worn  that are still  hidden in the  wardrobe. (Oops, I  let that one slip.)

Sharing  wine at a  special time of year beats impulse buys hands down  and you don’t  have to break the bank either.

Tesco Finest  Dessert Semillon (£6.79 half a  bottle) is a  consistent winner of awards and has honey and apricot  aromas and a  scrummy honey stone fruit taste.  Lovely  with  my taste-test  nibbles of Stilton, mince pies and a little pot of  chocolate mousse. Oh,  the sacrifices I make.

Torres Floralis Moscatel
Torres Floralis Moscatel

The golden-flower embossed bottle of Torres Floralis Moscatel  Oro (from £6.99 at    several stores. At www.morrisonscellar.com it is £6.49) is a treat to  look at and a  real  sweetie delight to taste.  Best with the chocolate.  It smells of  a tray of  grocer-fresh oranges   and home-made marmalade with the  sweet lusciousness  of  oranges and lingering  spice to taste.

Over at Sainsbury, Winemaker’s Selection  Muscat de St. Jean de  Minervois is only £4.99  for half a bottle and  honey and oranges  aromas play around the  glass. Not as much depth as some, but hey  as a  change in pace for  the Stilton at less than a  fiver what’s not to like.

Jen Pfeiffer Diamond Tawny Naked Wines
Jen Pfeiffer Diamond Tawny

Fleury Muscat de  Beaumes de Venise (www.henningswine.co.uk, £9.99)   comes from an ancient  Rhone winery and  generations have worked up a wine that is  fresh enough to enjoy  but sweet enough to take on your pud. Its yellow  lusciousness smacks  of grapefruit and  orange zest.

My real sweet  sensation  is Jen Pfeiffer: The Diamond  10 y.o. Rutherglen  Tawny (www.nakedwines.com, £15.99  or £11.99 if you’re  an investing  Angel). It  smacks  of sophistication and mature  elegance.  Halfway between  a port and regular  red it is bursting  with flavour. It is  delightfully syrupy  without a heavy  unctuousness that  can make all  but the best  fortified wines  hard work. Think raspberries  coated in chocolate and  you get some idea.

I went into a reverie  when I tasted the  sublime Edmeades Perli  Late Harvest Zinfandel  2006 (£12.95, hailshamcellars.com).  With a  silky smooth first  sensation of brambles  and chocolate, and a  tingle-tangle taste of  fresh blackcurrants, dried cranberries, raisins,  chocolate, some liquorice. Deep joy.


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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 21, 2013

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Festive wines to enjoy with your Christmas Day meal

Sacchetto Moscato IGT Veneto NV

PRESENTS bought? Wrapped and under the tree? Thinking of the Christmas meal and festive wines? Well I’ve not done the presents thing – but I’m well on with the drinking thing. Let’s go.

Guests arrive. Sacchetto Moscato IGT Veneto NV (www.nakedwines.com £10.99 or £7.99 if you’re an investing Angel).The wine notes describe it as tasting like liquid lemon sorbet and they are not wrong. It’s like a weak cider meets 7Up with little alcohol taste at all (it is, after all, only 7% abv so a gentle start to Christmas Day).

While it may be too sweet for some palates, as an aperitif as the presents are opened, it could work wonderfully. If you want soemthing with more oomph, then Taittinger Brut Reserve NV (save £10 at Sainsbury, it’s £26.99 until Christmas Eve) is a pin-bright fruit-soft Champers with a famous label to impress guests.

Go fruity for the Christmas feast with a glass, or two, of this robust red Sainsbury’s Barbera D’Asti 2011 (£7.99 and two for £12 until January 1st). Its cherry and vanilla flavours are like a liquid Bakewell Tart and it’s a good bottle to uncork when people come calling to drop off their pressies. Worthy of a toast to Santa.

The contrast between sweet and sour is a big part of the traditional Christmas dinner, with its mix of flavours like cranberry sauce with turkey, or parsnips with sausage and bacon.

Frog’s Leap, a 2010 Napa Valley Zinfandel (Asda, £19.99), is an excellent companion to this festive blend. It’s packed with summer fruit flavours that hint at sweetness but stop short of being too jammy – like the best cranberry sauces.

But it’s no lightweight, either – with 13.8% alcohol, it still has plenty of depth and character to cut through savoury tastes like that rich turkey gravy.

Kaiserstuhl Pinot Noir 2008, Christmas wine
Kaiserstuhl Pinot Noir 2008

My Christmas Day favourite is pinot noir. Gamey mushrooms and a rain-dripped woodland are on the nose in a bottle of Kaiserstuhl Pinot Noir (£13.95 www.thewinesociety.com). This German pinot from the heart of Baden has a classy red fruit and cherry taste with a finely balanced acidity. Perfect whether you’re having turkey, goose, beef or maybe all three.

Beringer Founders Estate Chardonnay 2011 (£11.99, Majestic) has 14% abv and isn’t backward in coming forward with its oak-infused notes. But it’s not overbearing for all that and I likened it to a Masterchef pudding to drool over. Fresh fruit in layers of vanilla with a buttery honeycomb topping. Not too weighty for the sweet scrummy side dishes of lemon-sizzled sprouts (yum) and caramelised roasted carrots.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaulignot 2011 (£16.99 www.virginwines.co.uk) is a white which can move effortlessly from a seafood starter to the main event and deliver on all counts. Crisp, dry, with both citrus and stone fruits.

Asda Extra Special Barolo is reduced from £15 to £11, and an IWSC Silver 2013 award winner to boot. Produced from Nebbiolo grapes in north west Italy, this ruby red wine is strong on the nose with a hint of cherry. Since the turkey is still on order I drank it with a Sunday roast chicken. This robust red is not for the faint hearted with a flavour that lingers on the palate. It was too strong for the chicken and would be better suited to earthy Boxing Day red meats.

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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 14, 2013

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express