Jonathan looks at some amazing sweet wines to go with your Christmas pud.
I’ve never really talked about dessert wines much in the past, considering it’s the style of wine that got me interested in wines in the first place all those years ago!
Take them or leave them, dessert wines have a mixed interest. Its one of many drinks that sell well at Christmas and then hardly anything for the rest of the year. For me they are a must at any dinner party, Christmas or not, but some people just don’t like them.
As with any style of wine, sweet wines will pair with certain dishes. Obviously with desserts but also some cheeses either at the beginning or the end of your feast. I, on the other hand could quite easily devour a bottle on its own (and on my own!)
I was a young boy of about 7 or 8 and my parents had a small cottage in the Bergerac region of France which we used to spend holidays there forever painting and cutting grass and laying cement in order to keep it looking fresh for visitors for their holidays. We were only about ten minutes from the famous sweet wine producing area of Monbazillac and used to wander around the village and its Chateau. One day my mother and father invited our neighbours who lived across the road over for a good old English cup of tea and biscuits one afternoon. A week later they invited us over to their house one afternoon, but instead of tea and biscuits and being French he brought out a bottle of wine which to me looked like liquid gold.
My parents drank a lot of wine, so I was used to seeing bottles on the table over dinner, but I was intrigued to discover why this wine was such an amazing colour.
My brother and I were always allowed to have a small glass with water in it, so I begged my father for a sip. It was the most amazing thing I had ever tried. Sweet and elegant with an amazing floral character yet supple and smooth. The wine clung to the glass like a child clinging to its mother and from that moment on I just had to find out how a wine can taste so magical. Forty years later here I am.
The wines from Monbazillac are recognised as some of the best sweet wines in the world. Not quite as famous as its neighbour Sauternes or Barsac in Bordeaux but are much better value for money and the top producers are certainly on a par in terms of quality.
Chateau de Monbazillac is made from Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle grapes and are kept on the vines longer until they develop the noble rot, Botrytis. This ensures the sugar levels of the grapes are really concentrated giving the wine its sweet character.
Producers must hand pick the grapes as they are at this stage very delicate. This is the main method of production for sweet wines. Its silky and smooth, not overly rich, with an elegant honeyed character. Its magical with Christmas pudding but will pair with any of your Christmas day deserts.
You could also try Vina Requingua Toro de Piedra from the Curico Valley in Chile. Its £14.99 for a half bottle and again made from the Sauvignon and Semillon grapes. It displays a peach and orange character on the nose with a nutty flavour and a finish of honey.
How about a sweet red? Not as common as white but still a wine to die for. Uruguay is producing some amazing wines especially out of the Tannat grape. The Alcyone Tannat is slightly fortified but has an amazing richness with notes of vanilla, cocoa, coffee and cherries. Perfect with any of your chocolate-based desserts or again just enjoy on its own. Its slightly more at £24.99 for a 500ml bottle but it is the perfect Christmas treat. It’s a great alternative to port.
I will have several other sweet wines available for the festive period so pop in and learn more about them. If you ever wandered what heaven tastes of, now’s your chance!
VIN Wine Merchants will be having a varied selection of wines to try all perfectly matched to pair with your Christmas feast. Pop into 6 Queen St Emsworth PO10 7BL.