Fortified wines for the Christmas spirit 2023.The festive celebration period is a time when fortified wines really seem to come into their own. Whether it’s because of the food matching possibilities or because of the colder weather, fortified wines somehow have a comforting indulgent character at this time of year and can also be amazingly versatile.
One of the great regions for fortified wines is that of sherry – still sadly under-rated by many in recent years.
In terms of the inherent quality of most sherry available on the market, the wines are ridiculously under-priced and thus represent excellent value for money.
In past centuries, sherry was one of the most popular wines in England, along side port, these wines being consumed throughout the year, not just at Christmastime.
All true sherry comes from a region in the far south of Spain and comes in several different styles, from dry like fino and manzanilla, to syrupy sweet like Pedro Ximénez.
One of the long-standing sherry producers is Bodegas Williams y Humbert in Jerez de la Frontera. It produces a range of different wines, one of the best being Don Zoilo Dry Amontillado en rama, aged for 15 years in large old oak barrels.
A beautiful golden amber color, it is fortified with 19 percent alcohol and is bottled unfiltered (on the vine) in its most natural state.
A truly unique wine from 100 percent palomino grapes, the delicate and elegant flavor has hints of orange zest and pecans, with complex aromas and flavors and a slightly salty finish.
Dry and deliciously satiating, it makes a great aperitif and will accompany many dishes, such as prosciutto, chorizo, salami and hard cheeses such as Comté or aged Gouda. £17 from the Wine Society. Fabulous value for such high quality.
At the other end of the sherry spectrum is Gonzalez Byass Nectar, made from the Pedro Ximénez grape variety, often abbreviated as PX. Opaque mahogany in color, it is very sweet, rich and velvety.
Another complex wine, with flavors of smoothie Christmas cake, figs, caramel, nuts and coffee.
Perfect with mince pies, it will also accompany blue cheeses such as Stilton or the salty Roquefort, forming an interesting flavor contrast. £18 from Ocado or on Amazon.
As if this versatility wasn’t enough, get the party started with a very seasonal cocktail: the Nectar P Xpresso Martini!
Mix 40 ml of Pedro Ximenez nectar, 20 ml of vodka and Kahlua with 30 ml of espresso coffee. Shake together with ice cubes and strain into a martini glass. Darling!
Interestingly, different French fortified wines are the category known as ‘Vin Doux Naturel’. With a high level of natural sugar, the wines are fortified between 18% and 20% with neutral grape alcohol in a similar way to port.
Le Temps d’un Oubli Domaine de Rancy is a Rivesaltes Ambré, deep amber in color, medium sweet, with great complexity of flavor. Hints of sultanas and dates with well-balancing acidity and elegant richness.
Perfect accompaniment to chocolate and pear tart and, of course, minced meat patties! The Wine Society £18 per 50cl bottle.