There are many Christmas traditions – from the turkey to the tree, but the arrival of dessert wines and port at the dinner table is one of my favourites.
It never ceases to amaze me how these two styles of wine, which are virtually ignored the rest of the year, become a festive essential.
Apparently nearly 80 per cent of all the port bought in this country is sold during the months the last three months of the year, which tells its own tale.
When it comes to dessert wine I’m one of those people who could happily skip the pudding but I am more than happy to sit there with a glass of pudding wine and contemplate the joys of Christmas. So here are my recommendations for this year.
Tesco Finest PX (Tesco £6 – 37.5cl) is a luscious sherry made from Pedro Ximénez also known as PX, by Gonzalez Byass, one of the great sherry producers.
The grapes for this wine are picked late and then laid out and dried in the sun to concentrate them, and then fermented and aged in the traditional sherry solera system. The resulting wine is very dark in colour, with a nose which is almost reminiscent of the pudding itself with figs, raisins and toffee, followed by a rich, super sweet, unctuous palate which almost seems to last forever.
This will certainly stand up to the pudding but is also absolutely delicious poured over vanilla ice cream.
There are many ways to make dessert wine but one of the most unusual is ice wine, where the grapes are left on the vine and not picked until the first hard frosts have arrived and the grapes are literally frozen on the vine.
It’s extremely difficult to make and fraught with risks and can only me made in very small quantities, hence it usually a pretty expensive wine to buy.
However just in time for Christmas Aldi have one on the shelves that won’t break the bank. Lakeview Cellars Vidal Ice Wine 2017, Niagara Peninsula (Aldi £16.99 – 37.5cl) comes from Canada and is produced from the relatively unknown grape, vidal.
It has a very intense nose with aromas of honey, pineapple and orange, followed by a luscious palate which is well balanced with some racy acidity. This would go really well with blue cheese or fruit-based desserts.
Not a dessert wine but Taittinger Nocturne ‘City Lights’ Sec NV, Champagne (John Lewis £40.00, Tesco £35.00, champagnedirect.co.uk £39.50) is a lovely way to finish the evening. It is made with the addition of a higher dosage of sugar resulting in a Champagne which is richer and slightly sweeter than brut Champagne.
The nose offers peaches and apricots followed by a lovely soft, full flavoured mouthfeel with a round, mellow finish with a nice touch of sweetness.
Certainly not up to the pudding but again this would work really well with fruit-based desserts.
Finally, time to pass the port, Croft 430 th Anniversary Limited Edition Port (Hermitage Cellars £14.25) has been produced to celebrate the house’s establishment in 1588.
It’s beautifully presented with the label displaying a re-production of the Sinking of the Spanish Armada by Dutch artist Jan Luyken.
This is a reserve ruby style of port with dark cherry, violets and plum on the nose, followed by a well-rounded palate with more dark fruits, and a rich, fruit driven finish.
This will happily work with the cheese board particularly the traditional Stilton and mature cheddar.