Christmas 2015: 15 best dessert wines
Finish a festive feast with a special, sweet tipple
You’ve demolished the turkey and eaten the last sprout. Now you want to enjoy some Christmas pudding and what better to go with it than a glass of chilled dessert wine. Whether it’s Queen Victoria’s favourite, the Royal Tokaji from Hungary, a honeyed Muscat from France, Australia or South Africa, a pale gold Sauternes or an opulent English example of “noble rot”, there’s nothing quite like it. Most slip down easily with a salty blues cheese, too. So settle back and enjoy a little heaven on earth.
1. Leduc-Piedimonte Cidre de Glace: £27.54 for 37.5cl, Amazon
Here’s something different for Christmas dinner. This ice cider is made from Spartan and Empire apples whose sugars have been concentrated by Canada’s cold winters. Two years of ageing follow fermentation, producing a sweet, complex and very fruity drink that’s balanced by a subtle acidity. Enjoy as an aperitif or with cheese and desserts.
2. Heaven on Earth Muscat d’Alexandrie: £9.75 for 37.5cl, Vintage Roots
Here’s a naturally sweet South African wine made from Muscat grapes partially dried on a bed of organic rooibos and straw. It’s a certified Fairtrade product that’s also organic and vegan friendly, its honey and apricot flavours are certainly heaven sent.
3. Hattingley Valley 2014 Entice Dessert Wine: £15 for 37.5cl, Amazon
This is a hand-crafted English dessert wine from a Hampshire-based company known for its sparkling wines. Notes of apricot and peach are balanced by an underlying acidity to give you the perfect Christmas Day treat.
4. Barolo Chinato Cocchi: £30.15 for 50cl, The Whiskey Exchange
Here’s one you can drink as an aperitif and then sample again with cocoa-rich dark chocolate once the selection boxes make the rounds. Made from Barolo, this Italian wine is flavoured with quinine, rhubarb and spices such as cardamon and mace. It brings an exotic twist to the Christmas table.
5. Denbies Noble Harvest 2014: £19.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose
A limited edition of 3,000 bottles is being released of this opulent and satisfying “noble rot” (the benevolent form of the Botrytis cinerea fungus) dessert wine from the Surrey vineyards of Denbies, so get your Christmas order in now. Notes of citrus and honey make this a great partner for blue cheese or caramelised desserts.
6. Muscat de Rivesaltes 2011: £10.95 for 37.5cl, Slurp
Uncork this Muscat and there’s a gorgeous aroma of citrus, peaches, apricots and exotic fruit from a sweet wine produced in Rivesaltes, a French commune between the Atlantic and the Pyrenees. Sipped slightly chilled, it goes down well with sticky toffee pudding.
7. Reserve Mouton Cadet 2013 Sauternes: £9 for 37.5cl, Asda
From the world-famous Bordeaux appellation comes this limited-edition, pale gold Sauternes with a rich, honeyed and candied apricot aroma. It’s made from three different grape varieties transformed by noble rot into a lusciously sweet wine.
8. Dessert Semillon Riverina GI, 2009: £6 for 37.5cl, Tesco
A wine from Australia’s Riverina area, where lots of great sweet wines come from, this is made from semillon grapes that have had their flavours concentrated by noble rot. It has oodles of peach, honey and citrus and goes as well with salty blue cheese as it does with dessert
9. Muscat de St Jean de Minervois: £5 for 37.5cl, Sainsbury's
Think marmalade with lots of orange peel with a side dish of honey and caramel. This is a beautifully sweet and not too expensive accompaniment for the pudding, the mince pies and even the sherry trifle. Serve lightly chilled
10. Carte Or Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise NV: £7.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose
A beautifully pale, golden Muscat made from grapes grown in the Rhone Valley that have been fermented at a low temperature, ensuring it’s not too cloying or heavy. Its sweet notes are balanced by a pleasing hint of lemon.
11. Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyes Aszu 2008: £24 for 50cl, Majestic
We’ve been enjoying Tokaji or Tokay in the UK since the 18th century when the Hungarian vineyards first began producing this “noble rot” wine. Louix XIV was a big fan and Emperor Franz Josef used to send Queen Victoria gallons of the stuff. Sweet but with an underlying acidity, it’s easy to see why it was such a favourite.
12. La Magendia Lapeyre Jurançon 2008: £12.99 for 37.5cl, Selfridges
In the French local dialect, La Magendia means the best and that’s not a bad description for this intense and fruity Jurançon fermented in new oak barrels which has a balanced and lingering flavour of exotic fruits, spices and vanilla.
13. Seriously Peachy Pacherenc du Vic Bilh: £9.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose
No points for guessing what’s the dominant flavour here. A rich and fruity wine from the Madiran area of Gascony that owes its peculiar name to the posts or stakes (pacherenc) that held the vines and came from the old country (“vic bilh”). Having deciphered that you deserve a glass.
14. Morgex et de la Salle Chaudelune Vin De Glace: £22.50 for 50cl, Joseph Barnes Wines
Made from grapes grown in Europe’s highest vineyard at the foot of Mount Blanc, this late harvest vin de glace (ice wine) is aged in barrels for 12 months before another two years of ageing in bottles, producing a wine bursting with apricot and caramel flavours.
15. De Bortoli Show Liqueur Muscat: £14.95 for 50cl, Slurp
This Australian Muscat comes laden with international wine awards and it’s not hard to see why. Barrel aged for eight years it chock full of the rich flavours of fig, raisins and spice with a concentrated sweetness that stays with you. Produced by an Italian family who emigrated Down Under in the 1920s.
Old favourites such as Majestic’s Royal Tokaji and Sainsbury’s Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise mingle here with newer and equally impressive offerings such as Waitrose’s Seriously Peachy Pacherec du Vic Bilh, Denbie’s limited edition Noble Harvest and the fascinating and fruity Leduc-Piedimonte Cidre de Glace. At just £6, Tesco’s Dessert Semillon Riverina GI, 2009 is a bargain and our best buy.
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