I’m giving what’s being very grandly billed as a fortified wine masterclass at the Restaurant Show at Olympia (London) on Tuesday 3rd October at 12 noon which is the perfect time for your first glass of something over 17%.
It’s really an excuse to talk about some of the more obscure fortified wines that I love and wish more people did as some are very much on the endangered species list. Everyone knows about port and sherry but similar wines are made all over the world. I’ve picked a few from the south of France, Australia, Sicily and near Lisbon. The great thing about these wines is that for the quality, the prices are absurdly low. Look at the age of some of these wines! This is what I’ll be talking about:
Marsala vergine 2001, Terre Arse, Cantina Florio – regular readers will know about my deep affection for this Sicilian wine and my never ending amusement at the name. This is one of the very few unsweetened marsalas available in Britain, though saying this it’s actually becoming quite hard to get hold of.
Rivesaltes 1998, Frères Parcé – think of this as a sort of southern French tawny port though made from white grapes, grenache gris/ blanc and macabeu. It’s aged in old casks that are left out in the heat and the rain so that it gently cooks and takes on nutty dried fruit flavours. It’s a real crowdpleaser.
Maury 2005,Cuvée Aurelie Pereira de Abreu, a Préceptorie de Centernach – if the wine above is a tawny then this is a southern French vintage port. I mean that it’s immensely fruity, quite tannic and needs time in the bottle to soften, though it is drier and lower in alcohol than its Portuguese cousin. It’s mainly made from grenache noir and despite being 12 years old still has tonnes of primary fruit.
Bleasdale, The Wise One Tawny, 10 Year Old, Langhorne Creek – the Australian wine industry was built on wines such as this which were until quite recently called ‘ports’. Nowadays they are very much a minority interest and all those old vines, mainly grenache, shiraz and mouvedre, now go into excellent dry wines. But you must try an Australian ‘port’ because they are like nothing else on earth.
Moscatel de Setubal, Adega de Pegões – made near Lisbon this is made from ultra sweet late harvest muscat grapes (muscat of Alexandria and moscatel roxo) which are fermented briefly and then fortified with spirit to stop fermentation leaving masses of unfermented sugar. The grape skins are then left in the wine for about six months which gives this particular wine a unique richness and bite. I had a bottle from 1980 recently which was superb.
Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat, 12 Years Old – an Australian classic from Victoria. This is made a little like the muscat from Setubal but then the wine is left to age in a solera system in hot sheds where the flavours concentrate. It’s one of the sweetest wines in the world with about 282g of residual sugar – most Sauternes has about 100. Despite being as sweet as molasses it still has acidity and a haunting floral taste, I find it immensely drinkable.
Please come along, try some unique wines and listen to me prattle on. If you can’t make it most of these wines are available from the Wine Society except the marsala which I had great trouble tracking down and the Maury which is from my own cellar.
Here’s a picture of an old barrel from the Baglio Florio in Marsala: