In November 2017 a bottle of Tokaji was sold at a price that made it the third most expensive white wine ever. There’s something magical about the combination of marmalade and apricot sweetness and a refreshing citrus zest from the (mostly) Hungarian Furmint grape. This is a gorgeous, lighter introduction to the style from a winery owned by Spain’s famed Vega Sicilia.
Canada’s most famous wine style is also one of its rarest wines. Mostly because of the punishingly difficult challenge of harvesting wines in the dead of night in the bitter cold. The berries are pressed while frozen leaving the skins and (water) ice behind, just eking out dribbles of sweet nectar. So we enjoy a sweet wine layered with marmalade and quince, with a tang of zest. Extraordinary with citrus puddings.
Take two parts Prosecco, one part St Germain and one part sparkling water, add some lightly bruised mint leaves. This is the ‘Hugo’, possibly one of the most refreshing, herbal and summery cocktails ever invented. It’s also impossibly easy to make. One minor note, this was invented in the Tyrolean mountains in Italy, so it’s properly pronounced ‘Ugo’.
Take two parts Prosecco and one part white peach pure. Some time (it’s disputed) in the 1930s or 1940s, Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, invented the Bellini. He named it the Bellini because its pink color reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini (one of three Bellini artists).
Take one part gin, one part Antica vermouth, and one part Campari and garnis with orange peel. The Negroni lends itself to tweaks and variations, especially with the vermouth at the heart of the cocktail. More or less ‘amaro’ or bitter, the choice is ours. The drink gets its name from Count Camillo Negroni who asked his bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water.
This is a ‘summer’ drink. Chilled and served in the evening before or after supper. That’s what Port producers do in overlooking the Douro after a hard, hot day in the vineyards. It brings a freshness to the dried fruits, wood spice and lightly honeyed style of the wine. This is an average of 30 years-old blending some younger, fruitier wines with older, spicier and more venerable barrels.
Some years ago I was allowed into a small cellar at Yalumba to try tiny stocks of century old wine, so concentrated it was served like Marmite on a spoon. And each year they release small amounts of ancient blends like this. Tawny, raisined, rich and spicy, this has a freshness too, a lift that makes it wonderful with cheese and some desserts. Experiment a bit, and you’ll get the feel for it. Really lovely wine.
Two things that may surprise you. I used to be 16 stone, and I drank this as part of my 6 stone weight-loss. Why? Because a small glass of PX (Pedro Ximenez) takes away a craving that you might fill with a cake. I kept this in the fridge and many evenings just polished off a meal with a small glass. Raisins, toffee, honey and cake all in a glass, coating the sides with an unctuous varnish. Gorgeous.
Let’s be honest here. This is the richest, stickiest, densest wine you’ll ever try. It’s essentially the sweetening wine for other sherries, but here you have it unadulterated. And I love it. Not a ‘wine’ so much as a pudding or a stylish alternative to Bailey’s. Some serve it over ice-cream but that seems wasteful. It does go with a rich cake. You really should try this once though just to taste the treacle, the figs, the prunes and baked raisins.
Curate, kjʊ(ə)ˈreɪt/, verb; select, organize, and look after’.
That’s what the ‘producers’ of Rutherglen’s muscats do. They don’t produce these so much as inherit stocks of old, sticky wines scented with toffee and walnut, raisin and prune, cakes from Dundee to Eccles, and blend into small releases like this. Buy now to have something to warm you through winter. Serve it instead of a pudding or with a Christmas pudding. One of the world’s great wines.
For many years I’ve kept a couple of these at home, usually one in the fridge. If you’re losing weight have a glass of this light peach and honey wine and it’ll satisfy your craving for something sweet. But at just 5% alcohol it’s not boozy or too naughty. And if you’re serving a strawberry-based pud there are few wines better.
Many things influence fashions in wine, and the meteoric rise in Moscato d’Asti sales since 2011 is down to rapper Jay-Z. Since he took to the fizz his fans have followed suit and now it’s one of the most popular wines with young people, especially in the US. For hip hop fans this is a good match with albums including ‘American Gangster’ and ‘The Blueprint 3’.
Forget Champagne breakfasts, the ultimate wine for an early morning sparkling celebration is a Moscato d’Asti breakfast. Earlier in the day your palate will thank you for the softer, pillowy texture of Moscato and this beautiful wine (in and outside the bottle) is a gorgeous match with fresh fruit and breakfast pastries.
The Romans knew Moscato and called it Apiana because bees loved it. We call it Moscato because flies love it (mosca = fly in Italian). Latin names are sometimes more poetic. But both are attracted to the sweet, aromatic, musky aroma that froths out of the glass. I particularly love this with Christmas pudding.
This is bottled Sicilian sunshine. Almost literally. Malvasia grapes are laid out on mats and dried giving the wine the characteristic aromas of dried fig and apricot and that rich, sticky texture. It’s actually not excessively sweet and my favourite combination is this with some blue cheese and nuts over a long evening.
Grover produces this exotic, seductive white in the Nandi Hills in Bengaluru/Bangalore. Viognier is a warm-climate variety and producers look to bring out apricot fruit, luscious texture and a heady scent that can be a bit Marmite for some wine lovers. I am in the love category, pairing this with Thai spices.
This wine’s candied orange aroma and tangy-sweetness hint at an ancient style of wind-dried wine. The ‘Dammusi’ house on the label and name (derived from the Arabic ‘Son of the wind’) hint at the waves of invaders on this Sicilian island. Great with little pastries like Sicilian Cannoli with candied fruit.
A traditional wine with traditional production. This is made with a splash of Sangiovese for an ‘eye of the Partridge’ or “Occhio di Pernice” colour. Its fermented with a Madre, mother yeast, kept alive year to year. And we enjoy candied fruit, raisins, honey, nuts and a vibrant background of tangy orange. Serve with… friends.
From the name ‘Holy Wine’ to its historic use in Catholic Mass to the cruciform on every barrel, this is wine intimately linked to the Church. It’s a distinct style too, slightly toffeeish and nutty, its sweetness balanced by sherried notes. Have it the traditional way, with cantucci biscuits to dip in the wine.
I think this is the wine Goldilocks would have chosen; sweet but not too sweet. It’s a red pud wine, concentrated with flavours of cherry and dried cranberries. There are herbal touches too, but it’s only half as sweet as many classic dessert wines. It’s beautiful with chocolate puddings or even fruit.