In the month that Yotam Ottolenghi comes to Chorleywood with Helen Goh to introduce his book Sweet (see p13/15) it seemed the perfect time to taste some more dessert wines
Sweet wines can be made in a variety of different ways, most of which involve a later grape harvest date and the drying or shrivelling of the grapes which results in the concentration of the juice and a natural elevation of sugar levels.
Our selection this month includes the naturally sweet grape variety Moscatel or Muscat, wines made with grapes affected by noble rot (botrytis) and an Italian, made from grapes left to dry in the sun after picking.
Noble rot is the name given to a fungus that attacks the grapes in a positive way, concentrating the juice and flavours. It needs early morning humidity followed by drying sunshine. The process not only concentrates the sugars but also the acids, resulting in wines which can be not only luscious but also beautifully balanced.
We tasted by price.
Vistamar Late Harvest Moscatel Limerick Valley 2015 Chile Majestic £6.99 37.5cl, £5.49 mix 6 or more
Bright, pale amber, lovely aromas of stonefruits, grapes on the palate, with dried fruit characteristics, rich concentration and balanced by brisk acidity. Great value.
Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon Riverina 2011 Australia M&S £9.50 37.5cl
Deeper bright amber, gorgeous marmalade nose, rich and glycerol attack gliding with peach and pineapple over the tongue. Very classy for under a tenner.
Domaine de Leyrissat Montbazillac 2014 France Waitrose £10.49 50cl
Bright, pale gold,honey and figs on the nose, delicate but at the same time luscious palate, with crisp finish. A pleasantly lighter style. Good with blue cheese too.
Elysium Black Muscat California 2015 Majestic £11.99 37.5cl, £9.99 mix 6 or more
Youthful, cherryade red. Most unusual, rosehip perfumed aromas. Soft and sweet on the attack, one for those who like their dessert wines unashamedly sweet. Lovely with berryfruit pavlova.
Sauternes (in partnership with Ch Sudiraut) France Waitrose £15.99 37.5
Bright amber, from one of the top estates in Sauternes, very complex nose and rich intriguing palate with layer upon layer of flavour. Very long finish. Spoil yourself with this and foie gras.
Da Vinci Vin Santo Italy 2009 M&S £20 50cl
Light, tawny brown. Very different. Reminiscent of Palo Cortado Sherry. Rich, complex and nutty on the palate, preceded by orange peel and honey on the nose. Would be just as at home as an aperitif with tasty savoury nibbles.