Our Guide to the Best Fortified & Dessert Wines this Christmas
If you're looking for a reason to abandon the diet, Christmas is as good as any. It's that time of year when friends and families come together to celebrate, overindulge on food and wine and at least one relative loses all forms of self-control…
Fortified and sweet wines are some of the most decadent and indulgent styles. They're flavoursome with a lasting impact, and the best ones reward the drinker with feelings that just can't be replicated.
Whether you're pairing a bottle with a richly sweet dessert or enjoying a glass with the grandparents as they regale you with stories from their youth, it's hard to beat a Fortified or dessert wine come Christmas. The Wine Selectors Tasting Panel has hand-selected the best sweet and fortified wines for you to relish this festive season.
Known colloquially as Tawny 'Port', this vibrant, sweet style is Australia's favourite fortified wine. From the flagons and casks of the local RSL bar to the centenary releases from the pioneering Seppeltsfield winemakers, Tawny is available in many incarnations.
The word 'Tawny' refers to the wine's colour which is achieved by ageing the wine for periods in old oak barrels (known as oxidative ageing). This process adds extra flavour, intensity and varying notes of dried fruits, five spice and grilled nuts.
Tawny can be produced from any red grape variety; however, Grenache, Shiraz and Touriga are the most commonly used. You will find some of Australia's most excellent examples produced in regions like Rutherglen, Barossa Valley and Swan Valley.
Bethany Old Quarry Tawny NV
Old Quarry Tawny is made from Grenache and Shiraz grapes harvested late in the season to achieve maximum ripeness and complexity. It displays intense raisin and nutty characters over dried fruit with a rich and lingering full-flavour finish. Old Quarry Tawny is an excellent match for a warm and deliciously sweet traditional Christmas pudding.
One of the richest and most powerful wines available, Liqueur Muscat is a style that appeals to all of the senses. It's produced using a variety of the Muscat grape known as "Muscat Rouge à Petits Grains," which Australia shortens to Brown Muscat or Frontignac.
Muscat achieves its power and almost unctuous texture by allowing the ripe and intense grapes to age in old oak barrels, gentling the concentration. It's common for Muscat to display flavours of treacle, dried fruits and toffee. Liqueur Muscat can be produced anywhere in Australia, with Rutherglen in Victoria considered the heartland.
De Bortoli Show Liqueur Muscat NV
This highly acclaimed award winner shows rich and concentrated flavours of coffee, caramel and raisins. With well-integrated oak and a lingering smooth finish, it's a great choice alongside rich rum balls or fruit mince pies.
Liqueur Topaque is a gentler and more elegant alternative to Liqueur Muscat. It was formally known as "Tokay" until the name was changed to Topaque due to new European winemaking legislation.
Ripe fruit and years spent in old oak barrels softened the concentration, giving this wine its richness and silken texture. It's made exactly like Liqueur Muscat with the only difference being that Topaque is made from a white grape called Muscadelle.
Topaque is often considered to be a lighter, finer wine than Muscat with flavours of candied fruits, honey, toffee and distinctive cold tea characters. Like Muscat, Topaque is produced all over the country and championed in Rutherglen.
Campbells Topaque NV
This rich Topaque opens with lifted cold tea and caramel aromas before butterscotch and dried apricot flavours. For the ultimate pairing, try a bottle alongside a sticky date pudding with caramel sauce.
Apera is the new name given to the wines traditionally referred to as Sherry. Once again, legislation stamped out the usage of the European title, and now Australia produces Apera.
Sherry likely conjures up memories of grandparents sharing a bottle or the flagons found on the bottom shelf of the local bottle shop. Sadly, this classic style has fallen out of favour with today's crowds, despite remaining a tremendous fortified wine.
Apera comes in a variety of styles from bone dry right through to lusciously sweet and intense. It's commonly made from a white grape called Palomino.
Dry Apera is aged under a film of flor yeast (called biological ageing), which gives nutty and almost saline characters to balance the green apple and citrus freshness. Sweet Apera is aged without flor yeast and spends time in old barrels to gentle the concentration. Rutherglen, the Barossa Valley and Riverina in NSW all have long histories of producing Apera.
Morris Mia Pale Flor Apera NV
Morris Wines has created a delightful aperitif presenting soft floral aromas and a clean, nutty palate. Before it's over, there's a firm and crisp finish to enjoy. Mia Pale Flor Apera is an ideal pairing for warm and spicy gingerbread.
Botrytis Affected Wines
Botrytis is a remarkable mould that can spread across ripe grapes resulting in sweet and rich flavours and silken textures. Mould evaporates the moisture inside, leaving behind a very sweet juice. As a result, glycerol becomes concentrated, creating that appealing smooth and silken texture.
Botrytis-affected wines are very sweet and powerful with notes of honey, stonefruit and candied citrus. It's commonplace to see Botrytis-affected Semillon, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Riverina in southern NSW is the spiritual home of these fascinating wines.
D'arenberg The Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
This magnificent wine deserves a more flattering name. So, for now, we'll focus on the nose of lemongrass and honey resting over powerful flavours of apricot, pineapple and citrus. Expect a creamy texture, balanced acidity and an effortlessly endless finish. This d'Arenberg is a great choice alongside a creamy pavlova or your favourite fresh fruit with a serving of cream.
Have you placed your Christmas wine order? Check out the Wine Selectors' website for delivery cut-off dates to ensure you and your family have a very 'merry' Christmas. Don't miss out!