Judging by the selections of the supermarkets, Christmas seems to be the only time of year when we give ourself permission to drink sweet and fortified wine. Which is odd, because it’s fantastic with summer fruits, say, plus we eat pudding, and cheese, all year round. So now might be a time not only to stock up for the festivities, but also to buy for the rest of the year, so you have something gorgeous to drink with that apricot tart come August.
Sweet wine comes in very different styles, from light, frothy moscatos (lovely with panettone) to rich, sticky cream sherries (mandatory with mince pies). Sauternes, while popular, is not necessarily the best value. Instead, try one of the other sweet wines from the Bordeaux area, such as Château La Caussade’s luscious Sainte-Croix-du-Mont 2014 (13% abv), from vineyards just over the river from Sauternes, which, at £12.95 for a full-size bottle from the Wine Society, is half the price.
Personally, I prefer the more orangey Spanish and Portuguese moscatels with my Christmas pud, which leads me to my sweet wine find of the year: the gorgeously marmaladey Adega de Pegoes Moscatel de Setubal (17.5% abv), from Portugal. It’s ridiculously good value again from the Wine Society at £9.95, or £10.35 from Wine Poole in Warwick (incidentally, it would be perfect with a custard tart, too).
Lidl have made a feature of bargain-basement Canadian icewines over the last few years, and they again have the delectable Pillitteri Vidal (£14.99; 11% abv). It’s intensely sweet, so may be better on its own rather than with dessert (with the possible exception of cheesecake). The elegant bottle makes it a classy gift, too.
Morrisons has gone big on port this year, including some rather showy ones, such as the dinky, 20cl bottle of Graham’s gloriously treacly 20-Year-Old Tawny (£12; 20% abv) – perfect for an adult stocking filler – and Taylor’s 325th anniversary limited-edition Aged Tawny (£27; 20% abv), which comes in a very flash, circular bottle. Oh, and while you’re in there (and if there’s any left), pick up a half-bottle of Maison Castel Jurançon 2014 (12% abv), a delicious sweet wine from south-west France that’s selling for a derisory £5 a half-bottle.
Finally, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a cream liqueur, so let me draw your attention to Lyme Bay’s award-winning Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur, which one retailer aptly calls “bloody awesome” (£13.28 Master of Malt, £14.99 Ocado; 17% abv). That’s one to see you through the umpteenth repeat of Home Alone.