11/12/2017 – Three Sweet Fortified Wines for Christmas

(2017) The island of Pantelleria lies in the southern Med, between Sicily and the Tunisian coast, and lightly-fortified sweet wines like this are a speciality. Made from Zibibbo (Muscat), part dried on mats before fermentation, it has a golden hue and attractive nose that is both floral and lightly honeyed, with tea and tobacco notes. In the mouth it is much lighter than the Port wines tasted alongside, and the burnished orange and apricot character of the fruit is offset by very good acidity and only a gentle hint of the spirit adding a little warmth.
(2017) Colheitas are single vintage Ports, but aged for a long, long time in barrels so they are tawny, mature and ready to drink on release, unlike 'Vintage Ports', which are released just a couple of years after the harvest and which will improve with extended cellaring in bottle. This from the ripe 2003 vintage is delightful I must say, filled with ripe, dark vine fruits and spices on the nose, touches of walnut, and on the palate creamy and rich, custardy fruit, huge raisin juiciness and sweetness, the mellow alcohol adding pleasing warmth and more spice in the finish. A treat in its attractive half bottle.
(2017) Noval is one of the greatest names in Port production, and I can also heartily recommend the 10-year-old version of this wine which is much cheaper at around £20 for a full bottle if you shop around, but this 20-year-old - the average age of the wines in the blend - is in such a sweet spot that it had to be my choice. It is mellow, nuttier and more figgy than the Kopke Colheita tasted alongside, deeper and more ruby-tinged, and the palate is just a raft of chocolate, sweet berries, tobacco and spice, the long elegant finish so beautifully balanced between the sweetness, a bittersweet marmalade acidity and seamless alcohol. Majestic stuff. Price for a full bottle and quite widely available - use the wine-searcher link.

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