Three sweet wines for Christmas

(2022) The Setúbal peninsula, just south of Lisbon, specialises in these fortified wines made from Moscatel. It's made in a relatively fresh, modern and vivacious style, though it does spend 24 months in oak barrels. Notes of mandarin orange and honey, caramel and caraway seeds dominate, with plenty of Muscat florals in the mix too. On the palate the caramel sweetness moves into a smoky and aromatic tobacco and Earl Grey tea, but all the time that citrus freshness lightens the load. Distinctive, and would be wonderful with orangy desserts,but there's also a suggestion to make it into a long drink with plenty of ice and tonic, and perhaps add a slice of orange.
(2022) Atamán is a Vermouth made from a base of fine Manzanilla Sherries from Barbadillo's bodegas in Sanlucar, that is inspired by very old Vermouths found in the bodega's cellars. It is blended with aromats including wormwood, quassia and rosemary, to produce a fabulous Vermouth. Yes it would make a fascinating Negroni, but in truth it is delicious to simply sip, over ice if you prefer. There's a huge depth of caramel at first, then the herbal top notes show through aromatically. In the mouth it is sweet with 140g/l of residual sugar, but the astonishing bitterness of the herbal additions builds and dominates the finish for a very grown-up and utterly delcious wine for rich fruit or chocolate desserts, or simply to sip and contemplate the meaning of life.
(2022) As always, Noval's LBV is a relatively rare unfiltered example that will age, but because it has matured five years in oak and chestnut barrels (instead of two years for Vintage Ports) it is also ready to drink as soon as it hits the market. It is made from fruit from Noval's own vineyards, trodden by foot in lagares. Such a deep, vibrant purple colour, the nose is beautifully refined, with a light ash and smoky mineral spice over dense blue/black fruits. In the mouth there's plenty of ripe, smooth and pure black fruit sweetness - glossy cherry and blackcurrant - with cocoa and dark mint chocolate notes, but again that touch of ashy, dry tannin gives a lovely refinement and excellent length.

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