(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.
(2022) Suggested by Laithwaites as a good mixer for a long drink with tonic and a sprig of rosemary, this is a relatively unusual rosé Port, made by Alvaro van Zeller. Quite delicate rose-touched floral aromatics over berry fruits. There is good sweetness on the palate, a touch of creamy toffee, but the gentle bite of the spirit and very good acidity combine to give a refreshing finish. Would also do well with cheeses I think.
(2021) Ruby at the core with a broad tawny rim, Noval's 2007 Colheita is a single vintage Port of very high quality that was aged for 13 years in wooden barrels at the Noval cellar. That means it is a wine with wonderful maturity and instant drinkability, unlike Vintage Ports which often require decades after release to show their best. There are deep, soulful aromas of walnut and old polished wood, a twist of Seville orange and delightful hint of shellac in the mix. In the mouth terrific balance of sweetness and cherry-ripe fruit, with those aged notes, a liquorice intensity and concentration and such a creamy texture, flowing seamlessly into a sweet, beguiling finish with outstanding length. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2021) A white Vermouth (think Martini or Cinzano Bianca) but this one from Spain and emphasing more of the local citrus fruit in its aromas and flavours. Aromatic herbs and the peel of several different citrus fruits are macerated for several months then blended with an aged white mistela (sweet wine) to give a sweet but very grown up Vermouth full of interesting nuances. There's angelica, anise and basil, lots of leafy green herbs and that citrus hint of lime and mandarin orange. In the mouth there's no mistaking the concentration and intensity here, or the 18% alcohol, but the layers of smoky, fruity and herbal flavours run with delightful acidity to the finish. Drink on its own with ice, or as the base for Martinis and other cocktails. Watch the video for more information.
(2021) Is this a unique wine in the whole wide world? My guess would be yes: it's a Tannat from Uruguay, fortified with brandy much like a Port or Madeira, and infused with aromatic herbs, flowers and spices. The label quotes "winter flowers, Madagascan vanilla bean and wild apple mint." It has a deep ruby colour tinged with tawny, and a fabulous nose: like a cup of hot chocolate to begin with, moving into spicy black fruits and all the time a slightly other-worldly set of estery aromas in the background. On the palate it is rich and thick-textured, with plenty of luscious black cherry sweetness, but again it's as though some dark chocolate had been stirred in, some orange-like bite and acidity, and a long, warming finish. Unusual for sure, and very interesting. Price for 50cls. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2021) Noval's LBV is a serious wine, for drinking or extended cellaring, coming from a single vineyard. The fact that it is unfiltered means it will throw a sediment and may need decanting at some point, but that also increases its capacity to age. A sumptuous nose of liquidised blackcurrants and ripe black cherries shows plenty of chocolaty depth, and high quality spirit gives warmth without any alcoholic burn. In the mouth it is utterly delicious, with copious sweetness, a dry and firm tannin and acid framework that adds some rigour and length, and beautiful balance into a very long finish.
(2021) A deep burnished gold in colour, this is 100% Palomino, the average of the wines in the blend being 17 years. Truly fabulous nose, toast and butter, walnuts and Demerrera sugar, a suggestion of Seville orange too. Equally aluring on the palate, the wine has a real softness, a lanolin touch to that nuttiness, and an endlessly long finish with mineral and citrus acidity teasing out the walnut and caramel of the mid palate.
(2021) Pedro Ximénez, or 'PX' grapes are used to make this style: the darkest, stickiest, sweetest and richest of Sherries. The fully-ripe grapes are dried to increase their concentration, which results in a wine that pours mahogany brown, with raisin, chocolate and dried Chinese plum spiciness on the nose, and an engine-oil thick texture in the mouth. Flooded with sweet, plump dried fruits, a lovely edge of coffee and walnut, and just the right zesty orange and lemon acidity, balances the finish. At £12.95 for a full 75cl bottle this is a bargain, for sipping after dinner or matching to rich chocolate or Christmassy-style puddings. Watch the video for more infortmation and food-matching ideas.