Start the new year on the right note with these fortified wines
As we roll into the dark, cold days of the New Year, don't fret. Sipping and sharing fortified sweet wines can create enjoyable moments to begin 2018.
The wines work well in diverse settings. A small glass of fortified wine makes a great aperitif with savory “nibbly” bits after work. The wines also pair well with strong cheeses. And well-balanced sweet wines complement most desserts quite nicely. Or perhaps best of all, simply enjoy a glass by itself as a satisfying punctuation to a pleasurable meal with loved ones and friends.
The key comes in choosing wines that avoid cloying sweetness. Instead ample acidity should balance the wine with uplifting energy. The fortification which elevates alcohol by volume toward 19 percent also creates a little pleasant warmth on cold nights.
Enjoy the following wines:
• 2011 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Porto, Portugal (PLCB 7175; $21.99; available at most PLCB stores): This delicious wine offers a glimpse of a vintage port wine's complex pleasures, but at a fraction of the cost. And unlike vintage ports, just pop this wine open and enjoy without messy decanting. The wine's dark purple color offers rich black and red fruit aromas with enticing toffee notes. Rich, round dark fruit balanced with soft tannins and vibrant acidity carry through the long, fruity finish. It complements blue cheese with dried fruit and walnuts, as well as bittersweet chocolate desserts. 20 percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.
• Blandy's Ten-Year Malmsey Madeira, Portugal (PLCB Luxury 43243; $28.99 for 500 ml bottle): This tasty Madeira wine hails from the volcanic, subtropical islands of the same name lying in the Atlantic Ocean, about 400 miles west of Morocco in North Africa. The Blandy family came to the island in 1811, so the current generation enjoys a tremendous legacy of savoir-faire. To ensure the legacy, in recent decades the Blandy's have replanted classic grape varieties while also following traditional winemaking and the patient, aging techniques required to produce high-quality Madeira wines. The wine's amber color offers dried fruit, vanilla and toffee aromas. The wine delivers Madeira's classic, irresistible “tang” of subtle salinity and bright acidity to balance the medium sweet finish. It makes a terrific pairing with either banana bread or fig and walnut bread. 19 percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.
• 2011 Les Clos de Paulilles, Banyuls Rimage, France (Available nationally at around $20 for a 375 ml bottle; consult winesearcher.com for availability): This marvelous, fruity wine comes from head-pruned Grenache vines toiling in stony shale soils in French Catalonia, near the Spanish border. The traditional vineyards sit atop steep terraces with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. After hand harvesting, the grapes ferment slowly in stainless steel for five weeks or so to preserve the vibrant color along with fruity aromas and fresh flavors.
Aromas of red fruits and violets greet the nose. Fresh red fruit flavors and subtle chocolate notes balance with fresh acidity and a hint of elegant tannins through the fruity lingering finish. This is the perfect companion with Roquefort blue cheese. 16 percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.