Fortified for the festivities
It was discovered that when going through baking hot temperatures, the wine changed character, and gained an extra complexity. As a result, producers in Madeira began to “cook” their wine in estufagem, or ovens, on the island. Thus further strengthened, Madeira is almost immune to oxidation, and can last for a century or more in cask or bottle. Once opened, a bottle will last for weeks, unlike almost any other wine.
Port is better-known than Madeira in Ireland. It comes in two basic styles, vintage or tawny. Vintage port needs to be aged in a bottle, and will keep 20 years or more. Its little brothers, ruby and late-bottled vintage, are released ready-to-drink. All are ruby in colour, with red fruit flavours. Tawny port is aged in cask and therefore tastes more of nuts, wood, and caramel. Tawnies are probably better with sweet foods, vintage-style ports with blue cheese.
I have covered sherry, the great fortified wine of Spain many times. At this time of year, I tend towards the richer nuttier styles, such as Amontillado or Oloroso. Both make magnificent fireside wines.
I wrote previously about “en rama” fino sherries, which are bottles unfiltered and unfined. Last month, I received two bottles, one from Sherry, the other from a neighbouring region. The Alvear Fino en rama from Montilla-Moriles (Quintessential Wines, Drogheda) is well worth seeking out.
In addition, the sherry below, from one of my favourite producers, has finally arrived in this country.
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Delgado Zuleta Goya XL Manzanilla en rama, 15%, €23 per litreA wonderful complex dry wine, finishing crisp and dry.
Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule; Black Pig, Donnybrook; La Touche wines4u, Greystones.
Quinta da Gaivosa 10-year-old Tawny Port, de Sousa, 20%, €24.99Sweet damsons and milk chocolate on the nose. A fruit-filled palate with a long finish.
Stockists: Wines on the Green, Dawson St.; McCabe’s, Blackrock.
Barbeito Special Old Reserve 10 years old Sercial Madeira, 19%, €29.99This is a lovely dry Madeira, with aromas of orange peel and nuts.
Stockists: 64 Wines, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford.
Petit Guiraud 2010, Sauternes 13.5% €19.99The second wine of one of the top Chateaux, this is a delicious sweet but balanced wine.
Stockists: McCabe’s, Blackrock; Mitchell’s, IFSC and Sandycove.