This is a longer version of an article also published in the Financial Times.
If you won't drink these often-underpriced treasures now, when will you? Most of these will last well over the festive season in an opened bottle. Roussillon joins the classic fortified wine regions as a useful source of the sweet, stickie and succulent. Wines are listed within each category upwards in terms of price per cl. In the case of wines sold in bottles other than 75-cl capacity, I have given the equivalent price per 75 cl before the actual price per bottle below.
See wine-searcher.com for more stockists both in the UK and around the world and remember that some retailers insist on orders of at least six or 12 bottles.
DRY & STRONG
Herederos de Argüeso, Las Medallas Manzanilla NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Very light and delicate. It doesn't even taste 15% alcohol. Juicy and fluid and refreshing.
£6.95 for 75 cl The Wine Society
Sánchez Romate, Fino Perdido NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Very pale tawny. Chock full of character. Really light, dry and zesty. Screwcap with señorita label.
£7.95 for 75 cl The Wine Society
Hijos de Rainera Péres Marin, La Guita Manzanilla NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
The famous 'sherry with a string', and orange screwcap. Mild nose and marine flavours, all very gentle and correct with a bone-dry finish. Bring on the langostinos.
£11.00, £5.50 for 37.5 cl Theatre of Wine and others
Barbeito 10 Years Old Sercial NV Madeira
Stunning quality from the magic innovator on this Atlantic isle. Extremely tangy and revitalising. Dry yet with great complexity for the price. A great aperitif and pick me up. The rather richer Verdelho is also sublime before, after and during meals.
From £19.50 for 75 cl Underwood, Savage Selection, Berry Bros and many others
Equipo Navazos, La Bota de Manzanilla 22 NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Pale dry sherry for the cognoscenti from an outit that bottles direct from specially selected casks. The average age of this artisanal wine is about six years - vibrating purity. Treat it like a white burgundy. Excellent value.
£20.95 for 75 cl Little Wine Club and others
Lustau, Almacenista Manzanilla Amontillada NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Matured by in a small bodega by Manuel Cuevas Jurado. Very pale bronze. Lovely soft, long-aged taste of the sea. What sailor could resist this? A great present for the sailor in your life. So clean and breezy.
£30.00, £15 for 37.5 cl The Sampler
Sánchez Romate, Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Obviously very old and super tangy. Lots to lose yourself in here though overall much more delicate than most Palo Cortados. Seriously interesting.
£34.00, £17 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Gonzalez Byass, Apostoles Palo Cortado NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
Glowing orange. Dry finish even though it has a wonderfully rich candied-citrus-peel nose. Just a teaspoonful of this would go such a long way. Maybe serve your guests with droppers? Wonderful stuff and not too exaggerated. Sufficiently fresh fruit. Transparent, communicative and so complex. Serve with cheese.
£39.98, widely stocked from £15.47 for 37.5 cl Waitrose
Ch Barréjat 2009 Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh
Delicious for current drinking. Tangy orange bargain. Just a little marmaladey with a touch of citrus-zest bitterness but overall it's a steal. Could be a delight with mince pies. The residual sugar level is 100 g/l. A great buy.
£11.50 for 75 cl Stone, Vine & Sun
Els Pyreneus 2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes
90% small-berried Muscat, 10% the stickier Muscat of Alexandria from France's prime region for sweet Muscat. Very pale and delicate and with a little aggressive sugar and alcohol on the finish. This is just like fresh alcoholic passion-fruit juice. Good value.
£14.62, £9.75 for 50 cl Bibendum, Whole Foods, James Wallace Wines
Triana, Viejo Pedro Ximenez NV Jerez - Xérès - Sherry
From Hidalgo of La Gitana fame. Perhaps just a bit too much - thick, tooth-rottingly sweet and treacly - to drink but it would be great on ice cream or harnessed to add richness to a savoury dish.
£14.95 for 75 cl Jeroboams
Dom des Chênes, Ambré 2003 Muscat de Rivesaltes
Obviously long aged in oak in warm conditions with great almond-scented refreshment. Excellent attack and freshness for a Roussillon 2003.
£15.56 for 75 cl OW Loeb
Berrys' Crusted 2003 port
From the crowded Symington stable. Deep crimson. Real Douro heat in a bottle, plus raisins, liquorice and sweet dust. No shortage of character here. This tastes like an artisanal product and as such is a great buy.
£18.35 for 75 cl Berry Bros
Ch Haut-Bernasse 2003 Monbazillac
Very rich, full and round from the Dordogne. Thoroughly satisfying golden elixir - if you like barley sugar.
£18.41 for 75 cl, £14.10 for 50 cl OW Loeb
Ch du Levant 2007 Sauternes
Full-throttle sweetness from a very good vintage for sweet white bordeaux. Very round, fat and massive, Drink this NOW! But there is quite a bit of persistence and character.
£18.50 for 75 cl Bibendum Wine
Ch Puy Servain 2005 Haut-Montravel
Heady, rich and very intense. Great value from greater Bergerac. I thought I could taste the refreshing greenness of the local Muscadelle grape but apparently it's all Sémillon. Not so unlike the most famous wine of the region, Ch Tirecul La Gravière.
£19.42, £12.95 for 50 cl Jeroboams
Valdivieso, Eclat Botrytis Semillon 2007 Maule
Pale gold with the textbook 'honeyed cabbage' aromas of Botrytis cinerea, aka noble rot. Like lovely rich lemon syrup. So satisfying, even if it fades a little fast. Part barrel fermented. What's not to like?
£19.90, £9.95 for 37.5 cl Colchester Wine Co
Martí Fabra Carreras Garnacha NV Empordà-Costa Brava
Heady, almondy dark red. Not that sweet, a sort of light Banyuls. Very appetising and moreish - really lovely for sipping after dinner. Very good value.
£20.25, £13.49 for 50 cl Noel Young
Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest 2008 Tokaji
The painless way to enjoy Hungary's most famous wine. A super-fruity blend of the three Tokaji grapes: the great Furmint, Hárslevelű and Yellow Muscat. Shows the freshness that defines Tokaji without any of the complication. Super clean.
£21.90, £10.95 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Ch Briatte, Cuvée Spéciale 2005 Sauternes
Really sticky, fat, orange, oak-aged bombshell from Preignac. Not complex but good value.
£21.98, £10.99 for 37.5 cl Corney & Barrow
Campbells Muscat NV Rutherglen
Pale rose tawny. Burnt-caramel nose on this Australian classic tooth-rotter. Lively and not too heavy. Covered with awards and a great price. Tastes like molten Demerara sugar but has sufficient lift and acidity.
£22.40, £11.20 for 37.5 cl
Sarda-Malet, La Carbasse 2006 Rivesaltes Rouge
Raciness from Roussillon with lots of red-wine character plus well-integrated sweetness. Dry finish. Delightful. There is freshness here. Would be lovely with rich main courses - venison stew? - and cheese. Quite light really, like Calfornia Zin with freshness.
£22.95 for 75 cl Berry Bros
Quinta do Vallado, 10 Year Old Tawny NV port
A blend of such port grapes as Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca and others. Pale fox red. Very obviously long aged in old oak with the heady smell of 'rancio' - almost more like a cognac than a port. But still lively, curranty and fun with a dry finish. Could clear a blocked nose?
From £22.99 for 75 cl Blas ar Fwyd, Bibendum, The Grapevine
Feiler-Artinger Beerenauslese 2009 Burgenland
Rich and delicious super-sweet wine from the shores of Austria's Neusiedlersee. The blend is made up of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling (the other Riesling) and Chardonnay grown mainly on limestone just north of Rust. Massive sweetness but no excesses and a lovely silky texture. Impressively easy to find - in theory anyway. Residual sugar is 166 g/l, total acidity 6.2 g/l and alcohol 10.5%.
£23.00, £11.49 for 37.5 cl at 186 Waitrose stores
Ch Miaudoux 2005 Saussignac
Quite refined, polished, nobly rotten wine from the Dordogne. Great balance. Good lemony acidity stops it being excessively sweet.
£23.70 £15.80 for 50 cl Tanners
Ch Cantegril 2006 Sauternes
Lots of botrytis and correct, if slighty drier than most, Sauternes character. Like particularly refreshing pear juice.
£24.38 for 75 cl OW Loeb
Berrys' Meredith, 5 Years Old Full Rich NV Madeira
This emissary from Portugal's Atlantic isle is by far the best of Berry's own-label madeiras. Looks lovely and old. Pale tawny, transparent, almost cheesy-smelling (in a good way), persistent and interesting. An opened bottle will last forever. Great value.
£25.00, £12.25 for 37.5 cl Berry Bros
Taylor's, Quinta de Vargellas 2001 port
A particularly successful vintage of this single-quinta classic - quite a firm style and no hurry whatsoever to drink this.
From £25 Majestic, Tanners and many others
Bentomiz, Ariyanas Naturalmente Dulce 2007 Málaga
Super-sweet Muscat from the Costa del Sol, an old sweet-wine region currently being revived with delicious results. An edge of orange peel.
£26.99, £17.99 for 50 cl Handford Wine, No 2 Pound Street
Ch Lafaurie-Peyraguey 1999 Sauternes
Usefully mature with a deep orange hue. Heady, dusty, round and complex. Well selected and offered at a special Christmas price.
£31.95 for 75 cl Jeroboams
Ch Doisy-Daëne 2004 Sauternes
Quite a pungent botrytis nose - really nervy and fine. Big and bold. Not too sweet - a wine for foie gras? Very interesting. Almost finishes dry. Maybe not quite sweet enough for Christmas pudding.
£32.40 for 75 cl Tanners
Grant Burge 20 Year Old Tawny NV Barossa
South Australia's answer to the rather more concentrated Noval Tawny below. Exciting and nervy, trophy winner in the Decanter World Wine Awards.
£36.50 for 75 cl The Sampler
Ch La Tour Blanche 2003 Sauternes
Really luscious for drinking now. So big and round and unctuous. Yet it's saved from flab by its structure. There's a beginning, middle and end to this wine with some very agreeable toastiness in the undertow. Great stuff. Enjoy it while you may.
£37 The Wine Society
Reichsrat von Buhl, Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese 2009 Pfalz
A particularly open young Auslese that is truly expressive of its provenance: grapefruit syrup plus terroir and great zest.
£40.00, from about £20 for 37.5 cl Great Western, Harrods, Hennings, Jascots, Woodwinters
Quinta do Noval, 20 Year Old Tawny NV Port
Pale fox red. Complex, rancio with an exciting array of dried fruits aromas including prunes. There is SO much going on here… This is really vital and has much more excitement than most 20-year-old tawnies. Really great stuff!
£40.00, £19.99 per 37.5 cl Tesco
Ch de Fesles 2005 Bonnezeaux
Mid gold from the mid Loire. Nutty start and then beautiful, contained sweetness with a savoury streak. Impossible to spit. Great intensity with a hint of dill pickle. So long, so complete. Lovely already yet I'm sure it will last beautifully.
£43.50, £29 per 50 cl The Wine Society
Taylor's 1985 port
Not one of the sweetest ports but with great depth of flavour and, as always with Taylor, real class. Just about ready to drink (though a 1970 or 1963 would be even better…)
From about £55 Bablake Wine and many others including £70 Majestic
Capezzana Vin Santo 2003 Carmignano
A particularly rich example of Tuscany's excitingly complex, long wood-aged super-tangy sweet wine. The strength comes from drying sweet grapes and concentrating further in a sealed barrel.
£64.00, £31.99 for 37.5 cl Noel Young, Richard Granger, AG Wines, Slurp.co.uk
Graham's 1970 port
Stunning wine at the peak of its powers at last. (This is the best stage to drink vintage port.) A silly price really for a great 40-year-old wine. The Symingtons put their all into this, their debut vintage of Graham's. Perfumed, plummy and utterly hedonistic.
From £85 for 75 cl L'Assemblage, Four Walls, Nickolls & Perks
Taylor's, Scion NV port
Pre-phylloxera tawny, a special limited release to draw attention to the stocks of great ancient wine that can still be found in the port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia.
£2,500 Berry Bros, Harrods, Nickolls & Perks