In the third of my four round-ups of recommendations is a host of seriously superior sweet and strong wines, many of them bargains. This is the time of year to indulge in them. All the wines below are sweet to a greater or lesser extent apart from the dry Emilio Lustau sherries. Wines are listed in ascending price per cl. See wine-searcher.com for more stockists. Next week – fizz.
Emilio Lustau sherries 15%–20%
This ridiculously underpriced range of sherries chosen especially for Morrisons deserves a major spotlight. For the consumer, it represents almost absurd value. For the dynamic Emilio Lustau, one assumes it all helps with the cash flow (presumably very much more than their delicious Vermut Blanco described below). But for other sherry producers, it must be heart-breaking to see these unique, historic wines of Andalucia being practically given away. I almost feel bad drawing attention to these bargains.
My favourite is the Dry Oloroso (£6 a half, 20%) – purely coincidentally, I assume, the most potent at 20%. This bone-dry, pungent, long-aged, nutty wine has a hint of molasses on the nose and is seriously interesting. I would guess that this has the oldest average age of this range and is therefore the most seriously underpriced. Palo Cortado (£6 a half, 19%) is usually a favourite with sophisticated sherry aficionados but this one, however old, didn’t seem completely pristine to me and, presumably because of the age of some of the ingredients, was quite painful to taste. It’s certainly underpriced, like the rest of these sherries. The other dark sherry – the darkest of the lot – is the Pedro Ximénez (£6 a half, 17%) – as syrupy as most PXs are but with an attractive freshness on the end and a green tinge at the rim that suggests there is some pretty old wine in here.
As for the paler sherries, in a way the Amontillado (£7 a litre, 17.5%) is the most remarkable bargain of all. None of these wines is beautifully packaged and this litre bottle looks about as appetising as congealed Christmas pudding but the liquid is really surprising. Much paler and more delicate than most Amontillados, this wine could be served with confidence with soups and shellfish – so long as the bottle were well hidden. Of the two standard pale, dry sherries, the Fino (£5.50 a bottle, 15%) is in a way the most useful. Bready, substantial, pungent, bone dry and admirably persistent, this is supremely appetising. Manzanilla (£6 a half, 17%) is usually lighter and racier than its Fino stablemate but not in this instance. The Morrisons' buyer in this case has chosen an older, stronger, less mainstream Manzanilla Pasada (although it is not specifically labelled as such). This one is surprisingly nutty and grippy. But I can thoroughly recommend all of them. Bravo, Morrisons supermarket.
From £5.50 for 75 cl to £6 for 37.5 cl Morrisons
M & V Adriano 2016 Moscato d’Asti 5%
Lightly sparkling and super fruity. Very refreshing and whistle clean.
£9.60 Vino Vero, Richard Granger
De Bortoli, Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon 2013 Riverina 10.5%
Brilliantly priced, screwcapped Australian from the interior with nicely balanced, luscious, sweet mango fruit with sufficient passion-fruit notes to keep it fresh.
£6 for 37.5 cl Tesco
Marcarini 2016 Moscato d’Asti 5%
Old vines imbue this featherlight but very sweet, lightly sparkling wine with waxy, baked-apple notes. Very flirtatious.
£13.05 Bottle Apostle
Emilio Lustau, Vermut Blanco 15%
Sherry producers Emilio Lustau seem to be responsible for some of the most interesting fortified wines currently on the UK market, including this pale vermouth that knocked me off my feet for its beautifully judged blend of intriguing botanicals and bitterness. Very much more exciting than the average commercial vermouth. A bitter aperitif is supposed to mitigate the effects of alcohol…. And the red (Rojo) version is pretty good too but tastes sweeter and a bit less fresh.
£18.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Ch Tirecul La Gravière, Les Pins 2015 Monbazillac 12.5%
Not Bruno Bilancini of the Dordogne’s finest challenge to Sauternes but his best-value one. The most stimulating form of refreshing sweet apple juice.
£13.95 per 50 cl Lea & Sandeman
Quinta do Noval, Single Vineyard LBV 2011 Port 19.5%
Unfiltered, bottle-aged port from a stellar vintage. The tannins will preserve it for many a year but they are almost subsumed in a rich compote of mulberries and liquorice. It is already delicious but if you don’t get round to drinking it this Christmas, you could stick it away for another year or two – although it will start to throw a sediment with time so you may wish to decant it. Noval produce a very similar wine for Berry Bros & Rudd’s own label at £16.95.
£22.50 RRP Oddbins, Ocado and various independents
Pellegrino, Passito Liquoroso 2015 Pantelleria 15%
Pale tawny and obviously raisined and wood aged on the nose. Smells of spicy wood and then on the palate there's a whole range of dried citrus peel and spices with notes of the sort of dried fruits found in Sicilian cannoli. Attractively dry, persistent finish. A distinctive style of sweet wine from a dramatic island off Sicily. Good value.
£11.50 RRP for 37.5 cl Oddbins, Eton Vintners, Wineman, South Downs Cellar
Quinta da Romaneira, 10 Year Old Tawny NV Port 19.5%
A pale red offering a gorgeous combination of nuts and honey. So much better than the average 10-year-old tawny.
£23.50 Lea & Sandeman
Dom Jones, Muscat Moelleux 2016 Vin de France 10%
Made by Katie Jones, originally from Ashby-de-la-Zouch but now an admired winemaker in Roussillon. This sweet white is made from the small-berried Muscat grape and has lovely crisp, sweet, peachy fruit. Best drunk young with something not too sweet: cheese or a fruity dessert. Or just sipped on its own.
£11.99 for 37.5 cl Naked Wines
Ch de Suduiraut, Castelnau de Suduiraut 2011 Sauternes
From an excellent year for sweet white bordeaux and an impeccable sweet winemaking address (owned by AXA Millésimes). This is the more complex and ageworthy of the two second wines of Ch Suduiraut 2011 Sauternes. The lighter one is Ch Suduiraut, Les Lions de Suduiraut 2011 Sauternes. Very good value.
£13.99 for 37.5 cl Majestic
Markus Huber Riesling Auslese 2015 Niederösterreich 6.5%
Very pure and fleshy without being super-sweet but with great balance and not much alcohol. This Austrian whitecurrant essence would be lovely with a fruit-based or creamy dessert.
£14 for 37.5 cl Oddbins
Kyperounda, Commandaria 2008 Pitsilia Mountains 14%
Commandaria is Cyprus’s historic unique sweet wine from sun-dried grapes, in this stunning case mainly local white Xynisteri grapes, leading to a lively greenish orange wine that tastes of orange peel, and isn’t too alcoholic because, unusually, this Commandaria has not had alcohol added to it.
£16.99 for 37.5 cl Majestic
Kopke, Colheita 2003 Port 20%
Long aged in wood and smells like it. Dried fruit and walnuts, transparent, with real lift and freshness. An arabesque of a wine, and so very different from vintage port. Long and luscious but not excessively sweet. The oldest port house seems to have been particularly active in the UK recently. I also strongly recommend the complex Kopke 10 Year Old White Port (£18.95 for 37.5 cl Hennings, 20%). Kopke, Colheita 1999 Port (£32.99 for 75 cl Waitrose, 20%) is slightly less fresh than the 2003 but has interesting walnut and raisin notes.
£16.99 for 37.5 cl Majestic
Mullineux, Straw Wine 2016 Swartland 10%
An annual marvel, this glorious wine-cum-apricot puree made from low-yielding, sun-dried, old-vine Cape Chenin Blanc grapes grown on granite. Beautiful balance and a freshness that makes it reminiscent of Tokaji but it’s more immediately fruity. Handford have the equally delicious 2015 for £24.95 a half.
£27.95 for 37.5 cl Berry Bros & Rudd
Graham's 2000 Vintage Port 20%
A relatively precocious vintage port from a tiny crop via an impeccable address. Intense and liqueur-like with a strong minty note. Very pure and already broachable. This is a unique wine style from a Unesco World Heritage site, the Douro Valley.
£56.50–£70 Hedonism, Davy’s, Richard Granger, Fareham, House of Townend, The Vintage Port Shop and others
Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1968 Port
Taylor’s continue their now-annual tradition of supplying liquid, specially packaged fiftieth birthday gifts (there won’t be many other drinkable 1968s from anywhere in the world) and this tawny, with its flavours of vanilla, candied citrus and walnuts, is particularly pure and well balanced, but not cheap. Comes in a wooden gift box.
£175 RRP Hedonism, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges