Three winter warmers
Australia’s fortified winemakers are scandalously overlooked. To show solidarity with them, we should have a fortified wine dinner at least once a winter.
And winter is warming up (sorry about that). Even in Sydney, where it’s been slow to start. It’s the last day of autumn, and there’s suddenly a nip in the air – at last.To show solidarity with them, we should have a fortified wine dinner at least once a winter.
Years ago, staying at The House at Mount Prior near Rutherglen, I was treated to a memorable dinner at which only local fortified wines were served. It was winter, mercilessly cold as Rutherglen can be, and the meal was nothing show-off but good, hearty, country winter fare. A fino* for aperitif, French onion soup with amontillado, various ports with a roast for main course, and muscat and tokay with a rich dessert, chocolates and coffee.
Sanchez Romate NPU Amontillado, AUD $50 (750ml) at Prince Wine Store
There’s nothing better with French onion soup than sherry; use oloroso if you haven’t got amontillado or palo cortado, but not too sweet. This is a great wine and inexpensive for what you get. The colour is mid to deep amber, the nutty bouquet reminds of old wood panelling, mahogany and old leather armchairs. The palate is racy yet rich, superbly deep, powerful and lingering, but not without elegance. The finish is bone-dry and incredibly long.
Vintage fortified/vintage port
This blend of shiraz, touriga, tinta barroca, tinto cao, tinta roriz and durif has a deep, dark red colour with a tinge of purple. Its bouquet is sweetly blackberry-like, with hints of vanilla and crème de cassis. It’s intense and full-bodied, medium-sweet and clean finishing, with abundant soft, fine-grained tannins. Drier vintage ports can go well with meaty main courses, especially if accompanied by a sweeter sauce incorporating fruit, eg. cherries or blackberries.
The appearance is deep-ish tawny with a yellow rim, and oily viscosity. The bouquet is fresh and muscaty, showing younger notes of rosewater-like fruit as well as raisins and excellent aged character. It’s very sweet and luscious before the drying effects of acid, rancio and astringency chime in at the tremendously long finish. Great value at AUD $30 for a full bottle. Great with rich desserts like sticky date pudding, pecan pie, or just vanilla ice-cream with some of the muscat drizzled over it.
*Fino and amontillado would have been labelled sherry at the time; today the word apera replaces the word sherry. Tawny port is now just tawny, vintage port is now vintage fortified, vintage shiraz or somesuch, and tokay is now topaque. Muscat remains unscathed.