The British wine trade has been hugely influential on the fortified wine industry, with 17th and 18th century merchants establishing companies to make wines specifically suited to British palates. Ever since then, the British have enjoyed the tradition of drinking fortified wines at Christmas, whether it be a dry sherry as an aperitif, a sweet Madeira with Christmas pudding, or a glass of Port with Stilton. Quintessentially Christmas drinks, are there any better ways to toast the festive season of indulgence and decadence?
Sandeman is one of the most recognised and awarded Port houses in the world. Below is a selection of their Ports illustrating the great skill of their chief winemaker, Luis Sottomayor.
The House of Sandeman is renowned for its aged Tawny Ports, their extensive cellar of wines being first laid down in the mid-19th century. Winemaker Luís Sottomayor starts the process of creating Sandeman’s hallmark style of freshness, intensity and flavour in the vineyard. He chooses different parcels of fruit for wines destined for Tawny, and then follows it through the vinification and ageing process to make a wine that is distinctly different to his vintage Ports. This wine, with an average age of 20 years, is bright brick red from long ageing in large oak barrels. The blend of younger and older wines has created a rich, well-balanced Port that retains dried apricot fruit alongside honey, roasted nuts, spices and vanilla. Serve chilled at about 12˚C, the way it’s drunk in Portugal.
This Late Bottled Vintage is made by selecting the best fruit from Sandeman’s quintas in the Douro Valley. As with Vintage Port, it is fermented in lagars and aged in wood in Vila Nova de Gaia prior to bottling. As it was bottled unfiltered, it may throw a sediment like a vintage port, so we would recommend decanting before serving. It is full-bodied with lively acidity, robust tannins and a long finish. Serve cool at about 16˚C.
This Reserve Ruby is blended from wines aged in large oak barrels for an average of four years. Deep ruby red in colour, with rich red fruit aromas intertwined with a touch of dried fruit, it is an elegant mix of powerful flavours. Concentrated fruit and fine tannins are characteristic of this iconic wine.
Valdespino has a venerable history in Jerez and is one of a small number of Bodegas who own vineyards in the Pago Marcharnudo, an area considered a ‘grand cru’ within the Sherry D.O. They are also the only boutique Sherry firm to produce single vineyard Sherries.
This single-vineyard Sherry is extraordinarily good value for a wine of its quality and age. Fermented in oak cask and spending more than 15 years in the Solera, 10 years under flor and a further five years or more ageing oxidatively, this amber-coloured, bone-dry Amontillado has remarkable freshness. The nose and palate reflect the influence of the ageing process, with complex savoury rancio notes of hazelnuts mingling with hints of butterscotch and sweet spice. This elegant Sherry is perfect as an aperitif or with cured meats.
In accordance with its V.O.S designation (meaning ‘Very Old Sherry’), this Sherry is over 20 years old and, as the name denotes, comes from a solera established in 1842. Made from 90% dry Oloroso (from Palomino grapes) blended with 10% Pedro Ximénez midway through the ageing process, the result is a full-bodied, off-dry sherry (50-60 g/l residual sugar) with excellent length, with notes of rich dried fruits, nuts and caramel.
Every bottle of El Candado (‘the padlock’ in Spanish), comes with a small lock and two little keys, reflecting the idea that it protects this delicious wine from anyone wanting to steal a glass! The grapes are sun-dried to concentrate sugars prior to fermentation and oxidatively aged in a four-stage solera. The resulting wine has incredible intensity and sweetness (400 g/l of residual sugar), with aromas of dried fruits, raisins, figs, and subtle notes of chocolate and coffee. The unctuous, velvety palate is reminiscent of toffee, dark caramel and honey on an incredibly long finish.
Justino’s is one of the oldest and most widely-known Madeira wine producers, holding one of the largest stocks of Madeira wine on the island.
This old reserve is a blend of wines vinified from the white Bual grape produced exclusively under the traditional Canteiro system, where the wines are gently warmed. Aged in oak casks for a minimum of 10 years to obtain the characteristic deep amber colour, this powerful, medium-rich wine has intense aromas of dark chocolate, molasses and raisins on the nose leading to dried fruits, spices and nuts on the long finish.
Produced from carefully selected Tinta Negra grapes from a single vintage, this wine was aged using the Canteiro process for a minimum of 10 years prior to bottling. Made only in a Fine Rich (sweet) style, this has a rich amber colour in the glass, with elegant aromas of raisins and roasted walnut. The complex palate combines caramel, almond, orange peel and toffee apple notes with lively acidity balancing the sweetness.
- 75cl Sandeman Ruby Port (1 bottle)
- Half pint of water
- One orange studded with cloves and slow roasted or dried orange slices and cloves
- Cinnamon stick
- Star anise
- Fresh ginger (thumb sized piece)
- Juice of half an orange (fresh)
- Orange rind
- Grated nutmeg
- Orange slice
- Slice of ginger
- Put the cinnamon, star anise and ginger in the half pint of water and bring to the boil until the liquid has reduced by half
- Pour in the bottle of Port, add the slow roasted orange (or cloves and dried orange slices). Bring to the boil
- Reduce the heat and allow it to infuse at a simmer for 10 minutes
- In a separate jug, place the juice of half an orange and a few slices of rind
- Pour over the Port and spice mixture removing the roasted orange (or slices and cloves)
- Stir and serve in a tumbler with a slice of orange and ginger. Grate nutmeg over the top to finish