Category:Dessert wine

Wine of the week: Kopke Fine Tawny Port NV

kopke tawny portThe Wine Curmudgeon likes port. I just don’t drink much of it, mostly because the price/value ratio is completely out of whack. Too much cheap port – and that means anything less than $20 – is not worth drinking. So when I find something like the Kopke tawny port ($13, purchased, 19.5%), I run to the keyboard as quickly as possible.

Port has its own vocabulary and can be quite complicated, but don’t let that intimidate you. Know that it’s a dessert wine, sweet but balanced, and that a little goes a long a way thanks to the high alcohol. A couple of small pours after dinner can make a terrific meal that much better.

The Kopke is amazingly well done for the price, and I didn’t expect nearly as much as it delivered. This is another example of a simple, well-made wine that doesn’t try to do more than it should. Look for fresh red fruit, some dried fruit (plums?), brown sugar sweetness, and just a touch of oak to round it out. You may also notice a sort of nutty aroma, which is typical for well-made port. I’d open the bottle well before you want to drink it; it actually gets rounder and more interesting after being open for a couple of days.

Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift. And, if I expand the price range for the 2017 Hall of Fame, the Kopke may well get in.

Dessert wine basics

dessert wine basicsDessert wine is the great mystery of the wine business, usually associated with “dotty old ladies or rich men with English accents,” as I wrote in the current issue of Bottom Line Personal (which has bought quite a bit of freelance from me lately). Give that I have done very little with dessert wine over the blog’s history, this piece gives me an opportunity to correct that oversight.

Highlights from the piece (click the link to the story for recommendations):

? The most common dessert wines are ports from Portugal and sherries from Spain, but dessert wines are made wherever wine is produced, from Australia to Canada to Hungary. Port and sherry are made with wine grapes, though port uses red grapes and sherry white. There are dry sherries, such as fino, but all port is sweet.

? International law doesn ?t allow most ports or sherries made anywhere else in the world to be called by those names, so non-Portuguese ports and non- Spanish sherries will be labeled as ?dessert wine, ? ?port-style, ? ?sherry-style ? or something similar.

? The production techniques for port and sherry are much more complicated than those for table wine and involve long aging (often years) and the addition of brandy or other alcohol to fortify them. That ?s why they ?re also called fortified wines.

? Dessert wines aren’t cheap, and some, like Sauternes, can cost hundreds of dollars (which may explain their absence here). But since a dessert wine serving is less than a table wine serving, one or two small glasses of port or sherry or whatever are more than sufficient. That means a $20 half-bottle can be the equivalent of a $10 or $15 full bottle of table wine.

Expensive wine 38: Inniskillin Pearl Icewine 2007

Inniskillin Pearl IcewineThis is one of the most expensive wines ever reviewed on the blog — $50 for a half bottle, assuming you can find it. Icewine requires bitterly cold winter temperatures, and the past couple of winters have been so mild that not much has been made. Hence, this is the current vintage, and there isn't a lot of it left.

Icewine is made from grapes that are left to hang on the vine and only picked on the coldest day of the year. Leaving the grapes on the vine concentrates the sugars, just like a raisin. Picking the grapes after they freeze concentrates the sugars even more. The result is a dessert wine of amazing qualities, somehow very sweet and yet also balanced. The residual sugar is 24.2 percent, about eight times that of white zinfandel.

So the equivalent of $100 a bottle for the Inniskillin (sample), one of the world's top producers, is not as ridiculous as it sounds. This vintage, made with the vidal grape from Canada's Niagara region, is a stunning wine, sweet and luscious and rich and overwhelming. A couple or three sips are almost enough; swish the wine slowly around in your mouth before you swallow, and savor the way the apple, pineapple, and honey flavors blend together.

Some people claim they can pair icewine with food — cheeses and berry desserts. But, frankly, there's no need. If you're lucky enough to find some, drink it slightly chilled as dessert, and make the bottle last as long as you can. It will be worth it.

Mother’s Day wine 2010

A few thoughts for wine-loving Mom on your list: 

? Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc 2008($18): Always quality California-style sauvignon blanc. This year's vintage is more French in style, with lots of minerality and muted fruit.

? Prazo de Roriz 2007 ($16): Lots of black fruit and quite rich, which makes it a nice food wine for everything from barbecue to fancy dinners. A step up from most $10 Portugese red wine blends.

? Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine Proprietors' Reserve 2006 ($20 for a 187-ml bottle): Ice wine is one of the world's great guilty pleasures, and this is no exception. It's dessert wine, so it's honeyed, rich and luscious, but the sweetness is much more than just sugary.

For more on Mother ?s Day wine:
? Buying Mom wine for Mother's Day
? Wine of the week: Acrobat Pinot Gris 2008
? Mother's Day wine 2009

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Expensive wine of the month 7: Sandeman 10 Years Old Tawny

The Sandeman 10-year-old offers classic port flavors.

Port is little known in the U.S., and those who do know it figure it to be sweet, sticky wine preferred by old ladies with cats or harrumphing English gentlemen.

Port, in fact, is wine — legitimate, drink it like anything else wine. That we don't drink more of it in the States is a function of its price, for most port is expensive, and that we don't know nearly enough about it. (A concise port primer is here; for our purposes, it's enough to know that port is made like wine, but that fermentation is stopped to retain the sweetness and brandy is added to raise the alcohol level.)

The Sandeman (about $30, sample) is a good place to start to deal with both of those dilemmas. At $30, it's not as expensive as its big brother, the 20-year-old, which runs about $45. In addition, it offers classic port flavors like raisins and vanilla, with a wonderfully long pecan finish and a fine balance between the sweetness and its other characteristics. It's not sweet for sweet's sake, like a soft drink, but sweet in the way that a well-made dessert is.

Which makes sense, because port is first and foremost a dessert wine. There are suggested dessert pairings, including cheeses, but port is almost better on its own, served slighty chilled.

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Expensive wine of the month, June: Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2006

image And when the Wine Curmudgeon says expensive, he isn ?t kidding — $95 for a 375-milliliter bottle, or half the size of a normal wine bottle. But it certainly was fabulous wine.

Ice wine is usually made with white grapes, which give a better base for the acid the wine needs to balance with its rich, lush, sweetness. (Ice wine and dessert wine primer here.) That the Inniskillin was made with cabernet franc, which can be tricky to handle even as a table wine, speaks of the talent and daring of winemaker Bruce Nicholson.

So what does that mean for the wine? It ?s not as honey sweet as white ice wine, and the fruit is strawberry instead of lemon, lime or apricot. In this, the sweetness is different and surprising than what one expects from an ice wine. Think of strawberry ice cream taken to a place it has never been before. Drink this on its own, reasonably cook, and enjoy.