A Sweet Little Treat

Wine reviews – By Michael Wolsey

I am loathe to mention the C-word before November is out, but there are only four wine-buying weeks to Christmas so it’s time I started looking at seasonal wines.

We buy two types of wine specially for Christmas: sparkling and fortified.

There was a time when most houses had a bottle of Sherry or Port tucked away somewhere and I had a teetotal aunt who would surprise visitors by producing a bottle of very nice Madeira.

This wine is made on the little Portuguese island of Madeira. In the days of sailing ships, it was on the trade route between the Americas and the Far East. Growers added brandy to the wine to help it survive the journey.

Today grape spirit is added during fermentation which stops the process and makes the wine sweeter. The point at which the spirit is added varies, giving wines which range from dry (a perfect aperitif) to sweet dessert wines.

Blandy’s is one of the best known producers and its Duke of Clarence – named for the Shakespeare character who drowned in a barrel of Madeira – is on sale from O’Briens at €15.45 for a half bottle. It is super sweet and will go with a hearty pudding or cheese.

O’Briens also stock some Madeiras under the Justino label. Malvasia Ten Year Old (€24.95) is dry with with a smooth texture and a scent of chocolate. Colheita (€25.95) is deep amber in colour and almost as sweet as the Clarence.

O’Briens stock a whiskey which has been aged in a Madeira barrel. A bottle of Tyrconnell Madeira Mature will set you back €82, so I haven’t tried it.