Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: Fortifieds

Some truly outstanding offerings from both the classic areas and unexpected newcomers made this a truly stimulating part of the competition

This was a section that managed to both delight and infuriate. Delight, because the overall quality of the wines was impressive; infuriate because there weren’t more of them. Obviously, the ‘no high street distribution’ restriction on submitters rules out a good few. But there must still be dozens that aren’t being put forward for this competition. Since most fortified producers spend their time bleating about how hard it is to shift their product in the on-trade, one can only conclude that importers in the UK have given up on trying to sell port and sherry to restaurants. Remember that the next time a rep comes calling...

Having said that, it was not especially difficult to put together a half-decent selection of fortifieds because the bottles that came in were just about all in the ‘good to outstanding’ spectrum. While the Grahams 1983 was the star (narrowly pipping the Dows 1985), there were bright jewels everywhere you looked here, from the joyous weirdness of the Quady to the sheer magnificence of the Fernando de Castilla sherries.

‘There was everything here from bone dry to sweet. We had no idea where they were from, and there was no point in trying to guess,’ said consultant Caspar Auchterlonie. ‘The point is that we had to be realistic. We would love to have put in three ports, three sherries and three madeiras, but we couldn’t have them all...’


Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso NV, Jerez, Spain
£13.68 @ Boutinot Ltd
Mellow, yet developed, with aromas of toffee and grilled hazelnuts. Intense and rich, with fabulous concentration of sous-bois and truffle, yet still fresh with great balance and an evolving finish. Fabulous with cheese, savoury soup or pata negra.

Fernando de Castilla Antique Pedro Ximenez NV, Jerez, Spain
£13.68 @ Boutinot Ltd
Dark mahogany colour, this PX is thick and intense, with a lovely treacly richness to it and a lighter top note of cold tea. A raisined indulgence, perhaps, but brilliant nonethless and obvious chocolate and ice-cream matching capabilities.

Blandy’s Malmsey 15 year old NV, Madeira Wine Company, Madeira
£15.99 (5ocl) @ John E Fells
Nutty and spicy with a definite rancio character on this wine, running alongside rich banana and maple syrup. Nutty, broad and intense, with a long finish.

Grahams 1983, Symington Family Estates, Portugal
£44.00 @ John E Fells
This vintage port’s sweet, spicy nose is very seductive, moving into a palate that is rich and smooth: chocolate overlaid with cherry, liquorice and spice flavours. ‘Lovely port with loads of potential, but also great now,’ said Murk Schipper, who felt it would be a nailed-on match with hot chocolate fondant.


Weltevrede Cape Muscat 2007, Robertson, South Africa
£6.40 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Banana skins and Turkish delight with plenty of rich sweetness leavened by a floral, slightly grapey character.

Starboard Batch 88 NV, Quady, California, USA
£9.74 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Intense nose, with a palate of mixed red fruit, herbs and cinnamon. ‘Good acidity to back it up. This is very drinkable,’ said Ivan Dixon.

Niepoort Ruby Dum NV, Portugal
£6.51 @ Raymond Reynolds Ltd
Soft and clean with a sweet boiled strawberry flavour. Simple, but long and full, and decent for the price.

Dow 1985, Symington Family Estates, Portugal
£38.00 @ John E Fells
Good depth, weight and structure with a slight earthy edge. Plums and chocolate. ‘A lot going on here,’ said Mike Harrison. ‘This is complex and will improve with time.’

Key to colours: Mustard = Sherry & Madiera; Green = white fortified; Red = Port

Editorial feature from the Sommelier Wine Awards 2009.

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