Most wine lovers have tasted the sweet Ports of Portugal. Sadly, the sweet dessert Sherries from Jerez, in Spain, are not as well known today as they once were.
The 40th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will take place February 24-March 4, 2018 and will showcase 20 wineries from Portugal and 38 wineries from Spain as well as 115 other wineries from around the world.
There are sure to be a wide range of Ports and Sherries available to sample at VanWineFest. Don’t wait until February to explore these fortified wines. All are excellent additions to the festive table!
Combined with these easy to make savoury fruit, nut and cheese cookies, Ports and sweet Sherries are great gourmet gifts. And, of course, it is getting very close to that gifting time…
Walnut, Blue Cheese & Cranberry Cookies
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Half cup salted butter, room temp
Half tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup flour
Three quarters cup walnut bits and crumbs
Three quarters cup chopped dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325’F. Mix cheese, butter and pepper until roughly blended. Stir in flour, nuts and cranberries until doughy. Form dough into one inch balls and press flat to one quarter inch. Bake 20 –25 minutes until golden around bottom edges. Substitute aged grated cheddar for the blue cheese, if desired – but add an extra tablespoon of butter.
The best-known dessert wine is Port – made by adding Brandy to half-fermented wine to stun the fermenting yeasts that have been converting grape sugars to alcohol. To be called ‘Port’ the wine must be made in Portugal.
Vintage Port is made from the wines of one single, exceptional ‘declared’ year and bottled after only two years in cask. Dark purple in colour and very true to the real grape flavours, Vintage Port should be matured for at least 10 years before drinking.
Perfect for sharing with a few friends, Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2001 (358721) $31.99/375ml oozes aromas and flavours of sweet blackberry, mulberry, prunes, cherry and raisins. Drink or hold for 5 years or more in the cellar.
Pedro Ximénez is a white Spanish wine grape variety known affectionately as PX by savvy dessert wine lovers. It is dried into raisins on mats in the sun before being fermented into wine and fortified with brandy
A luscious half-bottle, from Spain’s Bodegas Lustau, San Emilio Pedro Ximénez (864090) $26.99/375ml is an outrageously rich ‘sticky’ – oozing aromas and flavours of raisins, prunes, molasses and caramel with notes of coffee and chocolate in the finish. If this is too sweet for your Walnut, Blue Cheese and Cranberry cookies, try pouring it over French Vanilla ice cream!
Grandma’s favourite dessert Sherry, Harvey’s Bristol Cream (215483) $16.79/750ml is often dismissed derisively by sophisticated wine geeks. Made from Fino, Amontillado and Oloroso sherries – then sweetened with Pedro Ximénez. Lighter than PX, it still features flavours of raisins, figs and caramel.
Blended from particularly Iberian white grape varieties and aged in oak, Taylor Fladgate Fine White Port (164129) $19.99 is an unusual sweet sipper that moves through sweet sultana raisin flavours into baked apple and peach with wispy notes of honey and vanilla. Serve chilled! Much more traditional – and alluringly affordable! – Fonseca Ruby Port (499152) $18.15 is priced for casual enjoyment. On the lighter side of the Port spectrum, this non-vintage Port is full of cherry, berry and jammy blackcurrant flavours and really struts its stuff served with Walnut, Blue Cheese and Cranberry cookies.
Elsewhere in the wine world, sweet Port styled wines are made from whatever varities of grapes the winemakers have on hand. From Argentina, Zuccardi Malamado Malbec (155101) $27.59/750ml is dark red with light brown hues from ageing. Fortified like Port, it offers a melange of sweet ripe plum, black fruit, marmalade, dried fig and nut flavours with sweetly spicy notes of cinnamon and roasted almonds.
Seductively sweet, these dessert wines are made for pairing with Walnut, Blue Cheese & Cranberry Cookies. They are also perfect for gift-giving!
Advance tickets for the Vancouver International Wine Festival’s International Festival Tastings and other select events are on sale at reduced rates from November 1 through December 15. Check vanwinefest.ca for details!