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6:00am Saturday 21st December 2013 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some sweet and fortified wines to pair with those festive desserts and cheeses.
By Sam Wylie-Harris, Press Association
What you serve at the end of Christmas dinner, with the steamed pud, mince pies and cheeseboard, is just as important as that first flute of champagne with the toast, yet it is often only an after-thought.
Plan ahead this year and leave the right lasting impression with these top sweet and fortified wines.
:: Chateau D'Orignac AOC Pineau des Charentes, France (£15.50 www.thewinesociety.com)
This golden elixir is the perfect sweet brandy to pair with a flaming pud. A blend of eau-de-vie and grape juice from the Cognac region, this Pineau spends at least five years in oak and should be served well-chilled to truly appreciate the zip of apricots poached in syrup and delicate caramel and honey notes.
:: Blandy's 10 Year Old Malmsey, Madeira (£19.99, 50cl, www.vintagemarque.com)
Madeira comes into its own this time of year. A sinfully sweet aged malmsey is not only utterly delicious on its own, but also rich and nutty enough, with its core of concentrated raisins and soft toffee and spice, to stand up to the heavy fruit, rum sauce, custard and cream - yummy.
:: Taylors 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal (£18.30, 75cl, Waitrose)
Remarkably drinkable and the most traditional match with Stilton, the red fruits in a tawny port complementing the blue vein in the cheese. The velvety smooth, soaked fruitcake flavours, with golden sultanas and figs on the long, soft finish, will also taste heavenly with a box of chocolate truffles.
:: Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2008, Western Cape, South Africa (£37, 50cl, www.bbr.com)
With a long, rich past, Vin de Constance is South Africa's answer to the finest Sauternes and this wine has been cited as one of the world's greats. Long appreciated by the likes of Napoleon and Frederick the Great, this lush, sweet, intense white made from a muscat variety still makes its mark, and should be served chilled with a selection of hard cheeses like parmesan, pecorino and comte.
:: Chateau Barbier Sauternes 2005, France (£9.99, 37.5cl, www.virginwines.co.uk)
This delectable Bordeaux blonde from an outstanding vintage will complement a well-laced trifle with fresh fruit, vanilla custard and cream. It is pure nectar with potent notes of honey, orange blossom and exotic candied fruits, and the sweetness and richness are balanced by a good acidity on the silky finish.
:: Brown Brothers Orange Flora Muscat 2012, Victoria, Australia (£7.49, 37.5cl, Waitrose)
Young and ever-so-slightly effervescent, this little gem from Down Under is tinged with tropical fruit with the medley of zesty citrus and subtle spice keeping it fresh, floral and fun. Uber delicious, serve well-chilled for a final flourish with trifle and mince pies.
:: Best buy
Last minute stocking filler... A quiz book for trivia-loving tipplers, Shaken Not Stirred! A Boozy Quiz by Graham Tarrant (£10, published by Bloomsbury, available from all good book shops) contains 50 sections to challenge wine lovers, whisky noses, cocktail hounds and beer experts with questions, drink-related songs, famous quotes and other spirituous delights over the festive season.
:: Liquid news
Rejoice, rejoice, Rioja reigns supreme... If you're still wondering which wine should grace the table this Christmas, Decanter magazine have named Faustino, Faustino 1 Gran Reserva 2001, Spain (£13.99 from £17.99, now until January 1, 2014, Sainsbury's) their top wine of 2013.
A trio of tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo grapes, it scored 19.25 points out of a possible 20 in blind tastings to earn its top position as both the highest-scoring and best-value wine.
Judges said is was: "A restrained, mineral style with relevant tannins. Youthful and fresh, feminine and complex. Deliciously decadent with extraordinary vitality in the palate and a long finish. A jewel at this price point."
Produced by Spain's leading winemaker Grupo, Faustino is a family owned business dating back to 1861.
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