Alambre - Christmas in a bottle

Alambre – Christmas in a bottle

Last year, for the special Christmas edition of the Algarve Resident, I wrote a general article about Portuguese fortified wines and how well suited they are to the festive table, highlighting a couple of the lesser known options away from the obvious choices of Port or Madeira, and the often overlooked Moscatel wines.
The muscat grape is grown primarily in the Setúbal region and to a lesser extent in the Douro with the vast majority of the respective harvests going to the production of fortified wines.
One of the top producers is, in fact, one of Portugal’s biggest wine producing companies, José Maria da Fonseca, best known internationally for their mass produced cheap wines such as Lancers, but likewise respected by connoisseurs especially for their fortified Muscats.
This 20-year-old Alambre is actually great value for money at around €25 for a 500ml bottle. It may seem a lot of money but one sniff and a taste is enough to enchant. They have far more expensive 30 and 40-year-old versions, much like the main Tawny Port producers do, but this 20-year-old is superb.
It is made from a blend of muscat wines fortified with brandy and aged in used oak casks at the JMF winery in Azeitão, near Setúbal, for at least 20 years, but some of what ends up in the bottle of the 20-year-old has been ageing for over 80 years.
On the nose, the most evident aroma is of burnt orange peel with hints of toffee and herbal notes. In the mouth, it is lush and full yet surprisingly fresh with a very long finish.
For the money, I can think of nothing more pleasurable to enjoy with mince pies or Christmas cake. It should not be drunk too cold as many of the subtle nuances will be lost. Enjoy, and a merry Christmas!
By Patrick Stuart [email protected]