I have a long love affair with one of the bottles photographed here – my essential wine for Christmas every year, which is the excellent 20-year-old Moscatel Alambre from JMF in the Setúbal region.
Just a few years ago, this wine was priced at around €27 in shops but, like most things, it has crept (or should I say leapt in this case) to a hefty €37.95 (Apolónia). In all fairness, given the quality, I always considered it to be under-priced in the past, so it is still good value for money.
Fortified muscat wine (Moscatel as it is called here) is a luscious pudding wine. Even the cheaper variants such as the standard Alambre, priced at €5.99, when well-chilled pairs well with rich cakes and puddings.
The 20-year-old, however, is something very special and, for the money, I can still not think of anything better to enjoy with a nice mince tart, a slice of Christmas cake or with Christmas pudding.
This year, however, rather than just sticking with my old favourite, I decided to buy a couple more Moscatel wines in different price ranges for comparison, so I picked up a bottle of Secret Spot’s 10-year-old Moscatel from the Douro region, priced at €24.95, and dug deeper for a bottle of “Excellent” from Setúbal, produced by Horácio Simões, made from the Moscatel Roxo (Purple Muscat) grape and priced at €49.95.
If your budget goes any higher, there are other Moscatel wines to be found at Apolónia costing a great deal more, such as the 40-year-old from Secret Spot at €89.95.
With my three Moscatels in hand, it was a perfect excuse to convince my wife to crack open her first jar of festive mincemeat and bake a few pre-Christmas mince pies, all in the name of research of course.
I knew what to expect from Alambre 20-year-old – that incredibly complex nose of candied orange peel, toffee and spices, a belying freshness in the mouth with great acidity and a flavour that goes on and on in the mouth.
The less expensive Secret Spot 10-year-old, however, also impressed. It is a little lighter on the palate and not quite so exuberant on the nose but also fresh and deeply flavoursome. Excellent value for money. The considerably more expensive and optimistically labelled “Excellent” was actually comparable in quality to the Alambre 20, but definitely not worth the extra €12.
And so, my old favourite still stands out as the winner but, for considerably less money, the 10-year-old Secret Spot is an excellent alternative.