Sweet celebration

Sweet celebration

Last year around this time I wrote about ports for the Christmas table and selected an LBV (Quinta de La Rosa) and a 10 or 20 year-old Tawny (Vallado) as some of the best out there in their respective price ranges.

The LBV (late bottled vintage) is the next best thing to a real vintage Port to accompany strong blue cheeses. This is hard to beat, but when it comes to the perfect pudding wine for the Christmas table the lighter body and fruitiness of a good Tawny port is only one of the many options that Portugal has to offer.

Some nice Madeira for instance, like a 10 or 20 year-old Malmsey, can hold its own alongside any Tawny port, as can some of the better fortified muscats (Vinhos de Moscatel) from the Setúbal Peninsula or from the Douro.

Served with British-style Christmas pudding, mince pies or Christmas cake, these justly famous Portuguese fortified wines really come into their own, but, for something a bit different, it’s well worth trying out some of the offerings from producers elsewhere in Portugal.

Great value for money, at around €5, is the Abafado from Quinta de Alorna in the Ribatejo region, made from the Fernão Pires grape; sweetened and fortified it ages for five years in used oak casks.

Served well chilled to counter the slightly excessive sweetness, it works very well with rich puddings and compares favourably to similarly priced fortified muscats, very fresh on the nose with honey and citric notes and some residual sugar on the palate.

Costing around double the price but still good value is the “vinho generoso” from Adega Cooperativa de Borba in the Alentejo. Much in the style of a Tawny port, this is a rich sweet wine made from the red Aragonez grape.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]