Wine of the Week – Sweet or Aperitif
Fortified wines; luxurious, easy to drink, easy to like – or dislike it is very distinctive so you either hate it of love it. There are many different options; Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala and Vermont are the best known examples. They are made with wine and combined with a spirit which has been distilled. This is often brandy, however also a neutral spirit is added that can be made from grapes, grain, sugar cane or sugar beets. They are different to other desert wines such as Tokay or Eiswein because they add the spirit to keep the sugar from fermenting, rather than noble rot or botrytis.
The stories of the origin of these wines are varied. It could well have been a bumbling vineyard hand who put the brandy in with the wine. Regardless of the reason behind the “invention” of fortified wines, we can now enjoy these versatile wines as a desert wine or as an aperitif.
This week the Wine of the Week is another fortified wine. The Jose Maria Fonseca 1998 Muscatel Roxo. This wine is made in Portugal and is made in a similar way to Port and Madeira. What makes the Muscatel Roxo different is that it is made from the rare purple Muscat grape. The winery is trying to re-introduce these grapes as a viable species with this wine. The muscatel wine is often referred to as Setubal, which is where Jose Maria Fonseca is located. This type of wine is famous in the region that is just outside Lisbon in Portugal. It may not be as well known as the other fortified wines of Portugal; Port and Madeira, but this wine in particular is more interesting and very easy to enjoy as a desert wine at room temperature or as an aperitif served chilled.
Fortified Muscatel, or Setubal, is not as well known as Port or Madeira, but it offers itself as a very versatile wine for before or after a good meal. At around €10 for the latest vintage it is fantastic value compared to a good Port or Madeira.
I hope you are able to find and enjoy one soon.