One of the
great things about teaching the new Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
courses is that I am getting the chance to revise and relearn all I once knew
about spirits and fortified wines. Because to be honest, these are drinks that
I often forget how much I enjoy until I try them again. If you want something
to warm you up from the inside out, then here are a few suggestions of some
winter sippers, guaranteed to put hairs on your chest and warmth in your
cockles. Wherever they may be.
Emilio Lustau Puerto Fino Sherry R110 from www.winecellar.co.za
So let’s start
with the really good stuff – and it doesn’t come much better than this. Lustau
make the crème de la crème of sherries and this one is savoury and tangy with
yeasty aromas and flavours of roasted almonds and cashews. Keep it in the
fridge, serve it in a decent-sized glass and not a thimble, sit, sip and
Monis Medium Cream Sherry R65.99 from Ultra Liquors
If you want
to stay proudly South African, then you could do a heck of a lot worse than
give Monis range of sherries a try. These are great wines, made in a Solera
system using carefully-cultivated ‘flor’ yeast to give the characteristic
yeasty nuttiness. Minimum age of the wines is 6 years which has allowed the
rich, slightly sweet, hazelnut and caramel flavours to fully develop. Try it
with winter game soup.
Allesverloren Fine Old Vintage 2008 R77.99 from Ultra Liquors
beginning of the year, South African Ports can no longer use the name ‘port’ if
they want to sell their wine overseas. Most people have opted for ‘Cape Ruby’
or ‘Cape Vintage’ but Allesverloren have chosen a slightly more fancy name.
Still, the stuff inside tastes just as good whatever the label says – dense
chewy fruitcake flavours with a warming kick at the finish.
Boplaas Cape Tawny R89.99 from Ultra Liquors
If ever a
wine was under-priced, it’s this one. Aged for up to and over a decade – hence
the lovely tawny hue – this is a labour of love for Carel Nel. In fact, it’s
surprising there is actually much to sell considering that he always has a
bottle (or two) in the fridge for the end of every day. Nutty, spicy, toffee
and floral – a balanced mouthful of deliciousness indeed.
Solms-Delta Gemoedsrus 2010 R220 from the farm
The name of
this wine means ‘Peace of Mind’ and it’s made in memory of young musician Alex
van Heerden who died at a tragically young age. It’s made from Shiraz grapes
which have been pinched and dried on the vine to concentrate the flavours and
increase the sugar. Grappa is then added instead of the more normal brandy and
the result is a uniquely ‘African port.’ It’s rich and warming with a distinct
tweak of orange peel and citrus fruit. Very good with a koeksister or two.
Amarula Cream R79.95
Yes, I know
you normally have this over crushed ice but then again, that’s how you drink
Bailey’s which is the other classic winter cream drink. Double-distilled from
the marula fruit before being barrel-aged and blended with cream, this is a
very lovely, fruity, vanilla-y end to a meal – whether you have it chilled or
Rietvallei Red Muscadel 2010 R48.99 from Ultra Liquors
in the UK, the idea of a winter Muscadel was very alien to me when I first hit
SA’s shores – I had no clue what sorts of flavours to expect or how it was
made. And then I tried this and suddenly lots of things made sense – the rich, nutty flavours with
raisins, dried apricots and hints of cinnamon and clove – the perfect winter dessert
wine, simply crying out for a nice crumble or hearty pud.
Ladismith 8 Year Old Potstill Brandy R380 from the cellars
Cellars has traditionally lagged behind their sister business, Barrydale
Cellars, when it comes to brandy – but not anymore. This comes from the home of brandy in SA –
the Klein Karoo – and is made exclusively from Colombard grapes. Made in a
fresh and fruity style, it is nevertheless still a powerful, warming mouthful
of smooth caramel and peachy fruit. Sip it slowly to end an evening in style.
Primitiv Vodka R220
Jorgensen came along to my WSET Level 3 course and completely wowed them all
with his enthusiasm and passion for handcrafted, sipping spirits. This vodka is
made from an ancient African grass called spelt – check out his website for all
the fascinating detail – and is genuinely smoother and more aromatic than any
other vodka I’ve ever tried. Keep it in the freezer and serve it to your guests
on arrival – will definitely make any evening go with a swing.
Dalla Cia Grappa Cabernet/Merlot R179.99 for 500mls from Ultra Liquors
Dalla Cia has been making great wine in
the Cape for many a long year and continues to do so, both under his own label
and as an advisor to others. But this Grappa is something very close to his
heart and his Italian roots and well- deserves its place amongst one of the
finest digestifs in the land. Distinctive bready aromas with hints of black
fruit and flowers, this is great sipped with a good quality coffee.