Top 10 Winter sippers

From sherry to sweet & stickies, Cathy chooses a range of winter wines.

24 Apr 2012
winter drinks

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

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 relish.

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

Since the 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 from Makro

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 not. 

Rietvallei Red Muscadel 2010    R48.99 from Ultra Liquors

Brought up 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

Ladismith 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 from

Roger 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

Giorgio 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.

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