“How many wines do you drink in a year?” a friend asked me recently. I had to confess that I had no idea. But, thinking about wines that I taste – at events or courses I run or at tastings organised by others – as well as those we drink at home or when we go out to friends or restaurants, I’m sure the number runs into hundreds. But that’s still only a guess. So, I’ve decided to try and count them this year! Watch this space!
The figure is starting to tick up rapidly. With just 8 days of the year behind us, my wine count already stood at 16, although half of that number was due to a fascinating tasting of ports and Madeiras organised by the Bristol Tasting Circle last week.
The ports were lovely, particularly a 20 year old Fonseca Tawny, but it was the rare chance to taste high quality examples of Madeira’s 4 noble grape varieties together that was the highlight of the evening.
First was the Sercial, the driest style. Henriques and Henriques 15 year old, with its attractive almond aromas and tangy, clean palate, would make a perfect aperitif as, indeed, would the next wine tasted, the Verdelho. More medium dry than dry and a little richer than the Sercial, this still has Madeira’s characteristic acidity but with an attractive smoky edge.
Richer still and decidedly sweet was the Boal (sometimes spelt ‘Bual’) – flavours of raisins, nuts and caramel dominated and a finish that could be measured in minutes rather than seconds – perhaps my own personal favourite. And then finally there was the wonderfully rich and luscious Malvasia (sometimes labelled ‘Malmsey’) with its palate of figs, prunes, walnuts and caramel; a dessert wine capable of matching the most intense of puddings – or why not just drink it on its own instead?
A word of caution: you’ll sometimes see bottles of Madeira labelled simply with generic terms such as ‘dry’, ‘medium sweet’ or ‘full rich’. While these are often very drinkable and certainly very reasonably priced, to share the real treat I experienced, you need to look for the grape names I’ve mentioned on the label.
If all the wines in my count are as good as these, it will, indeed, be a very Happy New Year!