WINE O’CLOCK: These winter warmers are wines for all seasons
As temperatures drop and the nights draw in, thoughts turn to cosy drawing rooms, a blazing fire in the hearth, a fragrant casserole in the oven and a nice glass of Sherry to sip while you wait for the cooking to finish.
It’s wishful thinking, really. Modern houses aren’t big on either drawing rooms or hearths and few of them have a bottle of Sherry in the cupboard.
Anyway there is no reason to regard either Sherry, or Port, its Portuguese neighbour, as winter drinks. There are white versions of both which are lovely over ice and make a great aperitif in any season. But it is the tawny and ruby versions we seem to favour in Ireland and we will be buying more of them in the coming weeks.
Sherry and Port are the two great fortified wines. Madeira is a third, but it was never a serious competitor and seems to be slipping in popularity.
Port is mostly made from red grapes with a little brandy added during fermentation which makes it retain more of its natural sugar.
Sherry is made from white grapes,and is produced in the Jerez district of Spain. Sherry makers add the spirit after fermentation, so the wine tends to be a little less sweet than Port. However, I am generalising wildly here. Both wines come in many varieties and a colour spectrum that ranges from darkest purple through pink to clear white.
Over the next few weeks, as the days shorten, I plan to take a look at each of the three fortified wines we turn to in winter. In the meantime, while there are still a few rays of sun in the sky, here are some varieties you might like to try over ice or from the fridge, lightly chilled.
Tio Pepe Palomino Fino Sherry (€12.54, Dunnes Stores)
Since it is made for sipping, Sherry often comes in small bottles but this is the full 75cl size and very good value. Tio Pepe is probably the world’s best known Fino Sherry. It’s dry, slightly salty and nice to sip while you nibble at nuts or olives.
César Florido, Sherry Fino (€12,75 half bottle, Le Caveau, Kilkenny)
Golden in colour with a citrus tang and a slight hint of almonds. I have never fancied fortified wines as an accompaniment for food, but in Spain they pair this with prawns, squid or sardines and it seems to work well.
Croft Pink Port (€18.99, Worldwide Wines Waterford)
This a rosé version of Port. Looks strange and it’s quite sweet but the flavours of strawberry and raspberry come through nicely when poured over ice.
Bear in mind that the alcohol content of Ports and Sherries is about a third higher than non-fortified wines. So take it easy. They are made for gentle enjoyment.