December 20, 2013 7:11 pm

Top 100 festive wines: strong and sweet

The final part of our unmissable guide to the best of Christmas drinking
Illustration by Ingram Pinn of warmer wines©Ingram Pinn

This is still the best-value style of wine because it is – quite unjustifiably – unfashionable. Perhaps this is why remarkably few retailers have an interesting selection. Wines are listed by style, upwards in lowest known UK price per cl.

STRONG, DRY WINES

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Jancis Robinson

Pedro’s, Almacenista Selection Fino Sherry

This pale, dry, super-tangy wine was my favourite from an underpriced new range sourced by Jerez-based Peter Dauthieu. Brilliantly pure. The Amontillado at £9.99 is also very good. 15%

£8.99 Majestic

Emilio Lustau, Waitrose Solera Jerezana Palo Cortado Sherry

A keenly priced rendition of the sherry aficionado’s favourite style. Pale greenish gold. Pungent with gun smoke and a ridiculous price. 19%

£9.75 Waitrose

Sánchez Romate, Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Sherry

Gorgeous life in this 12-year-old bone dry wine. Wonderfully light and fresh while being deep flavoured and resonant. A great bargain. 20%

£13.50 The Wine Society

Emilio Lustau, Dry Old Palo Oloroso Sherry

Rich pale tawny colour. Excitingly nutty from a single vineyard with real age and tang. 19%

£7.49 (375ml) Marks and Spencer

Blandy’s, 10 Year Old Dry Sercial NV Madeira

Pale tawny. Tangy and nutty and much less dry than some Sercials but hugely appetising and with acidity that verges on the painful. What a lovely sip this would be on Christmas morning. 19%

£19.49 (50cl) Waitrose

Equipo Navazos, La Bota no 42 Manzanilla sherry

The Montrachet of light, bone dry sherries from the most fastidious producer. 15%

£33.20 Hedonism Wines

SWEET WINES

Ch Pech La Calevie 2009 Monbazillac

Heavy, apple-caramel juice. Round and with excellent acidity. One of the most refined Monbazillacs I have tasted for a while. Ridiculously cheap. Not for keeping but it should deliver huge pleasure. 14.5%

£11.95 The Wine Society

Dom des Forges 2010 Coteaux du Layon Chaume

Pale copper. Lots of acidity and freshness. Passion fruit and revitalising. Still youthful. Essence of sweet Loire Chenin Blanc. 11.5%

£8.29 (37.5cl) waitrosedirect.com

Lyrarakis, Malvasía NV Greece

Cretan blend of Plyto, Dafni, Vidiano and Vilana dried in the sun for nine days. Pale orange and orange-peel flavours. Surprisingly light-bodied, racy and transparent. 11.5%

£17.75 per 50cl Berry Bros

J Chivite Family Estates, Colección 125 Vendimia Tardía 2008 Navarra

This is possibly Spain’s finest sweet wine, made from Muscat grapes in a low-yielding vineyard picked a dozen times. Really clean and vibrant. Full and grapey – like Beaume de Venise on speed? Rewarding. And just right now, though almost too sweet. 14%

£19.99 waitrosedirect.com

Mullineux, Chenin Blanc Straw Wine 2012 Swartland

Pale tawny. Plump, round and peachy. There is so much intensity, complexity and rich nutty flavours – but masses of acidity too. 10%

£21.95 (37.5cl) Berry Bros

PORT

Symington, Waitrose Ruby port

The colour is not that different from its Tawny stablemate but this is more interesting. Nuts and raisins and so much fun for the money! A firm spine. Great value (alas). 19%

£7.49 Waitrose

Fonseca, Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage 2007 port

Very dark crimson (much darker than the Noval LBV 2007). Quite uncompromising and peppery but with masses of rich, ripe fruit underneath. You could serve this instead of a young vintage port. Great value at the special price. 20%

£13.99 (until January 15 2014) Cambridge Wine Merchant

Niepoort, Senior Tawny port

Sweet and round and vibrant, beautifully balanced. Treacle toffee and more intense than most tawnies. 20%

£19.95 Lea & Sandeman

Graham’s, Crusted Bottled 1998 port

Tension and liquorice and real vibration. This would seduce a wide variety of palates. Quite firm and not as sweet as, say, their Late Bottled Vintage 2008, but a real vintage port-lover’s delight. Not old and complex but excellent value. 20%

£20 Sainsbury’s

Quinta do Noval, Unfiltered Single Vineyard Late Bottled Vintage 2007 port

Made exclusively from grapes grown on this magical estate. Vigorous raisiny nose and a fresh, dry finish. Not so unlike some Napa Valley Cabernets! Super-clean and refreshing. 19.5%

£20.50 Lea & Sandeman and others

Warre’s, Quinta da Cavadinha 1999 port

A single quinta port from the plentiful year before a general declaration of vintage port. Manages to be both subtle and powerful, with liquorice hints. 20%

£25.79 (until January 2 2014) Waitrose

Taylor’s, 20 Year Old Tawny port

Mid-orange tawny. Spicy nose, mellow texture. Old enough to be remarkable but still sweet. Nutty, appetising finish. So fresh! Drink- me stuff. Great vigour and by no means at its peak yet. 19.5%

£43.99 Selfridges

Symington, The Society’s Exhibition 1983 port

An own-label vintage port. Very aromatic and lifted – lovely prunes and rose petals with a great undertow of fruit. Lovely stuff. Fine backbone and great persistence. This seems at the perfect point for drinking. Vigorous but with lots of evolution. Great value. 20%

£49 The Wine Society

Taylor’s 1985 port

Mid-ruby becoming a little pale. Rose petals and brown sugar on the nose with some violets. Very subtle. Not enormously sweet but seductive with a peppery finish. Long. 20.5%

£75 The Wine Society, Majestic, Tesco

OTHER STRONG, SWEET WINES

Sánchez Romate, The Society’s Exhibition Viejo Oloroso Dulce Sherry

A Sánchez Romate bottling but under the Society’s own label. Dark brownish tawny with greenish rim. Smells a little of old wood. But on the palate it’s wonderfully vibrant. Not amazingly fine – but this could be extremely useful with cheese etc over the festive season. 20%

£10.75 The Wine Society

Barbeito, Rainwater Reserva Madeira

A blend of 80% Tinta Negra Mole and 20% Verdelho. Pale orange. A bit sweet but with great acidity and excitement on the finish. 20%

£10.75 (50cl) The Wine Society.

More stockists at winesearcher.com

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