Fresh think­ing on for­ti­fied drink­ing.

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AS A WINE AND drinks writer, around Easter it’s time to roll up the sleeves, tuck into as much choco­late as pos­si­ble and then try to make sense of drinks that sit ap­pro­pri­ately along­side. It’s not the worst task, but it is a kind of pur­ga­tory in which you’re con­stantly search­ing for new and in­vig­o­rat­ing matches to help choco­late hit a higher note. What if we thought about switch­ing out choco­late for some­thing sweet on its own? Good, right?

At least on the waist­line, to an ex­tent. If you sip some­thing sweet, hope­fully you’re not chomp­ing on a choco­late bunny.

Sweet wines and drinks, for­ti­fieds in­cluded, have been on a down­ward spi­ral in terms of pop­u­lar­ity. Ef­forts to leave din­ner par­ties with­out fall­ing over have meant a sweet or heady ‘night cap’ is now gen­er­ally avoided. Tastes seem to have moved on, too, with savoury, dry wines more fash­ion­able on the din­ner ta­ble.

That be­ing said, there is good rea­son to rein­tro­duce sweeter and for­ti­fied wine styles into your reper­toire. Or, if they are al­ready there, di­ver­sify with some imag­i­na­tive ex­pres­sions.

At around 5.5 per cent al­co­hol, moscato is one of the great­est ways to fin­ish a long ses­sion. It’s in­her­ently crisp, gen­tly sweet, and fizzy, which el­e­vates mood, re­freshes palates and gen­er­ally puts a glide in peo­ple’s stride. ‘Off dry’ ries­lings are also in my wheel­house. These are barely there sweet, re­fresh­ing, crunchy-textured wines that work al­most like a sor­bet be­tween cour­ses. Aus­tralia has a hand­ful pro­duc­ing the style, as does New Zealand, but you’ll find great ex­am­ples from Ger­many, where they’re still widely used as aper­i­tifs or as foils for richer dishes.

The opu­lence and den­sity of for­ti­fied wines have shifted the gaze to lighter and fresher things, but some canny wine­mak­ers are ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tive styles with great suc­cess. They’re good to linger over, of­ten strik­ing for how their com­plex­ity touches the senses. There’s lots to ex­plore.

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