Fresh thinking on fortified drinking.
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.