Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Food - Con­tact Les­lie Wil­liams at wine@ex­am­

Fine wine used to be a mi­nor­ity pur­suit but these days very few of the world’s top rated wines are af­ford­able. The one part of the mar­ket that has not gone com­pletely crazy is dessert and for­ti­fied wines sim­ply be­cause they are out of fash­ion.

Our dis­like of sweet wines is a late 20th cen­tury phe­nom­e­non and one I fail to un­der­stand given the sheer unadul­ter­ated plea­sure the best wines can bring. These wines are not just for dessert but work with pâté and rich starters and as both an aper­i­tif and a di­ges­tif. In my house they are most fre­quently served with cheese. Blue is the clas­sic match but washed rind, hard cheeses, goat and sheep cheeses — all work bril­liantly.

A few weeks ago in Lon­don I was lucky enough to try 11 vin­tages of DeBor­toli No­ble One with 22 dif­fer­ent per­fectly ripe cheeses in Neal’s Yard Dairy in Bor­ough Mar­ket. The deca­dent plea­sures of the event were height­ened for me by the fact that our mere pres­ence thumbed the nose at the ter­ror­ists that had at­tacked the mar­ket just weeks ear­lier. No­ble One was first pro­duced in 1982 by Dar­ren DeBor­toli, a newly qual­i­fied third-gen­er­a­tion wine­maker who was thought quite mad un­til the wine be­gan to win awards and fans — it is now an icon wine. Rive­rina in New South Wales has a warm dry cli­mate but high hu­mid­ity in the Au­tumn cre­ates per­fect con­di­tions for Botry­tis Cinerea the “no­ble rot” fun­gus that changes the flavour and in­ten­si­fies the sweet­ness in No­ble One’s Semil­lon grapes, just as in Sauternes.

The oc­ca­sion was to cel­e­brate the 30th vin­tage (1989 and 2012 were skipped) and it was par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing to try the 1982 which had in­tox­i­cat­ing aro­mas of ripe pineap­ple with hints of caramel and baked ap­ples. Lev­els of Botry­tis var­ied but ev­ery wine had that tell-tale beeswax and honey char­ac­ter. The 2010 was darker and brought sweet hay aro­mas, the 2001 even darker with heather honey and caramel and a lighter 2006 had pleas­ing con­fit fruits. The 1984 had al­most bit­ter botry­tis in­ten­sity, the ’86 was grassy with sweet lemon and the in­tense for­ti­fied Black No­ble fin­ished the evening.

Wines this week are all from DeBor­toli’s Ir­ish im­porter Fe­b­vre.

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