SWEET INDULGENCE PASSION FOR PASSITO
Christmas is about sweet indulgence - a gathering of friends and family to enjoy a festive feast. REBECCA MITCHELL recommends four divine pudding wines paired with seasonal Christmas desserts by local Devon caterers
The Italians are passionate about wine, which is central to any feast. Passum was an ancient recipe for sweet nectar or raisin wine made from semi-dried grapes. The knowledge spread from Carthage in Tunisia to Italy where the passito method is still used today for dessert wines such as Vin Santo, Recioto della Valpolicella and the exquisite Moscato Passito di Pantelleria from a tiny island by this name, off Sicily.
Here, Muscat of Alexandria grapes known locally as Zibibbo are dried on straw, on racks or hung up to dry loosing 30-40% of their moisture content which concentrates the sugar and flavour in the must. The result is amber nectar with aromas of honeyed apricots, caramelised almonds and flavours of toffee. One fine example is: ‘Ben Ryé’ Passito di Pantelleria by Donnafugata.
1Figgy’s Christmas Pudding Indulge with an award-winning Figgy pudding this Christmas, handmade in Exeter by husband and wife team, Richie and Jo Evans. These gorgeous Christmas puddings contain rich fruits and spices plus a generous tot of tenyear-old Somerset Cider Brandy and a dash of Hanlon’s Port Stout.
Handmade in small batches, presented in a ceramic basin and individually wrapped, these exquisite puds are a must-have on the Christmas table with a sprig of holly and ladle of flaming brandy. Find them at the Exeter Christmas Market. Contact Figgy’s, Exeter (Tel: 01392 459488). figgys.co.uk
Dessert wine to accompany: Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat NV (Australia) Rich, sweet and luxurious - this dark amber fortified Muscat has been aged in cask for more than 26 years to develop intense rancio character with nutty, raisined and toffee flavours which perfectly complement Christmas pudding. RRP £33.50 per 750ml bottle. Available at Great Western Wine (Tel: 01225 322810).
Wild Artichokes’ Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding This is ‘Heaven in a bowl’ created by award-winning chef and food writer, Jane Baxter, of Wild Artichokes, near Kingsbridge. Jane has a passion for the Puglia region of Italy and finds some of her inspiration there.
She has created a divine bread-and-butter pudding made with layers of festive Panettone coated in a silky rich mixture of cream and sugar – it’s time to forget the waistline and
just indulge in a moment of shear decadence. Contact Wild Artichokes, Kingsbridge: [email protected] wildartichokes.co.uk .
Dessert wine to accompany: Ca’rugate ‘La Perlara’ Recioto di Soave (Italy) Perfumed, silky and luscious - this golden nectar was made using ‘passito’ semi-dried Garganega grapes from the Soave region to create candied flavours of citrus peel, sultana, dried fig, nuts and sweet spice - it is an excellent match for Panettone. RRP £30.50 per 500ml bottle. Available at Strictly Wine (Tel: 01235 364536).
3Dartmoor Kitchen - St Clement’s Marquise Inspired by the nursery-rhyme ‘oranges and lemons of the bells of St Clement’s’ chef Chris Chatfield of Dartmoor Kitchen has conjured up a festive white chocolate, orange and cranberry marquise with spiced clementines and candied hazelnuts for Christmas. This creamy festive dessert is infused with citrus notes and seasonal cranberries to add freshness as a palate-cleanser at the end of a rich Christmas meal. Contact Dartmoor Kitchen, Exeter (Tel: 01392 705199).
Dessert wine to accompany: ‘Mylitta’ Tokaj Noble Late Harvest (Hungary) A wine of lovers - dedicated to Maria Zwack the great love of Hungarian poet, Endre Ady. Maria was grandmother to the present owner, Izabella Zwack, of Dobogó Estate in Tokaj - her nickname was ‘Mylitta’ goddess of love and fertility. Pure nectar sent from the gods, made from late-harvested aszú berries fermented and short barrel-aged. This lighter style of Tokaj has aromas of orange blossom and citrus flavours of clementine, candied grapefruit and fresh apricot. RRP £35 per 375ml bottle. Available at Glazebrook House Hotel, South Brent (Tel: 01364 73322).
4Posh Nosh - Black Forest Torte Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a taste of chocolate. This dessert must be the epitome of shear decadence - chef Alan Adlem at Posh Nosh has handcrafted a sumptuous ‘Black Forest Torte’ layered with rich dark chocolate ganache, decorated with boozy Kirsch-soaked black cherries and a light chocolate sponge, finished with cherry compote. Time to loosen the waist-band…! Contact Posh Nosh, Topsham (Tel: 01392 444877).
Dessert wine to accompany: Immortelle Rivesaltes Grenat (France) Rich, dark and handsome - this ‘ vin doux naturel’ is made by flying winemaker Liam Steevenson MW.
Grenache Noir grapes are barrel-fermented for five days and then interrupted by the addition of grape spirit to arrest the fermentation, similar to Port. Aromas of black forest fruit, dark cherry and kirsch flavours with velvet tannins, hints of chocolate and cinnamon spice.
This unctuous red dessert wine perfectly matches Yuletide chocolate log and pairs brilliantly with this Black Forest Gateau. RRP £23.80 per 500ml bottle. Available at Steevenson Wines, Tavistock (Tel: 01822 616272). sales.steevensonwines.co.uk