Hamish Anderson Sweet somethings
When we persuade customers in our restaurants at Tate to have a glass of sweet wine, they react like an old friend has turned up. Most people rarely drink it at home, yet sweet wine – whether classic like sauternes or fortified as port or madeira – used to be the most revered, and expensive, in the world. As our dining habits become less formal, we lose the occasion to drink dessert wines. Off-dry bottles, once staple apéritifs, are even more out of vogue. Yet while we might think we like bone-dry wines, many popular commercial bottlings have sugar added to create an easy-drinking fruitiness – particularly reds.
Great sweet wines can be an impactful way to finish a meal. The key to their success is the balance of high acid with elevated sugar. They are usually made from considerably lower yields per acre than dry wine, so are expensive to make and cost more. But a full bottle will satisfy 10 people, so you’ll spend more but buy less. Match them with desserts or bring them out in lieu of pudding.
Aldi Sumptuously Rich Pudding Wine NV, New South Wales, Australia, £8.99 for half
This has prune, roast coffee and brown sugar notes. It will overwhelm lighter puddings, but is great with anything chocolate-based.
2017 Coteaux du Layon, Domaine des Forges, Loire Valley, France, £10.99 for 50cl, Waitrose Cellar
Made from chenin blanc, one of the great sweet wine grapes on account of its ability to hold on to acidity at high ripeness levels. Pineapple, mango and peach, cut by signature freshness.
2017 Rustenberg Straw Wine, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £10 for half, Booths
Grapes for this are dried on mats to intensify the sugars. It is powerful, with orange zest, cream and ginger – brilliant with crème brûlée.