Category Archives: Dessert wine

Expensive wine of the month 7: Sandeman 10 Years Old Tawny

The Sandeman 10-year-old offers classic port flavors.

Port is little known in the U.S., and those who do know it figure it to be sweet, sticky wine preferred by old ladies with cats or harrumphing English gentlemen.

Port, in fact, is wine — legitimate, drink it like anything else wine. That we don't drink more of it in the States is a function of its price, for most port is expensive, and that we don't know nearly enough about it. (A concise port primer is here; for our purposes, it's enough to know that port is made like wine, but that fermentation is stopped to retain the sweetness and brandy is added to raise the alcohol level.)

The Sandeman (about $30, sample) is a good place to start to deal with both of those dilemmas. At $30, it's not as expensive as its big brother, the 20-year-old, which runs about $45. In addition, it offers classic port flavors like raisins and vanilla, with a wonderfully long pecan finish and a fine balance between the sweetness and its other characteristics. It's not sweet for sweet's sake, like a soft drink, but sweet in the way that a well-made dessert is.

Which makes sense, because port is first and foremost a dessert wine. There are suggested dessert pairings, including cheeses, but port is almost better on its own, served slighty chilled.

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Expensive wine of the month, June: Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2006

image And when the Wine Curmudgeon says expensive, he isn’t kidding — $95 for a 375-milliliter bottle, or half the size of a normal wine bottle. But it certainly was fabulous wine.

Ice wine is usually made with white grapes, which give a better base for the acid the wine needs to balance with its rich, lush, sweetness. (Ice wine and dessert wine primer here.) That the Inniskillin was made with cabernet franc, which can be tricky to handle even as a table wine, speaks of the talent and daring of winemaker Bruce Nicholson.

So what does that mean for the wine? It’s not as honey sweet as white ice wine, and the fruit is strawberry instead of lemon, lime or apricot. In this, the sweetness is different and surprising than what one expects from an ice wine. Think of strawberry ice cream taken to a place it has never been before. Drink this on its own, reasonably cook, and enjoy.

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