BY ANNETTE ALVAREZ-PETERS
WE OFTEN spend a
lot of time and effort
searching for the perfect combination of
food and wine for holiday main courses. So
many choices, so many
much fun. But let’s direct our attention to
something equally fun but often overlooked:
after-dinner or dessert wine selections.
Fortified wines, such as port and
sherry, are made by adding alcohol (usually
brandy), before or after the fermentation
process. The added alcohol kills yeast cells,
leaving behind residual sugar from the
grapes. Most fortified wines have a sweeter
character, with alcohol content ranging
from ;; to ;; percent.
Sherry comes from Jerez in Spain’s
Andalusia region. Different styles are
produced from three grape varieties: palomino fino, Pedro Ximénez and muscatel.
This sweet wine is known for its unique
solera aging system, in which barrels are
stacked and portions of wine are transferred from top rows to bottom rows over
a period of several years.
While many styles of sherry are dry,
the sweet, oxidative styles of cream, muscatel and Pedro Ximénez can be round
and mild, expressing lovely flavors of fig.
North of Jerez, lush Pedro Ximénez wines
hail from Montilla-Moriles.
Port is a popular dessert wine orig-
inating from the beautiful terrace-lined
vineyards in Portugal’s Douro River Valley.
Typically, ports are made from the local
touriga nacional grape, but other local varieties can be included in the blends.
Like sherry, port comes in a range of
FEATURED AT COSTCO
Find these ;ne dessert wines at select
Kirkland Signature™ 10-Year-Old
Portugal Item #787876
Fonseca Bin 27 Reserve Port
Portugal Item #1229
Inniskillin Vidal Icewine
Canada Item #750036
Petit Guiraud Sauternes
France Item #624793
styles that are always sweet and usually red.
Ruby ports are a deep ruby red with rich
chocolate and berry flavors. Tawny ports
are a lighter amber color with intense nuttiness and flavors of dried fruit and creamy
toffee. Vintage-dated ports are fine wines
that represent the very best of a single
exceptional year and can age for decades.
Sauternes and ice wine
The term “noble rot” is not the most
attractive description for anything related
to wine or winemaking, but it plays a major
role in producing beautiful dessert wines.
Noble rot is a fungus, Botrytis cinerea, that
surrounds a grape and causes it to shrivel,
eliminating moisture while leaving behind
the sweet nectar of the pulp. These grapes
look very much like golden raisins.
The Sauternes appellation in Bordeaux,
France, is a famous area where late-morn-ing mists from nearby rivers promote
the spread of Botrytis cinerea. Midday
warmth helps dry the grapes and create
an intense honey character. Sauternes
wines are made from sémillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes, and
the hand-harvesting can take weeks. The
wines balance sweetness and a wonderful
level of acidity. Sauternes are luscious and
fresh with attractive notes of peach, apricot and pineapple.
Ice wines are an interesting variation of
dessert wines; they are made from grapes
left on the vines long past harvest so they
can freeze. The frozen grapes are carefully
pressed to separate the water content (ice)
from the sweet nectar of the super ripe
fruit. Ice wines, typically from Germany and
Canada, are crisp on the palate, with delicious flavors of litchi and ripe pineapple.
This holiday season, devote some extra
wine shopping to deserving selections of
sweet, fortified dessert wines that will
complete your grand meals. Cheers! C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s beer,
wine and spirits program.
meals with the
THE WILDFIRES that engulfed California’s
wine country in October made this the
most horrific fire in the state’s history.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those
affected by this tragedy.
As the rebuilding begins, wine lovers can
support the California wine industry by visiting wineries and local establishments. If your
travels don’t take you to California, choose
a bottle of California wine at Costco or the
next time you dine out. This support will
mean more to the vintners and surrounding
businesses than you will ever know.
The California wine industry is strong and
has overcome so much since the early days
of Prohibition; I know it will come back
stronger than ever. #californiastrong.—AAP
FOR YOUR TABLE