The Big Fortified Tasting has become an annual event and is a great occasion for an update on all manner of fortified wines, not just the classics, Port, Sherry and Madeira, but also luscious liqueur Muscats from Australia, distinctive Moscatel de Setúbal, and other curiosities. Sadly the South of France was poorly represented, with just two wines from Roussillon, a lovely pair of Banyuls, from Coume del Mas.
NV Coume del Mas Banyuls Tradition
Medium red colour, turning tawny, with a rounded ripe spicy fruit on the nose, with more ripe spice on the palate. Nicely balanced and very satisfying. A lovely glass of wine.
2016 Banyuls Rouge, Galatea.
This contrasted beautifully with the previous wine, with much fresher, more youthful flavours, again with spice on both nose and palate, but with a fresh lift on the finish. A satisfying comparison, showing the diversity of Banyuls.
More original and very unexpected, with a southern French link, were some fortified wines made from Alicante Bouschet, but not from the south of France, but from the Alentejo in southern Portugal. I’ve encountered Alicante Bouschet from the Alentejo before, but never as a fortified wine, and very intriguing it is too, with three vintages to compare. I was told that the Reynolds family had brought the vines from France in the 1880s.
2008 Alicante Bouschet, Robert Reynolds
Medium red colour. Quite ripe and sweet nose, with berry fruit. Rich and ripe with chocolaty notes. Very intriguing. The wine is aged in French 225 litres barrels for three years and then spends about seven years in bottle before being released for sale.
A cooler vintage, with medium colour. More notes of fig on the nose. Quite a smooth ripe palate, with a later harvest, at the end rather than at the beginning of September, making more concentration. A touch ‘medicinal’ on the finish, but none the worse for that.
Rich herbal fruit on the nose. They only used free run juice, never pressed juice. Ripe spicy fruit on the palate, with a supple streak of tannin, with ripe chocolatey flavours. It would be great with a piece of dark chocolate.
They are imported by LWC Drinks Ltd, who told me that they are destined mainly for the on trade, with a price comparable to a 20-year-old tawny. In conclusion, an original curiosity.