Wine trends come and go; you could be halfway through your zeitgeist glass of Margaret River sémillon chardonnay before the oeno-fashionistas tell you it’s yesterday’s news and steer you towards an eastern European Syrah instead.
Alas, dessert wine too is a victim of industry writer fickleness, and finding time to fit it into your busy wine schedule between tawny port, Manzanilla sherry and grappa can be tough.
Well for me, dessert wine is a constant joy, and the more traditional and recognised the better. While it can be a little pricey, you certainly don’t need to be forking out for a Chateau d’Yquem when there’s some cracking Tokaji, non-vintage Sauternes and Aussie Muscats doing the rounds for about a tenner a bottle.
But in terms of value for money, to my mind the sweet wines of Monbazillac are King – so I went there to discover the secret of this affordable and consistent product.
Sitting haughtily on a hillside above the beautiful medieval city of Bergerac in the Dordogne region of France is the iconic wine village of Monbazillac. The hillsides are carpeted with vines rolling down to the Dordogne river a couple of miles away. It is one of the most glorious views in France.
The best of the region’s grapes – the main ones being muscadelle, sémillon and sauvignon blanc, and all of which are harvested by hand once the noble rot has set in during the onset of the chill – can be found at the crest of this hill next to the Chateau.
All the vines near the town are protected by the Monbazillac AOC (the acronym that ensures the wine is only available from grapes grown in that region), yet the Chateau’s own wines are the paragons of the style.
In the Chateau’s outlet I paid out €16 (appproximately £13) for a 500ml bottle of tempting Chateau Monbazzilac 2011. This incidentally would be a lot harder to get hold of, and therefore more expensive, outside of France, for this is a gold-medal-winning wine, and rightly so. The honeyed notes offset with a tinge of grapefruit and elderflower makes it a really enjoyable entry wine.
It’s called dessert wine, pudding wine or sweet wine, but I really don’t believe in saving it for the end of your meal – go French, have it with your appetizer. It is a remarkable match for pates (especially something like Jamie’s Old-school chicken liver parfait).
Otherwise, if you really must wait until dessert, then it crackles when taken with citrus flavours such as sorbet or a jelly. How about this clementine jelly together with a little piece of our Gluten-free citrus shortbread?
Enjoy it responsibly, as it can come out a little bit stronger than your average wine – a small sherry schooner would suffice. Make sure it’s chilled and then left outside the fridge for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving to make sure all of the flavours have time to get over their chill and reveal their honeyed secrets.
Although these AOC wines are available widely in the UK, and the Chateau’s own are a little harder to find, believe me when I say they’re worth the search.