At the risk of repeating myself, I am constantly amazed at the apparent lack of enthusiasm for our wonderful South African fortified sweet wines.
Somehow wine “connoisseurs” seem to think anything sweet isn’t serious. It must be a “dray whaite” or a noble red. The snobs claim to prefer a good wooded Chardonnay or a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
These are all very well, of course, and have an important place in our wine enjoyment.
But so do our muscadels and jerepigos.
Whenever I have introduced overseas wine lovers to our sweet wines they’ve been totally blown away by them
“Why don’t we get these great wines in England?” is a standard reaction.
The truth is that the EU has loaded the dice so heavily against us that they are simply too costly for most British wine buyers. EU customs rules make us pay a heavy import premium on wines with a high alcohol content, while the Europeans can sell high alcohol wines without penalty.
With winter now upon us it’s time to take a look at some of the sweet gems on offer and stock up on some winter warmers. The good news is there are many of them at real budget prices.
Watch out for the De Wet Cellar red Muscadel from the Worcester region. It’s been named the Best Value Muscadel for 2012.
Muscadels from Nuy, near Robertson have a long history of superb quality. The wonderful thing about these sweet delights is that they last for decades, growing more and more elegant with each passing year. I recently tasted an 80-year-old muscadel that was warm and rich and wonderful. Of course, I had to stand to drink it. Wine tradition holds that a drinker should always stand respectfully whenever you drink a wine older than yourself.
I recently enjoyed an excellent White Muscadel 2010 from Namaqua Wines on the West Coast. There’s far more to a wine like this than simple sweetness. You’ll find nuances of fresh citrus, chocolate and sun-warmed honey in it.
They’re versatile, too. Try a “muscatini” as a cocktail — white muscadel with a splash of vodka and a twist of lemon zest, the invention of that great champion of sweet wines, Swepie le Roux.
Or serve muscadel in a tall glass, filled with crushed ice as a delicious summer cooler.
Some friends have asked me: “But when do you actually drink muscadel? As an aperitif, as a digestif with the pudding?”
My answer is that I enjoy it anytime, sometimes just on its own as a warming sipper while watching TV.
It also goes well with spicy Indian curries. Try it next time, with a couple of cubes of ice in the glass.
Like Winnie-the-Pooh with his jars of honey, I count my bottles of muscadel lovingly at the beginning of winter and get that smug feeling.
I’m ready for anything the weather throws at me.