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Six inexpensive dessert wines

by Tom Cannavan, 10/97

Part two of a Christmas taste-off for a magazine article. I tasted half a dozen relatively inexpensive dessert wines. These ranged in price between £4($7) and £10($16) per half bottle and included late-harvest, botrytis-affected and fortified wines. The selection included relatively scarce, small production bottlings as well as mass-produced supermarket wines. In general the selection was perhaps more interesting than great, but then these are at the lower end of the price-range for dessert wines, so maybe we shouldn't expect too much. UK suppliers and current prices are given for each.

Mount Horrocks (Australia) Cordon Cut Riesling 1997
So smooth it could be the next James Bond.... Clean and limy on the nose with beautiful notes of honeycomb and sherbet, it is quite luscious, with opulent, marmalade flavours. Should develop more complexity given a little bottle age. The pick of the bunch. Oddbins Fine Wine, £9.99 per half bottle.

Boutari (Greece) Visanto 1993
A light crimson red sweet wine from Greece, it's like a cross between sherry and a sweet cherry liqueur. Rather oxidised, but not "tired" with an interesting combination of floral and stewed, marmalade orange flavours. Quite long and smooth with well balanced acidity. Oddbins, £6.49 per 500ml.
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Le Cyprès de Château Climens (Barsac) 1984
This is the wine the famous Sauternes estate of Climens first made in 1984. This was a poor year, and no first wine was made, so this is basically de-classified Climens. The colour is a healthy-enough medium gold. The nose has a tell-tale harshness that hints all is not well, but some ripe tropical fruit emerges along with honey. The palate confirms that the character of the wine has been over-taken by acidity that swamps the remaining fruit and leads to an unbalanced finish. Peckham's (Scotland), £9.99 per half bottle.
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Quady Vineyards (California), Elysium 1996
Rose perfumed and deep red, this fortified sweet wine would be good with chocolate. Very floral, aromatic, lifted nose of lychees, violets and rose-petals. Some red-liquorice depth on the palate and ripe, cherry fruit. Quite dry on the mid-palate, but sweetness re-asserts in the finish. Unusual and enjoyable. Peckhams, £5.49 per half. Widely available.

Moulin-Touches Coteaux du Layon 1986
A shame, but this bottle was oxidised and a little volatile, with the added charm of a sulphurous nose! I'll try another some time as this bottle was clearly faulty. It could be good and is only £8.49 from Majestic for a bottle.
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Baron Philip de Rothschild Sauternes 1995
This generic Sauternes didn't do much for me. It is clean and soundly made, but short on complexity and really, rather short on any sort of personality. Sweetly honeyed on the nose, with restrained pear and apple flavours and a reasonable finish, it isn't expensive, but to me doesn't represent great value for money. Widely available, £5.99-£6.49.
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