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The Weekly Dozen - Sweet Portugal

Eight of our selections today are fortified wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley and its island kingdom of Madeira.  For connoisseurs, these won’t knock your socks off, but they are affordable alternatives for those with student loans to pay off or just getting started in fortified dessert wine.

For the latter, fortified wines are those where the grapes have been only partially fermented when neutral alcohol is added, killing the yeasts and leaving behind the sugary sweetness of unfermented grape juice. Great for drinking during late winter’s chill.

We also have an additional four wines – a sparkler and three reds – to get up in the mood.
2017 Amalaya Salta  Brut Nature Sparkling Wine ($12). From high up in Argentina – rich and quaffable, but don’t expect elegance.
2016 Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Merlot ($17). Lively cherry and raspberry tastes, integrated tannins and a touch of cream in the finish.
2014 Monteti “Caburnio”  Toscana Red IGT ($20). Sometimes something plain and simple can be very satisfying – ripe cherry flavors with a pleasant, raspy finish.
2013 Monteti Toscana Red IGT ($46). Mildish red with tart cherry flavors, mellow tannins and a hint of pencil lead.
NV Warre’s White Port ($18). Like apples in a fruit reduction – sweet, of course, but balanced with aromas of baking spices.
NV Warre’s “Heritage” Ruby Port ($18). Dried tannins reign, with ripe, sweet, red fruits.
NV Warre’s “Warrior” Finest Reserve Port ($22).  Fresh fruity – ripe, but not dried – with notes of tropical fruits.
NV Warre’s “Optima 10” Tawny Port ($34 – 500 ml). Very nice and complex – figs and graham crackers – with relatively light body and quick finish.
NV Miles “Finest” Medium Dry Rainwater Maderia ($17). I first tasted chilled Rainwater from a cask in London decades ago, and, although my preferences have since ranged drier, I’m still a big fan. This one tastes of nuts and ripe mango, is lightly sweet and finishes crisp.
NV Miles 5-Year-Old “Tinta Negra” Dry Madeira ($24). Very light on the palate, nutty, dried fruits and good acidity. Good with hors d’oeuvres.
NV Miles 10-Year-old “Tinta Negra” Dry Madeira ($29). A little richer and mellower than the 5-year with more cask notes and a little bite.
NV Miles 10-Year-Old “Tinta Negra” Doce Madeira ($29). Sip with dried figs and nuts – sweeter, more complex with tastes of dried fruits, roots, nuts and other spicy, savory notes.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com.

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