Afterparty wine party

Typical Friday after dinner party with friends

I love my dessert wines. In fact I also drink them before dinner too, a la aperitif. There is nothing quite like enjoying a great sweet amber coloured sherry in anticipation of a fab meal. Equally satisfying is to sip slowly a heavy, deep red bodied port over a dessert of cheeses, and even better if accompanied by a great company of friends.

My favourite standard everyday sherry is the Croft Particular Amontillado. Medium sweet, to me it has a robust dry oaky taste and goes well with practically any starter. It’s readily available in Waitrose and with online wine merchants.

Croft Amontillado bottle

On special occasions I prefer a Madeira style dessert wine, simply named Inna from the Amphorae Winery. Limited edition, very tender and sweet at room temperature, it gets a truly divine taste when chilled, rivaling any top quality luxury sherry.

Port and Sherry bottles

The process of serving any wine and especially dessert is an essential part of enjoying it. I really like doing it rather properly, or pompously. Either way you look at it, the guests are always impressed.

Tray with decanters and glasses

Traditional drinks serving trays with decanters and glasses

My favourite decanters are those in heavy Irish glass – they usually have a very detailed cut decoration and are of course all handmade.

Cut glass sherry decanter

Cut glass barrel shaped decanter from the early 1800s

Cut glass port decanter

Classical 19th century barrel shaped British decanter

Glassware is the most important accessory. Drinking, sorry, partaking in the ceremony of drinking port and sherry is just that, very much an enjoyable ceremony. So all my dessert wines I serve in different glasses, and at the party I would never allow two guests to have identical ports.

For my everyday port and sherry glasses are prefer them handmade, with cut crystal designs, and each one with bags of character.

Antique port glasses

Port and sherry glasses, they go from clear to amber and to green hues, hand made, 19th century

I also have and love to use a battery of some more sophisticated looking flutes. The quality of craftsmanship is superb and they are never boring.

Sophisticated port glasses

Classical conical panel cut port and sherry glasses, 19th century

On festive occasions, and especially over the winter holidays when serving wine by the fire, I opt for adding some colour. The obvious choice are cranberry glasses – to get the cranberry colour in the 19th century they added real gold to the glass.

6 cranberry wine glasses

Cranberry wine glasses, all slightly different and amusing, 19th century

Or the greens – and I really enjoy having them in different shades of green; and the wobblier they look, the better.

Harlequin set of wine glasses, 19th century

Harlequin set of wine stem glasses, 19th century; often with many air bubbles in the glass

And I use some Bristol blue wine glasses too. They have some very unusual looks with the colour going from very light to very dark blue, depending on how bright the room is.

Bristol blue wine glasses

Bristol blue wine glasses – delightfully rare among the colourful ports!

As to the port, my favourite everyday is Maynard’s 10 Years Old Tawny Porto. You can get it at any decent wine merchant. It is simply a robust, very traditional tasting wine, the way a port should be.

And yes, on special occasions I do get the good stuff out – port style dessert wine from my friends’ winery. It is actually nameless but extremely sought after by the connoisseurs, because it is produced in such a limited run that only a privileged few get to enjoy it – apparently I got lucky :)

Georgian brass wine carrier

Carrier for decanters and wine bottles, simple, modernist, rare, and incredibly old

And what are your favourite dessert wines? Share with us! Cheers!

Glass full of sherry

P.S. Sherry was consumed in the course of writing this blog.