Digestifs: a great way to round off a meal

A selection of digestifs available in gift boxes.

A selection of digestifs available in gift boxes. - Credit: Archant

For those of you who enjoy a relaxed end to a meal chatting over cheese, chocolate and coffee after dessert (or if you’re like me would rather skip the dessert) a glass of a luxuriously luscious digestif is just the thing to drink with it to round off a meal.

This is particularly true during this season’s festivities when we have time to linger over a meal, so it’s worth finding the right wine for you to enjoy.

Port has long been the drink associated with the end of a meal as a wine to savour with a chunk of cheese or chocolate. A late bottled vintage port has a rich fortified mouthfeel after being left in the barrel too long, or there are the mellow nutty notes of a tawny port - both are a delight and can be paired well with different cheeses.

Many port houses such as Grahams and Quinta do Noval have also been creative over the last few wines and now offer some great value ports to encourage people back to a drink whose sales have declined over the years.

These are often termed ‘Reserves’ and are premium ruby ports with a seductive rich perfume of ripe plums and cherries and a complex palate, with a good structure and a long lingering finish.

A great example is Graham’s Six Grapes Port - the everyday port for the vintage port drinker

However, although it is great with some cheeses and rich chocolates port is not a perfect match nor the only one.

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My favourite is the complex delicious flavour of a dessert wine and there are many to chooses from.

Their luscious richness isn’t sugary sweet but a mélange of honeyed fruit with a hint of caramel notes which are enhanced when drunk with some softer cheeses whose main flavour notes are similar such as ripe brie. Tokajis from Hungary, Sauternes from France, Botrytised Viogniers from Australia, and many more deserve a try.

Chocolate is renowned for being one of the most difficult foods to match with wine. A rich chocolate mousse or torte with its lovely mouthcoating textures needs a wine with equivalent notes.

Fortunately, wines like this include the sweet red wines from the Rhone Valley, Madiran and also California to name a few regions though they are not widely available.

Rasteau Domaine de Beaurenard from the Rhone Valley in France is a good example with its deliciously textured and sweet elegant, vibrant chocolatey fruit.

A glass of red Pineau des Charentes is another great match for chocolate, deriving its stylish flavour from a number of years barrel-aging after fortifying with brandy.

White Pineau des Charentes, a white fortified wine made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes has very delicate floral aromas and delicious honeyed apricot flavours even after five years aging, so it pairs well with some lighter cheeses.

It’s also a wow with cake due to its soft ‘cakey’ mouthfilling texture.

Madeira deserves a mention here too; the varied sweet styles were much loved with past generations but like many fortified wines its popularity has declined.

However, for example, the Barbeito Malvasia Reserve Madeira has concentrated aromas and taste of rich, buttery nuttiness and a delicious sweetness and purity: oranges and lemon fruit, with a finesse and racy quality. A delight to savour at the end of a meal.

Sherry, like Madeira, has sadly declined in popularity although producers continue to make delicious unique sherries that can accompany most courses of a meal.

There is one in particular though, the PX which is most suitable as an after-dinner drink or digestif and can easily be described as liquid Christmas cake!

Noe, Pedro Ximenez Muy Viejo Sherry made by Gonzalez Byass is one of the world’s oldest and rarest dessert wines, and has a powerful bouquet, oozing heady aromas of concentrated raisins, figs, coffee and Christmas spices.

Sometimes just a small glass of a digestif is enough and the great thing is that many are sold in half bottles including dessert wines, sherries and Madeiras and also in gift boxes so are also a great solution when seeking inspiration for a Christmas present.