In with the Old, in with the New…
While on a family sun holiday in Portugal I tried several wines in the resort’s mini-supermercado, all of which were enjoyable and great value for money. Only one was good enough, and different enough, to make it into a suitcase for the return trip:
José Maria da Fonseca “Alambre” ® DO Moscatel de Setúbal 2008
Before opening I read a few interest notes on the box:
- “Aged in oak barrels” – so expect some oxidative notes and / or darker colour
- “Serve chilled” – makes sense for a sweeter wine
- “This wine may become cloudy and throw a sediment” – hasn’t been over-filtered/fined, to help preserve flavour compounds.
Of course Muscat is one of the oldest extant grapes used today, especially in the Mediterranean. There are lots of different versions, often fortified in southern France as a Vin Doux Naturel. Sétubal is a peninsula close to Lisbon which has its own DO for Muscat – here called Muscatel.
When poured it had a gorgeous golden hue, akin to aged Cognac. The nose was toffee and caramel, good enough to just enjoy the aromas for their own sake. The higher alcohol was detectable on the nose, undoubtedly fortified, though not out of balance.
The toffee notes expanded onto the palate – every kind of toffee you could name – liqueur toffee, soft caramel, bonfire toffee. Soft and seductive, sweet but not cloying.
It has a long, long complex finish, quite astonishing.
This would be an amazing aperitif (with the proviso that you might want to skip dinner and keep on drinking it instead) or paired with a medium-sweet dessert. To be frank, I’d quite happily drink it on its own!
Think of this as a lighter version of Rutherglen Muscat – not as heavy nor as sweet. It’s probably the best Muscat variant I’ve ever tasted!
PS the price – less than €7 in Portugal!