Nine fortified wines to warm your core during the last, life force–sucking month of cold

Nine fortified wines to warm your core during the last, life force–sucking month of cold

David Lawrason: Winter Classics
Single malts and cognacs are great, but for cozying up by the fire with a book on a cold March evening, I prefer winter wines—that is, heady ports, sherries, tokays, vin santos and vins doux naturels lightly fortified up to 20 per cent. They’ve fallen out of fashion in this fast-paced, calorie-counting age. We scarcely have time to eat dinner at the table, let alone savour a smooth glass of port afterward. Happily, the lack of buzz is keeping their prices ridiculously low for the quality. Many are classic, complex wines, aged for years (even decades) in barrels or bottles—a process that adds greatly to the cost of production. Seriously, I don’t understand how some producers are making money on them, and perhaps they aren’t, which is why fortified wines like marsala are teetering on extinction. Stock up on the bottles below before they disappear from LCBO shelves.

David Lawrason: Lillet Blanc
Lillet Blanc
$15.25 | Bordeaux | 90 points
Lillet is a historic aperitif wine of France. Orange-macerated brandy is added to a blend of sauvignon blanc and Sémillon, then matured in oak casks, resulting in a medium-sweet 17 per cent wine. The nose is spicy, cedary and laced with licorice and orange. It’s soft with a pleasant warmth. Serve it on ice. Vintages. LCBO 322297
David Lawrason: De Bortoli 2008 Noble One Botrytis Sémillon
De Bortoli 2008 Noble One Botrytis Sémillon
$30 | Australia | 94 points
Patterned after French Sauternes, Australia’s most beloved dessert wine has become a superstar in its own right. This one offers up a rich, sweet nose of crème caramel, orange, persimmon, fresh mint and thyme. It’s sweet but braced by great acidity. Serve it with fruit flan. LCBO. Vintages 917252
David Lawrason: Pukulus Pincészet Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos
Pukulus Pincészet Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos
$21 | Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary | 92 points
Hungary’s ancient dessert wine
is made from grapes affected by botrytis, the fungus that causes the noble rot. This one has an overripe, complex nose of apricot, honey, caramel, pumpkin pie and acetone. It’s viscous and sweet, yet nervy. LCBO. Vintages 980805
David Lawrason: M. Chapoutier 2009 Banyuls
M. Chapoutier 2009 Banyuls
$20 | Banyuls, France | 90 points
This is an elegant vin doux naturel made mostly from grenache. Expect floral, plummy blackberry aromas flecked with tobacco. It’s young, yet well composed, delivering fruit to good length through a veil of dry tannin and earthiness. Enjoy it now with chocolate, or cellar for up to three years. LCBO. Vintages 709436
David Lawrason: Loukatos Mavrodaphne of Patras
Loukatos Mavrodaphne of Patras
$8 | Greece | 89 points
This Peloponnese mavrodaphne is fermented in vats under the sun, fortified to 15 per cent, then aged underground. It’s edgy, with aromas of prunes, walnut, chocolate, caramel and ginseng, and pleasantly bitter on the finish. Serve at room temperature. LCBO. Vintages 292797
David Lawrason: Ruffino 2008 Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti
Ruffino 2008 Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti
$25 | Tuscany | 91 points
Tuscany’s dessert wine is made from white grapes aged for five years until the resulting liquid turns bronze. The nose is soft, with almond, marmalade and apricots. It’s lighter than port or sherry, and dry on the finish, with flavours of walnut and anise. Perfect with biscotti. LCBO. Vintages 1008
David Lawrason: Burmester 10-year-old Tawny
Burmester 10-year-old Tawny
$25 | Douro, Portugal | 94 points
Aged 10 years in oak casks, this tawny port is unbelievably good for $25. It pours the colour of red autumn leaves and exudes molasses, walnuts, red plum and smoke. It’s rich, silky, seductive and warm. Serve at room temperature and enjoy solo. Vintages. LCBO 223958
David Lawrason: Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 1999 Vintage Port
Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 1999 Vintage Port
$55 | Douro, Portugal | 91 points
Vintage port needs long bottle aging, so you rarely find it for this price. Portugal’s most famous port producer has turned out a refined and savoury one, with a complex nose of cherry, figs and chocolate. Terrific minerality on the finish. Serve at room temperature with Stilton. LCBO. Vintages 487850
David Lawrason: Poças 1994 Colheita Port
Poças 1994 Colheita Port
$28 | Douro, Portugal | 93 points
Colheita refers to a vintage-dated tawny port. This is an amazing price for a mature, 18-year-old version. The nose is a blast of walnut, apricot, molasses, licorice, orange peel and earth. It’s powerful, hot and gritty but presents a tidal wave of flavour. Savour with Roquefort. LCBO. Vintages 216424