Growing up in a large wine drinking family I always presumed my approach to wine was perfectly normal. I realised its abnormality when I reached university and my peers were confused by my love of dessert wine (or pud wine as we’ve always referred to it).
Whenever we had a family celebration an uncle, parent or third cousin once removed would arrive with a bottle tucked under their arm and announce that this was the one, the ultimate pud wine that had to be tried. We would scramble around for something that would constitute a dessert and watch with baited breath as a sticky, amber coloured liquid was poured into our glasses and then sigh with delight at the first sip.
This heady introduction to sweet wine got me hooked and I have subsequently discovered that one doesn’t need to scramble around to find a dessert to go with the wine or even have to wait until after the main course to appreciate it. If you’re happy to have a glass of vermouth or a negroni as an aperitif then why not a 2001 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese. This particular vintage although sweet is incredibly fresh on the palette with plenty of acidity to cut through the sugar. It’s certainly a more interesting and higher quality tipple than your average cocktail.
Sauternes and Barsac botrytized wines are made from carefully curated, hand-picked grapes. They are notoriously labour intensive wines to produce and are only made when the conditions are just right. And they last forever (just). That you can buy a highly rated 1996 Chateau Nairac for just £50 a bottle makes you wonder why on earth people aren’t drinking it more.
The joy of dessert wines is that they're, mostly, inexpensive for what they are and they needn't be reserved for special occasions.
2001 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes Premier Cru Superior £267 per bottle
No list of sweet wines is complete without Yquem and this isn't cheap but, imagine what you would pay for a top Bordeaux in a top vintage with a bit of age behind it. Sweet wines are a steal in comparison.