Winter’s snowy mountains and sub-zero temperatures invite comforting restoratives to sip and savour around the fire. What better fits this category than fortified wine? From port and sherry to vermouth and Marsala, fortified wines are made by adding a distilled spirit to wine either before fermentation is complete — which yields sweet, high-proof fortified wine — or near the end, or after fermentation, for a dryer style. The next time you’re dining out in Whistler, take the advice of these three sommeliers and think about pairing port with cheese or a decadent dessert, or perhaps enjoying a vermouth-based cocktail. Cheers!
Taylor Fladgate – Very Old Single Harvest, 1969
Il Caminetto, 604-932-4442
Our wine selection at Il Caminetto complements the unique menu inspired by the restaurant’s Italian heritage, focusing primarily on Italian wines with a selection of vintages from each of Italy’s regions. Our selection also shines the spotlight on the West Coast, with a wide range of local wines from outstanding vintners.
My favourite fortified wines from our cellar are sourced near and far. Locally, I often recommend D’oro by Vista D’Oro, 2008, from my hometown of Langley, B.C. This walnut-infused fortified wine brilliantly resembles a Fine Tawny Port with 10 years of barrel aging. From Italy, we serve Vecchio Florio Marsala Superiore Dolce, which is a great pairing with desserts like Chef James Walt’s tiramisu. And for the true port aficionado, we offer Taylor Fladgate’s Very Old Single Harvest 1969 vintage by the glass. The deep copper and amber hues in this wine show its age, while the brightness in the reflections shows the freshness and vibrancy still present. As the wine enters the mouth, the sweetness awakens and envelops the palate. A wave of complex tertiary flavours, reminiscent of spices such as Jamaican pepper, Sri Lankan cinnamon, candied ginger and dark cocoa, as well as fruit flavours like ripe cherries and plums, wash over the tongue. Appreciate it on its own or pair with our chocolate crémeux and Marsala-poached pear dessert. Visit taylor.pt.
M. Chapoutier – Bila-Haut
Bearfoot Bistro, 604-932-3433
One of my favourite styles of fortified wine comes from Banyuls, an appellation within the Languedoc-Rousillon region in the south of France. M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut is a delicious example of a Vin Doux Naturels (VDNs), grown on rugged hills overlooking the Mediterranean. Made from 100 per cent Grenache Noir grapes that are harvested by hand when very ripe, it is then fortified with a grape spirit at just the right time to halt the fermentation process and preserve the natural sweetness. Although the fortification process is very similar to port from Portugal, wine from Banyuls has less alcohol, usually around 10 to 15 per cent, which makes it lighter and less sweet.
Bila-Haut, with its intense flavours of cassis, ripe cherries and black fruit, and a subtle cocoa finish, has a mouthfeel that is light, fresh and highly drinkable, and an ideal pairing for chocolate, like Bearfoot Bistro’s signature Quanah dark chocolate desserts and chocolate bars. Visit chapoutier.com/fr.
General Manager and Sommelier
Quattro at Whistler, 604-905-4844
The history of fortified wines dates to the 17th century or earlier. One of the most popular Italian fortified wines is Cinzano, originating in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Port, Madeira, Marsala, vermouth and sherry are other popular fortified wines produced around the world.
The production method is distinctive in that the fermentation process is halted by the addition of a neutral spirit, taking place at either the beginning of the fermentation (sweet style) or near the end (dry style). In some cases, the grapes used in the production dry partially before the fermentation process.
Most countries produce some form of fortified wine and Italy is no exception. Cinzano Rosso is a classic example of an off-dry style and is the star of the show in a Negroni, a classic cocktail that originated in Florence. It’s also the perfect starter to enjoy with our delicious antipasti, which is one of our specialties at Quattro, featuring our classic arancini, radicchio bocconcini, and more. Cin Cin! Visit cinzano.com.