Over the last few years, I have compiled an extensive list of dessert wines, after dinner sips and “cozy up to the fire” drinks. With 2020 taking its final bow, I thought it might be fun to recap a few pours I’ve reviewed in addition to introducing the latest entry on my list, Boulard Calvados VSOP.
Simply put, Calvados is a brandy made from distilled fermented apple (or sometimes pear) cider. It is then aged in oak casks for a determined period. Production methods vary and strict rules may apply depending on the appellation and classification.
Calvados is exclusively made in Normandy, France where some of Europe’s best apple and pear orchards abound. There are three main production zones, each with its own unique characteristics: Calvados Domfrontais, Calvados and Calvados Pays d’Auge.
Pierre-August Boulard founded Maison Boulard in the late1820s and it is still owned by a fifth-generation descendant, Vincent Boulard. They have 150 acres of orchards and 35,000 apple trees in the Pays d’Auge, which is designated as the source for the finest apples in Normandy. Over 120 apple varieties from the 800 varieties grown in the Boulard orchards are selected for the production of Calvados Boulard.
AOC Calvados Pays d’Auge maintains the highest quality source for fruit and production methods. Double-distillation is allowed in each region, but only Pays d’Auge is required to double-distill in a Charentais pot still (constructed from copper), the same type of still used for Cognac. Cider must be fermented a minimum of six weeks, and once distilled, aged a minimum of two years in oak casks.
Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge VSOP
The cider for Boulard Calvados is double distilled in copper pot stills and then aged in seasoned oak casks for at least four years. Their VSOP is the culmination of blending different Calvados Pays d’Auge from four to ten years old. Once blended, this VSOP stays in casks for enough time to obtain a characteristic smoothness.
The color is golden amber with heady aromas of tart apples, vanilla, spiced oak and slight astringency. Notes of cider, baked apples, vanilla, a touch of baking spice, nuts, and a hint of ginger lingers on the finish. This brandy is smooth and has a rich quality to it. Drink neat, over ice, or mix in a cocktail.
Alcohol: 40%, 80 proof
SRP: 200ml $14.99/750ml $45.99
Capezzana Vin Santo Riserva DOC 2011
This is a blend of 90% Trebbiano and 10% San Colombano. The grapes are dried through natural methods on cane matting from harvest through to the following February and then vinified in traditional small chestnut, maple and cherry casks. The wine is aged for five years and in bottle for a minimum of 3 months. Heady aromas of perfume, almonds and candied fruit spill onto the palate with added notes of fig, spice and orange zest. This is a sweet and decadent wine that pairs well with desserts and aged cheeses.
Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2015 Passito di Pantelleria DOC
This is a naturally sweet wine made with 100% Zibibbo grapes sourced from vineyards on Pantelleria Island off the coast of Sicily. The color is intense amber with seductive aromas of apricots, figs, raisins, floral and honey. All the aromas segue onto the palate offering a beautifully balanced wine with mineral notes and a hint of herbs. The combination of gentle sweetness and savory is perfection! This wine drinks beautifully as an aperitif or pair with cheese and dessert!
SRP: $40 for a 375ml bottle
Camus Borderies X0
This is a single-estate Extra Old Cognac, aged in oak a minimum of 6.5 years. It is handcrafted from grape to bottle and produced in limited quantities. The grapes are harvested from the most prized vines in the Domaines Camus estate. This Cognac was first introduced in 2000. It is intensely aromatic with notes of violets, sherry and almonds that segue onto the palate. Hints of caramel, dried fruit and vanilla linger on the finish. The XO is rich, silky and truly decadent! When paired with dark chocolate, it is a sexy dance in the mouth!
Cellar Master: Patrick Léger
González Byass Nectar Dulce Pedro Ximénez DO Jerez Xérés
Pedro Ximénez (PX) is an intensely sweet wine and is the sweetest of the sherry styles. The grapes are dried in the sun allowing the juices to concentrate before pressing. This is a rich wine that oozes raisins, nuts and fig. This sherry is 100% Pedro Ximénez. The wine is fortified to 15% alcohol and then enters the Nectar solera. It is followed by an average of eight years of aging in American oak casks. This dark brown colored sherry emanates intoxicating aromas of raisins, prune, fig and honey. The palate is rich and unctuous, with raisins, baking spice, and toasted notes of caramel, toffee and espresso. A long finish is accompanied by a hint of nuts. Enjoy it chilled as a dessert wine on its own or poured over ice cream or berries. Heavenly!
Warre’s Otima 10
This is a ten-year-old tawny Port. It is a blend of traditional Portuguese grape varieties from the Douro Valley. The wine is matured for ten years in seasoned oak casks. It is between a ruby and amber color with delicate aromas of caramel, dried fruit and wood. The palate offers a nice balance of fruit and almonds with toffee, honey, toast and spice notes. This Port is smooth, beautifully balanced and full-bodied.
Bottega SpA Gianduia Chocolate Cream Liqueur
Gianduia chocolate was created in Piedmont, Italy, in 1806 and is noted for its unique bouquet of cocoa and nuts. This liqueur is made with Bottega’s premium Alexander grappa from the Veneto region and Gianduia Chocolate. Grappa is mixed with milk cream (sourced from Alpine cows that only eat grass) that is homogenized and filtered to remove the fats. It is then mixed with sugar, chocolate and hazelnut paste. Delicious aromas of cocoa and nuts segue onto the palate for a creamy and most inviting experience. Rich hazelnut flavors and cocoa contribute to this decadent liqueur that is best served cold. Drink it neat or poured over ice. It is also divine served over ice cream, with fruit, in a cocktail, or in your coffee.
Disaronno Velvet Cream Liqueur
Disaronno is a liqueur made in Italy. It has a very distinct aroma and delicious flavors of almonds called Armelline (the seeds of apricot stone), sweet fruit, Madagascar vanilla and pure caramelized sugar. Disaronno Velvet has all the familiar flavors of the classic version, but it is also creamy and smooth with a touch of chocolate and vanilla.
One doesn’t need a holiday or special occasion to enjoy these delicious treats, nor does one have to wait to share them. With countless people “sheltering in place” again, alone time seems to be a given for many. So, indulge in a glass of Chateau D’Yquem (my all-time favorite) or a snifter of brandy. Add a touch of sweetness to the end of your day or in-between!
Until next time…
Main image photo credit: norbu-gyachung / unsplash.com