Birthday wine is a funny thing. The dream is always to discover a glorious old bottle, originating from your friend’s date of birth. The reality is that you know nothing about the obscure vintage, you can’t find something that was made to age, and you ultimately have to sacrifice quality along the way.
Now I’m all for birthday wine, but when all your friends were born in 1994, you run into some difficulty. Grange was very good that year, but the student loan won’t quite stretch that far. Port was pretty good, but is again too expensive. Bordeaux was ‘wet and cold,’ Sauternes ‘should be avoided’ and Burgundy was ‘a train-wreck.’
Where to go? Answer: The Wine Society’s ‘Anniversary Wines’ page. However, there is a problem. The only wine they list is a certain Domaine Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, at a meagre £595. Bullocks.
How does one resolve such a travesty? Don’t go broke. Don’t waste more time searching. Instead, buy the much more affordable (£14)/available 1996 Rivesaltes dessert wine, and pretend you got their date of birth wrong. By the time it gets to dessert, they’ll be drunk enough to forgive you!
Parcé Frères, Vin Doux Naturel, Rivesaltes, France 1996
Orange-brown colour throughout this concentrated wine. Orange liquor, burnt hazelnut, mollases and cinnamon come through. Lacking acidity which makes it slightly sickly. Toasted oak on the finish which is well integrated. This was drunken in the summer, but really would have suited a frosty Christmas night. Overall, very good value: expressive and rich. 88 Points (BP).
Look towards this under-rated region of the world for great value, crowd pleasing sweet wines.