I am a massive fan of sweet wines, and while I am told they are perpetually out of fashion, whenever I open bottles for corporate events or dinner parties, everyone coos with pleasure.

So, please forgive me if this is a slightly indulgent column this month. Somehow, I think this topic appeals to a much wider fanbase than we realise, and as we have a handful of superb sweeties in this country, we ought to shine an infrequent spotlight in this direction. I have found three beautiful wines to feature this month. One is an acknowledged classic, another a quiet overachiever, and the third the brand-new vintage of a wine I have followed for a decade.

But first, let’s track back a couple of years to when I remember being flabbergasted by a stellar bottle of sweet English wine. I am confident that 2018 Biddenden Vineyards Late Harvest Ortega, released in 2021, will be remembered as an event horizon wine. The Ortega grapes were left on the vine until 15th October, resulting in them having the highest natural sugar levels of any grapes harvested in the UK. I featured this wine on this page and given its sugar level and extraordinary acid battery pack, I have a feeling I could feature it again in two or three decades – at least the wine is guaranteed to last this long!

We have an excellent potential for sweet wines in the UK, and while the market might seem small, every wine list in every restaurant serves a sweet wine by the glass, so there is no earthly reason why this spot should not be inhabited by a wine from these shores. Here are three that I would consider listing in every style of restaurant, from a boutique gastro-pub to a swaggering Michelin three-star: they are that good!

MV Nyetimber, Cuvee Chérie, Demi-Sec

and a host of other retailers, including Fortnum & Mason and Hedonism.

A couple of UK wineries have tackled the subject of Demi-Sec with varying results. This style of wine should not be a portfolio-filler or a wine to fill the back page of a brochure but one made from a profound adoration of this celestial sparkling style.

Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon and Henriot make Demi-Secs that work for me, and I seem to remember a previous incarnation of Louis Roederer (not today’s Carte Blanche) that was incredible.

Forty years ago, we drank this style of wine as an aperitif. Today, we favour much dryer styles, and I am not entirely convinced that this is what the punter truly desires. Dryer styles are foodier and more action-packed. Finely tuned off-dry sparklers are luxurious, welcoming, and generous, and they set the scene for the palate to move onto genuinely dry wines from a base of relaxation and openness.

So, we come to Cuvee Chérie, a magical creation and a wine that nails the brief. Made from 100% Chardonnay and including a 20-30% reserve wine core and 38 g/L residual sugar, this is the UK’s most famous Demi-Sec for a reason: it is the best.

2023 Knightor, Mena Hweg



Ten years after featuring the inaugural 2013 Mena Hweg in a massive Daily Mail compendium of the finest English wines, I am thrilled to alert you to the 2023 vintage, which is the finest vintage to date.

In the old days, this wine was made from 100% Schönburger, inspired by the most beautiful Spätlese wines from the Mosel. Today, Bacchus is responsible for the shimmering beauty in this glass, and it is very simply fermented cool and bottled young to preserve its energy and freshness.

With a slight 8% alcohol and precisely the same 38 g/L RS as Chérie, this is sheer heaven, and while I tasted it first on a grotty day in January, I cannot wait to drink it ice cold on a scorcher this summer. Again, I would serve it as the ultimate in sophistication – the perfect chilled aperitif.

However, many would mistakenly offer it with spicier Asian fusion cuisine. Please don’t do that, as this combo rarely hits the mark. The most successful way to serve Mena Hweg is with fresh fruit puddings, and I cannot think of a finer pairing than wild strawberries, so splash out this summer and send your palate into orbit.

2022 Rowton, Late Harvest Solaris, England

£19.00, half bottle www.rowtonvineyard.co.uk

£23.95 www.moonshineandfuggles.com

£27.99 www.adegawinecellar.co.uk

At the end of every year, I compile a list of the Finest Fifty wines. I publish this for my members of www.matthewjukes.com.

In order to compile this report, I re-read every single tasting note of the year and discard any wines that have appeared in either of my two En Primeur features or my 100 Best Australian or Piemonte reports. Those wines left, which are of exemplary standing, are further whittled down to a perfect half-century.

This wine made the grade by virtue of its simply heavenly flavours. I have entitled this month’s article, ‘Sweetness and Light’, and Rowton’s Late Harvest Solaris seems to have been ripened not by a hot sun, like so many thick, viscous, oily sweeties from warmer climes, but by bright light. It is aerial, diaphanous, ethereal and all-pervasive.

This sweet wine haunts the taste buds rather than smothering them, and you are left with an aromatherapeutic glow instead of a faint but growing headache. Listen to the intro to Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. Ten seconds will do, and then sip this wine. For a fresh, light, caressing sweetie, it has an anthemic influence on one’s body!