Would you buy a bottle of wine from this man? If it were Madeira, Port, Sherry, Marsala, or Rutherglen Muscat from Australia, or indeed anything fortified, I certainly would. In fact, it's a shame the wine trade doesn't hire a few bodybuilders to pour the wines at tastings like the one I went to today which was dedicated to fortified wines.
These wines might seem old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy, and downright uncool, but it's amazing how popular they are with the wine trade. They are part of winemaking history, with centuries of great stories, tradition, and heritage. The things that put people off - their alcohol and the sweetness - are what make them so interesting, and enable them to age so brilliantly.
Of course, not all fortified wine is sweet. The dry sherries from Lustau are amazingly concentrated and ridiculously cheap when you consider the way it is made. My favourite is the Los Arcos Dry Amontillado which is a wonderful summer sherry and perfect for drinking very cold with lots of almonds and olives It's salty and pure, but with a touch of roundness which suggests sweetness but in fact is the product of age.
When it comes to the strong, sweet, sticky stuff, I would happily recommend many of the Madeiras I tasted. Blandy's is now producing colheita Madeiras (ie single harvest, dated on bottle, but not aged as long as traditional vintage Madeira). These were a revelation; they have all the qualities you want in a Madeira including the classic concentrated tang and clean finish, but as they are made for earlier release they are nowhere near as expensive as the venerable old bottles which can last for centuries. If you come across any of them (Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malmsey), they are worth trying. I loved the Malmsey (available from Amazon - is there nothing they don't deal in?), but them I'm a sucker for anything with power, and the ability to sweep me off my feet - man or wine.