Moscatel (Muscat) grapes are turned into sweet, fortified wine in the Douro and, most famously, the Peninsula de Setúbal region. Most fortified Moscatel is sold young and fruity, but with age it develops nuttier, figgy flavours that go brilliantly with English Christmas Pudding and mince pies, or at the end of the meal with nuts and preserved fruits. Sweet, fortified Setúbal wines are labeled simply Setúbal if they contain less than 85% of Moscatel, Moscatel de Setúbal or Moscatel Roxo (a rare and slightly different grape) if they have more.
Sweet, fortified Moscatel’s flavours of orange, lemon, flowers and grapes are brilliant matches for many desserts and puddings – sweet dishes flavoured with citrus fruits, coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, almond, rice pudding, crème brûlée, crème caramel and all those moreish, super-sweet egg-and sugar concoctions the Portuguese make to perfection. Sweet, fortified Moscatel is also best choice for Pavlova, and other meringue-based desserts.
The traditional fortified wines of the Azores are in short supply these days and mostly drunk on the spot, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Not all are fortified - if the grapes naturally reach the minimum potential alcohol of 16% the wines may be left unfortified. They are made from Verdelho, Arinto and Terrantez, given a long, slow oxidative maturation in wood. Like Madeira, Pico and Biscoitos have marked, tangy acidity, and concentrated, nutty flavours. They may be dry, medium or sweet.
Pico and Biscoitos might drink them chilled as an aperitif, with cheese, or with nuts and other nibbles at the end of a meal.