In this photo taken Friday Dec. 18, 2009, a glass of Dolce wine sits atop a barrel in the Dolce cellar in Oakville, Calif. With a classic blend of late harvest Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, Dolce is the only American winery dedicated to producing a single late harvest wine. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Durban may not get as chilly in winter as the rest of the country, but that does not mean most of us ignore the opportunity to snuggle beside the fire with a glass or two of fortified wine.

Badsberg Wine Cellar, tucked into the picturesque Rawsonville district, has been producing quality wines since 1951 – an achievement recently recognised when the Badsberg Red Muscadel 2011 (retail price: R46) scooped gold at this year’s Muscadel South African Awards.

Cellarmaster Willie Burger says the secret to a good muscadel lies in timing the harvesting. Perfect ripeness, preservation of the muscat flavour and the sweetness ensure a superb muscadel. Wholly produced from muscat d’Frontignan, this one has a nose and palate reminiscent of ripe raisins.

Another muscadel is the Du Toitskloof Red Muscadel (R45). These grapes came from a single vineyard of 10-year-old muscat d’Frontignan bush vines yielding six tons per hectare.

By harvesting when the berries were already raisiny, the wine displays a powerful blend of tea-leaves, honey, roses and litchi.

The De Krans Wine Cellar in Calitzdorp won three gold medals and a Top 10 recognition at the inaugural Cape Port Producers’ Association Port and Wine Challenge 2012. The gold honours went to the Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2001 (cellar door price: R300), Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2009 (retail: R150), Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2008 (R150) and the Top 10 ranking to the Tinta Mocha 2011 (R48) in the Cape Portuguese Wine category.

The KWV Classic NV Tawny (R100) also scooped honours at that competition, winning its category and Best of Show.

In the past year the winery has won awards for the 1929 Reserve Port, 1930 Muscadel LBV and KWV 1937 Heritage at various competitions.

Chief winemaker Richard Rowe believes SA has a relevant, proud heritage of producing outstanding fortified wines.

Maybe now is the time to check out some of them. - Tee Mercury

Diary note: Tickets for this year's Mercury Wine Week, taking place at Suncoast from August 15-17, go on sale at Computicket on July 17.

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