The 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo wine awards have just been announced. TX Wine Lover has 2 good posts on the awards won by Texas wineries, here and here. I'm excited to find that I have 4 or 5 of the medal winners in my stash at home, and I'm looking forward to drinking them! But there's one medal winner that I have other plans for...
I love to cook, and I'm especially interested in the history of food culture and what we eat. I even wrote a master's thesis on food in Shakespeare's works. A few years ago my very cool, chef sister-in-law gave me a book of Roman recipes - Cooking Apicius. The Roman recipes call for a host of unusual ingredients, including passum, a sweet raisined wine (made from semi-dried grapes). The Romans drank and cooked with passum, and the earliest recipe for it comes from the 2nd century BC.
Bruno and George's "Other Than Standard" Raisin Wine from Sour Lake, TX (near Beaumont) is a great substitute for passum, and it just won a bronze medal in the raisin wine category. I bought it last year at Spec's for about $12, but I don't see it on the Spec's website today. I hope they haven't stopped carrying it.
As for how it tastes, the Bruno and George website compares it to a tawny port, and I would agree, although I don't believe it's fortified like a port. It's very sweet, with aromas and flavors of raisins, dried cherries, toasted nuts, and caramel. At 16.2% alcohol, it's strong, but not as strong as port. I prefer it chilled, and it would be tasty with anything you'd pair a tawny port with - sipped with a not-too-sweet dessert, with dark chocolate, poured over vanilla ice cream, or enjoyed in a more European style with an appetizer of foie gras or cured meats.
If you've never had a raisin wine, give it a try! It's a wine experience both new and very, very old.