With the biggest shopping weekend of the year looming, a drinks charity is asking the public to think twice before buying a bottle of fortified wine this Christmas.
‘Port, sherry and madeira have been part of our homes for centuries,’ said Hope Lesscase from the Centre for the Rehoming of Orphaned Fortified Tosh (CROFT), ‘but every Christmas thousands of people rush to buy bottles for their loved ones, only to abandon them a couple of weeks later.’
The charity estimates that millions of bottles are left by the side of the road or callously regifted to anyone with a birthday before Easter.
‘But these are just the ones we know about,’ said Ms Lesscase. ‘There could be two or even three-times that number stuffed to the back of drinks cupboards and simply forgotten about.’
Don’t be fooled
‘Obviously, everyone wants something that will make the big day special,’ Lesscase told Fake Booze. ‘But please don’t buy something just because you think it looks sweet or the oldies are pestering you for one.’
CROFT is keen to stress that fortified wines are a serious commitment.
‘People over 60 might seem incredibly excited about a glass of port or sherry at first, but they quickly get bored and want to drink something else,’ said Lesscase.
‘And somebody has to keep taking these wines out regularly if they are ever going to be finished.’
Not like Sauvignon
Col Heita of the Sherry, Port and Madeira Federation of Older Wines (SPAMFOLDER) agreed that the public needed to go into fortified ownership with their eyes wide open.
‘People might have owned a Pinot Grigio or a rosé when they were younger,’ he told Fake Booze, ‘but it’s a big step up going from there to a 20% abv tawny.’
Some fortifieds, he warned, can live for decades, so anyone thinking about taking the plunge needed to ask themselves whether they were ‘prepared to keep sipping thimblefuls of Malmsey with cake year after year until it’s all gone?’
‘If the answer is ‘no’,’ he said, ‘then they should buy something that’s less of a commitment, such as a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.’
These, he said, only lived a few hours and could be easily disposed of if people lose interest.
‘Which they almost certainly will.’
Drinks rights groups have welcomed the campaign, saying it will help stop the spread of ‘sherry farms’ where fortified wines of zero pedigree are produced for the world’s supermarkets.
‘You have to remember that a fortified wine is for life, not just for Christmas,’ said drinks writer Boo Zhack.
‘And probably not even for then, frankly.’