Allow me in this column to play on words: forty and forti.

First, it's time to celebrate north London's Forty Hall Vineyard and its splendid 2023 harvest, and after that the topic will be fortified wines.

Earlier this year, Forty Hall - London's only commercial vineyard and a community enterprise focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of its volunteers and visitors - was in dire straits.

It was desperate to raise money for an essential tractor, and appealed for help in this and other media. Happily, thanks to many individual donors, the tractor has been bought and is proving invaluable in keeping the organically cultivated vines in good health.

Also, it has helped to bring home the 2023 grapes, a crop that's exceptionally good - more than 30 tonnes from the 10 acres of bacchus and ortega plus champagne varieties chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

"To put that into perspective, last year's crop was less than two tonnes in total," says head of operations Emma Lundie.

"On every one of our picking days this year we harvested more than last year's entire crop!"

The result will be a generous quantity of still and sparkling wine, though it won't be on sale for a while. In the meantime, a limited release from 2022 will be available until December at the Forty Hall farmers market on the second Sunday of each month.

The bottles, with a label by award-winning illustrator Matthew Frame, will cost around £25.

"This wine will provide essential funding that we still need in order for us to keep afloat and pay for the production of the new vintage," Emma adds.

Tours and tastings at the vineyard will begin again next April on farmers' market days. To keep up to date, sign up for the newsletter at, or to find out about volunteering email

Overall, 2023 has been a spectacular year for English vineyards, with many reporting record harvests. The future for patriotic wine-drinkers is bright.Ham & High: Fortified wines to try this autumn include Fonseca organic PortFortified wines to try this autumn include Fonseca organic Port (Image: Courtesy of the Producer)

But one style that that England's producers can't yet offer is fortified wines, some decent vermouths apart. So turn to traditional locations and enjoy a broad choice, where - despite the big hit of the August duty rise - there's still remarkable value.

November includes Sherry Week, so some ideas: fino and manzanilla, and even some bigger-flavoured examples such as dry amontillado and oloroso, can happily partner much of a meal as well as prove excellent aperitifs.Ham & High: Domaine Fontanel fortified wineDomaine Fontanel fortified wine (Image: Courtesy of the Producer)

Perhaps, too, think longer and lower alcohol: T&T is a new idea from Tio Pepe, where the classic widely-stocked fino is paired with tonic and a slice of orange. Or delight in ultra-sweet PX, on its own or over ice-cream.

Gonzalez Byass, Hidalgo, Lustau and Barbadillo are among the many ever-reliable, easily-found sherry names - and look closely at own-brand labels and you may find one of them identified as producer. Pouring smaller servings of these higher-alcohol fortified wines is sensible, and means that cost becomes even more reasonable.Ham & High: You can enjoy fortified wine with a meal or afterwards with nuts or even pour it over ice-creamYou can enjoy fortified wine with a meal or afterwards with nuts or even pour it over ice-cream (Image: Courtesy of the Producer)

Many (though not the light dry sherries) will, if kept cool, happily last for ages once open. I've just finished a drier example of madeira, Henriques & Henriques 10-year-old Sercial (£22, 50cl,, waitrose) that's been sitting in my fridge for more than a month. The almondy, salty flavours, cut through with a fresh citrus-peel streak, haven't changed.

Port always brings to mind images of the spectacular steep vineyards of the Douro Valley, adding to drinking pleasure. For the growers, it's a challenging area, but that doesn't stop sustainability efforts, including organic practice. Fonseca Terra Prima (£20-22, Ocado,, Waitrose), rich and delicious, was the pioneer, but now has followers - see the Vintage Roots selection.Ham & High: Enjoy a sherry during sherry week like Tio Pepe's extra dry Palomino FinoEnjoy a sherry during sherry week like Tio Pepe's extra dry Palomino Fino (Image: Courtesy of the Producer)

I love all styles of port, especially cool tawny with post-dinner nuts, but I also have a soft spot for the vins doux naturels of Roussillon, where classic southern French grapes replace the Portuguese varieties in wines made in a similar style - fermentation is stopped with the addition of grape alcohol, retaining natural sugar. Fine amber and red examples come from Domaine Fontanel (£24,; the red is the ultimate chocolate wine. Or for a bargain alternative try Greek Mavrodaphne of Patras, available in most supermarkets at around £8.