I love Xmas and this year has not been a disappointment. I’ve eaten some fantastic food, most thanks to the father-in-law (Dennis) and drunk some fabulous wines. The Xmas wines I wrote about a few weeks have been incredible and Dennis’ shopping in Tesco, Majestic and Naked Wines has also comes up trumps. Below are the three best I’ve tried this Xmas from Den’s cellar:
Tesco Finest Chablis Premier Cru (Tesco £14.49)
You would think this was from further south in Burgundy. Lots of peachy fruit but with a lovely citrus steak and bone-dry stones minerality. Possibly the best own label wine I’ve drunk. 90 points
Tesco Finest Barolo 2007 (Tesco £14.99)
Had this with cheese in Xmas day and it was delicious. Lovely structure with tight, fine tannins but also lots of black cherry fruit and leathery spice. Very nice wine at a very welcome price. I’ll be adding a couple to the collection. 89 points
Montaria Reserva 2010, Alentejo Portugal (Naked Wines £9.99)
Very fruity nose with definite hints of wax, almost soapy but definitely agreeable. Lots of upfront fruit, especially damson and blueberry. This is very intense and very interesting. Definitely one to add to the collection when you want something deep and warm. 88 points
To say thank you, on our final day in Worcester I cooked a Goodmans goose – I’ve been looking forward to a goose for about 365 days now. To make things even better, our good friend Richard, who lives next door to the in- laws, came around with a bottle of Lynch Bages 2003… And what a marvellous feast we had. Thank you so much Richard!
Chateau Lynch Bages 2003, Pauillac Bordeaux (Lea & Sandeman £135)
Decanted 3 hours before… When the goose went in! Very young looking, only a little bit of brick. Huge aromas of black currant and black cherries, old leather and sweet vanilla spice plus a lovely hint of graphite. Huge powerful and concentration of flavour on the palate, very warm alcohol but not overbearing. Big tannins with deep cassis liqueur-like fruit, leather, vanilla and another sweet spice I can’t quite get. Super warm and comforting but silky – very classy, very sophisticated. Seems to linger forever. 95 points
A great end to 5 magnificent Xmas days… Now off to my folks on Anglesey for New Year!
Lets be honest, only 50% of Xmas present buying is fun. That’s the 50% where you know exactly what you’re going to buy. The other 50%, those names on the list with blanks next to them, can be very stressful. Dads and Uncles seem to be the worst. Another golf towel, a motor racing DVD they will never watch, or the old fail safe, a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape?
The recent upsurge of “experience” gifts certainly gives you options, but what about creating your own experience, or more specifically your own wine experience? You could go for a couple of good bottles from different countries, maybe made using the same grape, or a subscription to a wine club (please don’t!). But to my mind there are two wine gifts that will give hours, even years of pleasure to the receiver.
The first of these is membership of The Wine Society. £40 buys you a share in the society for life and is the best investment you will ever make in your wine buying life. The Society has over 1,800 wines available, catering for all tastes and all pockets (200 wines under £8). As well as a lovely introduction pack, you also get tasting notes for all of the wines you buy and plenty of great offers through the post at regular intervals. The prices are nearly always cheaper than anywhere else and the service is superb.
The second option I have written about before and have no reservations in writing about it again – Drink along with Floyd. ‘Floyd Uncorked’ was first aired in November 1998 and consists of 8 half hour episodes featuring the wonderful Keith Floyd and Master of Wine Jonathan Pedley. The pair travel around eight wine regions in France; each episode features two wines from the region as well as local recipes and lots and lots of useful and easy to understand information about wine. You can buy the DVD on Amazon for about £8 and the accompanying book for one pence! So why not buy a couple of bottles to go with it? The first episode is Burgundy and the white wine featured is a Chablis, the red option a Savigny les Beaune (available for £15 in Waitrose). At the end of each episode Floyd tells you what to buy in before the next episode. Brilliant! We’ve had dinner parties based on different episodes; watch half an hour of Floyd then eat and drink what you’ve just seen.
Happy Xmas pressie buying!
I’m getting a bit overexcited now its less than three weeks till Christmas. I’ve watched Heston, Delia and Hugh cook their Xmas dinner already. I’ve heard Band Aid at least once a day for the last week. But I haven’t started thinking about what wines to serve with Xmas dinner this year!!
For the past few years I’ve taken a case of 6 wines to each of the parents to go with their wonderful food. I like to choose a red, a white, a sparking and a sweet (2 each of the red and white).
Last year the red was a Burgundy (Aloxe Corton 2006) the white a Gruner Veltliner from Austria, the fizz was Cava (not a a very good one!), and the sweet was a wonderful sweet Kiwi Gewurtztraminer. The red and white for next year are maturing in the spare room – bounty from our summer trip to France! If you have to know, the white is a white Burgundy from Meursault, the red a spicy Syrah from Cornas in the Northern Rhone. And this helps, because I don’t like repeating things so I now have some goalposts.
So lets pull together a shortlist for each choice and see where it takes us:
The options are English fizz or Cremant de Bourgogne. English fizz because it really is so damn good and there won’t be much wine from the 2012 vintage due to the appalling weather this summer. Cremant because it is so wonderfully elegant with very fine bubbles, almost ethereal. Hmm… I’ll come back to that one.
Chablis is a great go-to for Xmas. Mineral and citrus and just ever so bloody lovely. But I’ve got Burgundy lined up for next year. I have 2 other options. One is a lovely, sexy Italian number. It’s from Lugana, in the Veneto region in Northern Italy. It is made with the rather modest Trebbiano grape but is full bodied and like baked apples. Or I could go for the fresh but aromatic qualities of Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Hmm… This isn’t getting any easier!
I think I’ve hit this one sorted! Our trip to Barcelona gave a fantastic introduction to the wines of Priorat. Made predominantly with the Garnacha grape (called Grenache in France) and has that lovely bramble, earthiness. I’ve tried a good one from Waitrose and have one from Jez waiting to be tested. Yep, I’m happy with the region, just need to decide on the actual bottle. Yes, one down!
I love sweet dessert wines but rarely buy them – Xmas is the perfect excuse to get stuck in. Because I don’t get the chance to try too many, I’ve got a shortlist of two. The first is a classic Beaumes de Venice from the southern Rhone. Made with the muscat grape, this is a truly classic wine. The second option is the wonderful Steindorfer Seewinkel Beerenauslese, from Austria, that we enjoyed at our veggie feast at Steve and Sara’s. A blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Bouvier, giving up peach, apricot and honey sweetness. Damn… Not as easy as I thought.
So there we go… Still plenty of decisions to make! Thought this was going to be a fun and easy task. Definitely fun as I’ve still got lots of wine to try, but definitely not easy! I hope it’s at least given you a few ideas. Xmas is a great opportunity to really splash out and the good stuff… But careful, you might get a taste for it!