Christmas: New Wines and Old Classics

This year I thought I’d introduce all you lovely people to a few interesting new wines with which to toast your festive celebrations. They’re utterly tip top with turkey but are also ace as solo sippers or with almost any party nibbles you care to shove into your gaping maw.

Of course us Brits are often averse to change (y’know, unless it’s making a monumental decision on something of which we know nothing about) so I’ve also included a few of the usual Christmas classics. So without further ado, let’s dive in and get your laughing gear round wines that will make even a week with the in laws bearable.

 

Red Wine

Morande Reserva One to One Pais – Majestic £8.99 or £6.99 as part of a mixed case of six.

I only recently discovered this little beauty on a tasting table at my local Majestic at Westbury on Trym (hi guys) and what a find! Apparently the little know ‘Pais’ grape was previously used to make rustic wines for local farmers but almost completely grubbed up in Chile years ago to make way for more profitable international varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Thankfully a few patches of truly old vines survived and the resultant wines are now making their way out of Chile to lucky drinkers the world over.

As the vines are old, this concentrates the fruit flavours but this is no black fruited monster. The wine is actually light in colour and texture in the mouth with no harsh tannins and resembles a fantastic Cru Beaujolais such as Morgon but at a much lower price.

In fact the ripe cherry and red berry flavours leap out of the glass and are all wrapped up in a clean slightly spicy finish. Absolutely delicious and the inimitable Peter Richards extolled its virtues with a Venison tartare on Saturday Kitchen the other week. I think it would also stand up to the big flavours of roast turkey and all the trimmings so give it a go on the big day. However make sure you get a few bottles as I think it will be a real crowd pleaser and will also wash down turkey and ham sandwiches on Boxing Day a treat too.

If you’re not sure about trying something new on the big day (but please do), other top reds are Cru Beaujolais from Georges Duboeuf.  His Brouilly and Fleurie wines both contain ample red berried fruit and soft, juicy elegance for under a tenner at most Sainsbury’s stores.

There’s also the inexplicable bargain of Cono Sur’s Bicicleta Pinot Noir. This is usually around £6-£8 in most major supermarkets and has lush cherry and bramble fruit just made for a roast turkey, goose or duck.

 

White Wine

Calvet Alsace Pinot Blanc – Sainsbury’s £7.50

Yes, I know most people simply have to have a White Burgundy on Christmas day but bear with me. Calvet are a large concern making pretty classic examples of many regional French wines from Bordeaux to Fitou.

This is definitely one of their most successful wines keeping the classic orchard fruit flavours front and centre but also wrapping the whole drinking experience in a crisp, citrus blanket. The rich mouthfeel and generosity of flavour provide loads of pleasure on their own but can also cope with a roasted bird. Pop this in your trolley and it’ll soon be a firm favourite whatever the occasion.

You could continue to ring the changes with the opulent peach and ginger richness of Yalumba’s ‘Y Series’ Viognier. This usually retails at about £10 and will bring a welcome burst of Australian sunshine into your glass while everywhere else drips in cold raindrops and ice.

If you’re determined to go to Burgundy though (and there’s nothing wrong with that) then Tesco Finest Chablis for around a tenner will hit the mark. Another one from the consistently excellent Tesco Finest range. Classic lemon, apple and mineral Chablis aka Chardonnay for those people who don’t like Chardonnay (that’s right Mum, I’m talking to you). A delicious aperitif to greet your guests with and at this price you’ll be able to smile inwardly as they make approving noises and nod sagely at your excellent taste.

 

Sparkling Wine

Tesco Finest 1531 Blanquette De Limoux – Tesco £9

Although there are lots of cheap Champagne’s around at this time of year, many are acidic and not very nice to drink. Step forward the lesser known regions of France for excellent value and beautifully tasty, balanced bottles of fizz. Here is a doozy.

Made in the Champagne method, this Blanquette has all the classic flavours of its more illustrious cousin. There’s big green apple zing, toasty notes and warm bread due to 18 months of ageing. The mousses of fine, persistent hold it all together on the finish inviting you in for another sip. Bliss.

Perennial favourites for me are Asda’s inexplicably cheap but decent party glugger the Spumante Extra Dry Prosecco (look for the yellow label and the £5-£6 price tag) and Aldi’s awesome Cremant de Jura for under £8. This is a classic ‘blanc de blancs’ of 100% Chardonnay this wine has fresh lemon flavours, a delicious mousse of fine bubbles and toasty oak on the finish reminiscent of Champagne at more than double the price.

For Champagne lovers there are loads of great offers kicking about at the moment so pick your favourite. M&S have the gorgeous Louis Vertay Brut which has complex biscuit flavours and elegant orchard fruits coming out the wazoo. I feel this is reminiscent of Pol Roger but when on offer at £16.99 it costs less than half and will make your Christmas a better place.

 

Port

Grahams 10 Year Tawny Port – Tesco £20

There are loads of great ports at great prices kicking around at this time of year. Like a dog, I don’t think Port is just for Christmas so now’s the time to get out there and stock up for the rest of the year. What could be better than a generous glass of toffee, figs and nuts in a glass just like this absolute belter?

Yes it’s £20 at the moment but I got it for £13 a couple of weeks ago and if you shop around I’m sure one of the big four supermarkets will put it back on offer.

If you’re not that lucky a great rule of thumb is to go for a bottle from one of the big port houses. Of course there’s Graham’s but you could also go for Dow’s, Taylor’s or Samdeman. Each of these do delicious spicy, berryish Ruby Ports (including from most expensive downwards – vintage, late bottled vintage or classic reserves) so see which has the best discount for our preferred style and price point and go nuts. It’s also worth a look at who makes port for the supermarket own labels. These are often great value for money and made by the big guns I’ve just listed above.

Whichever drinks of any hue or style take your fancy have a fantastic Christmas and Happy New Year.

Cheers!