With Christmas just around the corner, there is a last minute rush and myriad of things to organise – the dreaded shopping expeditions, transforming and beautifying the home with Christmas decorations , planning and organizing the Christmas menu, baking shortbread, mince pies and panforte, making sure the children have plenty of activities to stop them “wreaking havoc in the house”, and sending Christmas cards (or fancy e-cards because “snail mail” simply takes too long), or perhaps greetings on FB to which we are all so addicted!
I’m sure your stress levels are rising just thinking about this collective ordeal!
Well please, let me take one task out of your hands….by selecting some fantastic wines for you, your family and friends to enjoy during this “silly season”!
If you’re hosting a festive bash it is a critical tenet for indulgent Connoisseurs that a variety of wines to suit all types make for a happy occasion!
The following 12 wines span a number of countries, featuring six from New Zealand’s winegrowing regions, (of which I am personally very proud, as I come from a New Zealand winemaking family) and six from Europe, will provide plenty of discussion around the Christmas dinner table. They make excellent grown-up gifts as well!
These are wines I highly recommend personally, having encountered or discovered them over the Year 2011 (by the way, where has it gone?!).
They have been on restaurant wine lists, in airport lounges, stacked in wine shops, supermarket shelves or showcased by the winemaker him or herself. They are wines I will never hesitate to vouch for and recommend…and “they are superb partners with festive fare.”
The New Zealand selection represents some of my favourite wines from my island nation, standing out due to their character, style and balance.
While the European selection, including German Riesling, Italian Barolo, Spanish Jerez, French Chablis and Champagne, verifies my potent love affair with these wine styles!
By way of personal anecdote,… I discovered the last wine, the Roccolo Grassi Amarone 2006 in the busy and much-frequented Osteria Giulietta e Romeo in Verona!
It was the last wine that our party of diners were appreciating (after several excellent bottles beforehand). Sumptuously enjoying it over some aged Monte Veronese cheese, I remarked to the table how balanced the wine was on the palate and that “for an Amarone, the alcohol level must not be too high…”. Halfway through this sentence I glanced at the label to expose the shocking 17% abv! That experience sums up this wine – there is so much ripe, concentrated fruit that the alcohol appears negligible. It’s blissfully divine!
I suggest it as a satisfying grand finale for your Christmas banquet.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
(Wine blogger extraordinaire)
1. Something effervescent and Bubbly: Hunter’s Miru Miru Methode Traditionelle NV, Marlborough, NZ. A self-described “every day and all occasion bubbles”, this sparkling non-vintage wine from Hunter’s, delights with its Chardonnay nose of “white peach, nectarine and ripe lemon citrus alongside a hint of red berry characters” from its Pinot Noir component. Lovely yeast autolysis characters make this a complex but easy drinking New Zealand sparkling. Partners well with traditional New Zealand whitebait fritters, but also works well with smoked salmon blinis or soft crab and cucumber cocktail sandwiches. One for the stocking. €16.00
2. Gorgeously balanced: Forrest ‘The Doctor’s’ Riesling 2011, Marlborough, NZ. With just 8.5% alcohol this is a great way to kick off your Christmas celebrations. The perfect aperitif or palate cleanser between courses, Forrest’s The Doctor’s Riesling is wonderfully balanced with striking, mouth-watering acidity which makes its residual sugar content look negligible. “Lots of Granny Smith apple, lime sherbet and a touch of crushed riverstone minerality.” €10.00
3. Expressive and elegant: Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2009, Hawkes Bay, NZ. Chief winemaker Rod Easthope is behind this renown winery’s flagship white. Fruit from the ‘beautiful gravels’ is excellent quality and together with some wonderful use of oak this Chardonnay has a well-integrated flavour profile with good acidity, which enables you to describe your tasting experience for eons. Goes screamingly well with roast pork loin. €35.00
4. Evocative and powerful: Bilancia Hawkes Bay Syrah 2008, Hawkes Bay, NZ. Hawkes Bay’s newest and much-deserved darling is Syrah. Described as being cool-climate, the style emulates Northern Rhône. Bilancia’s Syrah is wall-to-wall “with rousing red plum and black brambly fruits, bacon, and cracked black pepper.” With an excellent tannin structure it’s a perfect match for any meaty Christmas main, particularly game such as partridge, or rabbit. €21.00
5. Quintessentially Pinot: Quintessentially Pinot: Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2010, Martinborough, NZ. Huge value for money exists with this Pinot Noir from esteemed wine producer Martinborough Vineyard. “Gorgeous strawberry, raspberry, tamarillo and violet perfume aromas are in abundance alongside earthy, savoury notes”. It is an ideal match with slow-roasted lamb with its delicate, fine tannins. €17.60
6. Impressive Bordeaux Blend: Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009, Hawkes Bay, NZ. A terrific example of a Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend from one of New Zealand’s most celebrated estates. “Dark plum, blackberry and cassis make up the fruit spectrum alongside sweet spice, chocolate and crushed herb characters.” Skilful winemaking and beautifully ripe fruit gift to it a long, abiding finish. Fire up the barbeque, marinate your beef fillet and grill it rare for ultimate wine and food harmony. €22.00
7. Complex and divine: 2000 Pol Roger Brut Champagne, France. Christmas is certainly a time for celebration with friends and family, and vintage Champagne is invariably the most appropriate wine to do so with. Pol Roger’s Vintage Brut 2000 is exuberant, deliciously complex and brimming with flavour. A flawless companion to a festive Christmas day breakfast of warm croissants and raspberries with cream! €53.00
8. Perfect balance: Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr “EL” Riesling Spätlese 2009, Germany. Focused “aromas of white peach, tangelo, lemon, lime and beeswax”. On “the palate a distinctive flinty/slate-like minerality and mind-boggling balance” makes this wine an excellent match with salt & pepper squid. If you can resist saving a few of these bottles you can be sure they’ll age beautifully in your cellar. €29.00
9. Simply satisfying: Jean-Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2009, France. For a simple Chablis AC wine, Brocard’s Sainte Claire Chablis represents outstanding value. A precise “nose of lemon, lime citrus, green apple and a touch of riper stonefruit, there’s also some lovely iodised mineral notes.” 100% stainless steel vinification together with malolactic fermentation ensures the “texture and mouthfeel is generous and fulfilling.” A great way to kick off an elaborate Christmas feast, delicately pan-seared scallops are a superb match. €14.00
10. Lengthy and luscious: Lustau Don Nuno Dry Oloroso (Solera Reserva), Jerez, Spain. I had to include a Sherry on the list as they are “so underappreciated,” and especially at Christmas those “that are undervalued should get some loving”. I struggle to find an Oloroso sherry that has longer length and continually changing flavour profile than Emilio Lustau’s Don Nuno Dry Oloroso. 12 years of ageing ensures you’ll be endowed with a “delightfully complex aroma spectrum of caramelised walnuts, orange peel, raisin and a touch of iodine.” This is simply perfect with a duck liver parfait, or simple marinated olives to kick off your festivities. €18.00
11. Sensual: Massolino Barolo 2004, Piemonte, Italy. This wine surpasses excellence. Massolino is a high quality wine producer across “the entire range of its Piemontese oeuvre” and the 2004 vintage was a fantastic, yet underrated year. “Displaying wonderful aromas of old Heritage roses, bacon bits, bitumen, ripe red berry fruit and red cherry.” This is a true wonder for the senses to behold. The palate does not overtly show its alcohol (like many Barolo’s can) instead the wine is portrayed in wonderful balance with plenty of fruit concentration. Will most certainly get you singing carols joyously. An excellent match with a cheese course, it favours high acid, hard cheeses. €41.00
12. Finish on a high: Roccolo Grassi Amarone della Valpolicella 2006, Veneto, Italy. Sticking with the Italian theme, in the Veneto you’ll find a stunning rendition of Amarone from Roccolo Grassi. “Powerful, sensual aromas of dried prune, dark chocolate, ground coffee, new leather and heavily-scented Christmas cake” make this a very special wine. “Tar, smoke and a floral perfume” appear as this wine opens up, its beautiful balance corresponding to ear-to-ear grins from its imbibers. A traditional Christmas pudding is a dignified match. €59.00
All prices are averages from online database Wine-Searcher.com