Grapevine Archive for December, 2014
It is a great privilege to be part of the Buying Team here, tasting thousands of samples a year from the world of wine. As a buyer, objectivity is key: it is our job to choose wines that meet members’ high expectations of quality, value and style.
As a drinker though, I choose my wines on my personal taste, and it is with this in mind that I have made this concise selection of Top Wines of 2014. This is the third year I have done this blog and we have had some great feedback from members: not all have agreed with my selection, but isn’t that the point of wine? There is no wrong or right when it comes to personal taste.
So, here it is, in no particular order, a selection of 10 wines that have, quite simply, provided me with the utmost drinking pleasure in 2014, putting aside price and availability.
• Pedroncelli Friends Sonoma County Red 2012 (£7.95 per bottle)
A rare example of California offering genuine value for money and a great find by new Society buyer Sarah Knowles. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a blend of many grapes: the wine is delicious and boldly fruity and would appeal to fans of zinfandel.
• The Society’s Exhibition Old-Vine Zinfandel 2004
I bought this from The Wine Society in 2008 (for £8.95) and held a few bottles back for fun to see how it might age. It has held up particularly well, retaining its richness whilst the flavours have become savoury with age – almost Italian in a way.
• Meerlust Rubicon, Stellenbosch 2009
This lives up to its reputation in 2009- an exceptional vintage from this classic Stellenbosch estate. Elegant, intense and complete. One for the cellar.
• Earth and Sky Naoussa Thymiopoulos 2011 (£19.50 per bottle)
A really classy red from Greece which is both individual in flavour and fine in structure.
• Salvaje del Moncayo Garnacha 2012 (£7.95 per bottle)
This light, fresh and juicy garnacha is a house favourite. It stands out for its simplicity and moreish fruit: not for those who like their Spanish garnacha with big bruising flavours.
• Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan 1989
A legendary wine that treads a fine line between harmony and intensity. Understated yet long, tightly woven and remarkably detailed in its flavours. Extraordinary.
• La Rioja Alta 890 Seleccion Especial Gran Reserva 2001 (£75 per bottle)
The epitome of traditional-style Rioja from this five-star vintage.
• Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs 2007 (£35 per bottle)
A gentle, round and exquisite Champagne from Nicolas Jaeger’s first full vintage as Chef de Caves.
• Domaine Henri Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet Prermier Cru Clos de la Mouchère 2010
Outstanding, broad and elegant Puligny which shows why Burgundy is the spiritual home of chardonnay.
• Gonzalez Byass Amontillado Cuatro Palmas 2014 bottling
Over 40 years old, this dry amontillado has a level of complexity that bless just a few wines in the world.
Janet Wynne Evans is simmering gently with slow-cooked, tasty and reassuringly unpretentious post-festive ideas.
This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the New Year 2015 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by both The Independent and Which? magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?
Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.Foodwise, the New Year slot in the Wine Without Fuss calendar is always a bit of a paradox. We feel the need to tighten belts that have rarely felt tighter. Our freezers and larders are still groaning with the remains of festive excess, but we crave healthy things. January is all about life-affirming cabbage, but – praise be! – February brings National Chip Week!
Cue the stew, I say. Animal, vegetable or mineral (relish the Mosel slate in that coq au riesling, folks!), they can be as lush or as virtuous as you like, depending on your commitment to trimming, degreasing, skimming and other calorie-saving devices. Because the meaty ones can be made from the cheapest cuts imaginable, the only truly valuable investment needed to produce them is time, but it’s effectively hands-off time, spent doing other things while the house fills with wonderful smells.
I wouldn’t insult fellow-members with a lecture on how to braise, but I‘ll share a few thoughts about the three elements that, for me, turn a stew into a star. Firstly the rhythm section, which need not absolutely be onions: fennel is a fantastic base for lamb and fish, as are leeks and the subtle shallot for poultry. Secondly, the cooking medium juice, which really deserves proper stock. Any wine used should be sound and boiled down by at least a third to boost flavour. That means that any faults will be rendered in stereo, so if your bottle is not up to scratch, and especially if it’s corked, don’t consign it to cooking – see The Society’s Promise and get your money back! Thirdly, the proper layering of top and bottom notes – freshly toasted spices, woody herbs like bay and rosemary and the finely chopped stalks of parsley and coriander in at the beginning, leaves at the end to add lift and colour.
Our New Year selection is crammed with wines that will add new dimension to the concept of stewing in one’s own juice. Here are some ideas, and good companions for them, along with my best wishes for a happy New Year of food and wine enjoyment.
A BALKAN WINTER WARMER
It seems only right to welcome the juicy, herb-scented Melnik in the Premium Selection with kavarma, the national stew of Bulgaria. It can be made with pork, lamb, beef or chicken, to which fresh tomatoes and aromatics are added. Leeks figure predominantly in the rhythm section while fresh green herbs add a pleasant lightness. The recipe below is from Anne Willan’s appropriately named Good Food No Fuss (BBC Worldwide Publications, 2003), and the addition of wine is mine.
A LOW-FAT DAUBE
When catering for a friend condemned (I can think of no other word) to an ultra-low-fat diet, I came across the notion that it is perfectly possible to make a beef stew without browning everything in great slicks of oil. A non-stick pan, primed with some very lean bacon sets the scene for the well-trimmed cubes of lean meat which just go in along with thinly-sliced onions and a sprinkling of garlic. Two hours in concentrated stock (try beef consommé or the soaking water from some dried porcini), a bottle of good red wine boiled down by half, a squeeze of sun-dried tomato puree and a bunch of serious herbs combine as much flavour as you could possibly wish for with a much lighter feel. Plain ribbon pasta is some carbs are needed. A juicy, berried red – our own exclusive Bordeaux Rouge (Buyers’ Everyday Reds), Domaine Bòsc Petit Verdot (Premium Red) or the dark notes of Saint-Chinian, ‘Etienne’ Château La Dournie 2011 (French Classic Reds) – is a fine option in the glass.
Noble Atlantic fish tastes sublime in the colder waters of winter and the tempation is simply to give it a wipe and stick it under the grill. However, if a well-dressed slab leaves you in agonies of indecision, be bold. It is for such moments that the terms bouillabaisse, matelote or even choucroûte de la mer were coined by our neighbours over the Channel, for whom ‘fish stew’ would have been a cop-out. My favourite fish-pie chorus line of halibut, smoked haddock, salmon and a couple of scallops, corals and all, simmered with a dash of Noilly Prat, wine, fish stock, dill and cream makes a lovely symphonie de poissons (sic) without the pastry hat that makes it somehow less formal. I need hardly add that this idea scores nul points for economy and, despite the carb saving, only your wallet will be visibly slimmer. However you need something to look forward to when the New Year resolutions go by the board, so make sure you reserve François Villard’s unctuous Contours de Mairlant (Buyers’ French Classic whites), David Baverstock’s flavoursome Esporão Alandra (Buyers’ Everyday Selection) or the crystalline but concentrated Pazo de Villarei Albariño, Rías Baixas 2013 (Buyers’ Preium Whites) for the purpose.
Despite the trendy gorgeousness of cavolo nero – the Italian bella-figura brassica designed by the creative team behind Captain Bertorelli’s hat – the easiest way to make cabbage palatable to those who don’t care for it is by presenting it in a good, rustic stews of smoked pork and pulses. As I have said many times before at this time of year, the king of these is for me is Portugal’s caldo verde, a blissfully easy, tasty and wholesome one-pot supper. You can even keep it semi-virtuous by rationing the sausage – if it’s a good one, there will be plenty of flavour. With the kind of natural national dynamic between food and wine that sets Portugal apart, this dish suits the country’s characterful whites and reds to perfection. Try the dry, herby punch of Quinta das Maias Branco (Premium Whites) or Quinta Nova Pomares, the chunky Douro in the Premium Reds selection.
STARS FROM THE EAST
There are plenty of squashes still around, to be deployed with leafy greens and pulses that are good for us are in vegetable curries. A mild garam masala (always easier to control by roasting and grinding your own spices) and a larder standby of canned coconut milk add the right warm but not palate-numbing note. For such concoctions I like to head for Chile, and the pure, sweet fruit of The Soc’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (Buyers’ Everyday Reds) or Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Viognier 2013 (Premium Whites).
It’s a good time to defrost the last knockings of the turkey and any delicious bits of gravy and schmalz that you may have cluttering up freezer space. Turn out the cupboards too. Personally I love a few dried morels and feel I can’t be without them, but evidently not so much that I don’t invariably find them exceeding their best-before date. Sometimes I also have a bottle of Vin Jaune on the go, but if not, some leftover dry sherry, mixed with white wine impart a fairly similar flavour. You may have some good stock frozen for just such a day, in which case out with it, or buy a good one. Procure a tub of cream, and you (almost!) have the classic Savoyard poulet aux morilles, another luxurious but easy feast. This is a dish for chardonnay.
Now that our better supermarkets obligingly combine trimmed chunks of rabbit, venison, pheasant and suchlike in handy bags, a game stew is within easy reach and moreover cooks very quickly. The leanness of such meats and the absence of flavour-boosting bones can often lead to a somewhat bland result, to make sure you subject it all to a serious overnight marinade of, bacon, onions, wine and a little olive oil. A little belly pork, added to the mix can also work wonders. Pinot noir is a classic light game wine. Try Reuilly Rouge ‘Les Pierres Plates’ in the French Classic Red selection, or if your mix is heavy on venison and your marinade spiked with the allspice and juniper berries that bring it so efficiently out of its shell, go for the spicy suppleness of Mountainside Shiraz from the Winery of Good Hope (Buyers’ Everyday Reds).
• 900g boneless leg or shoulder or lamb
• 2 tbs vegetable oil
• 450g leeks, sliced including some of the green tops
• 2 onions, sliced
• 4 garlic cloves, chopped
• Salt and pepper
• A glass of white wine (my addition, and entirely optional)
• 330g tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• 225g mushrooms, sliced
• 3-4 tbs chopped oregano or savory (a Bulgarian would use chubritsa, or wild mint)
• 2-3 tbs chopped parsley
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Cut the lamb in 2.5cm cubes, discarding skin and fat. Heat the oil in a casserole and brown the pieces of lamb on all sides, working in 2-3 batches. Remove it and add the leeks, onions, garlic, salt and pepper Fry over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted. Stir in the meat and add water to just cover (along with the wine if you are using it). Top with the tomatoes, mushrooms and oregano or savory. Stir together and bring the stew to the boil. Cook it, uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Stir again, cover and continue cooking until the lamb and vegetables are very tender, 1-1½ hours longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle the stew with the parsley just before serving.
Serve with dark, crusty bread and a glass of Melnik 55 (Premium Reds) or, if you are not a Fuss subscriber, any cabernet or merlot-based red of your choice.
We hope all readers had a delightful Christmas and that those still fortunate enough to be on holidays are still thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The barrage of flavours that comes with the Christmas spread lends itself to so many wines, and we had a great time suggesting bottles to go with members’ festive spreads this year, via this blog and a number of articles and videos elsewhere on The Society’s site. We see no reason not to continue in this vein now that the curtain has come down on The Big Day itself!
Here Society buyers Marcel Orford-Williams and Jo Locke MW’s thoughts on their own Christmas dinner and wine matches:Marcel Orford-Williams: So Christmas is done for another year and a very good one it was too. I thought I had planned lunch wines well before but in fact changed my mind once, then at least three more times before deciding at the very last minute on a pair of Alsace wines.
No region of France does Christmas like Alsace. It is, according to some, where Christmas trees originated (from the town of Séléstat to be precise). Christmas Eve had been about riesling from the Saar so something else was called for. In any case the richness of all the trimmings with the stuffing I had made using chestnuts and quince called for something quite rich and so my choice fell upon a weighty but dry Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst by Josmeyer from the excellent 2005 vintage (we’re currently selling the 2007). It was just fabulous and matched the food perfectly.
As a contrast I found a pinot noir from the same vintage from Hugel. Both were equally enjoyed and the Hugel was just perfect, still sweet, round, fruity but with enough body match the bird.I shall remember this pairing for next year!Jo Locke MW: Three bottles stood out over our snow-challenged Christmas in the Alps. Roederer’s Brut Premier was right on form and a perfect treat for three. Catherine Marshall’s 2012 Pinot Noir from South Africa (sadly long since sold out) seemed to have filled out and blossomed into a perfect match for our roast guinea fowl which delivered some gorgeous flavourful juices and meant we did not miss turkey and trimmings at home.
My family’s preference for rare beef meant bavette on Christmas Eve – on the local family butcher’s well-stocked counter a rather unattractive fibrous-looking, if lean, French cut which the dictionary described as ‘undercut of sirloin’. The recommended flash frying to ensure tenderness complemented a delicious bottle of Château Poujeaux 1996, from a Society mixed case of some years ago, which proved that more modest appellations can be a great buy in good vintages. No hurry to drink this one if you have any – indeed, we wished we had a second tucked away!
This is the third year (click on 2013 & 2012 for previous editions) that we have asked members for wine-based Christmas songs, and yet again you didn’t let us down. After two Christmases of activity, we didn’t think there was much more to give, but how wrong we were. Here are our Top Ten #ChristmasWineSongs of 2014 (with many thanks to @gingerburn, @RiponJo, @frankstero, @jamesbeyer, @Cheoffors, @markchristie, @bjobailey, @rougeabsolut, @withnail69, @ReserveAtBents and everyone else who contributed).
DRC Him Lying On A Bed Of Straw
The Furstentum Noel
In The Deep Mid Palate
All I Want For Christmas Is Cru
Vine, Vine, Emmanuel
Syrah-mid The Winter’s Snow
Oh Carmenère All Ye Faithful
Fairytale Of New Cork
A Spaceman Came Tavel-ing (by Chris de Burgundy)
You can find a fuller list by searching for #ChristmasWineSongs on Twitter.
“We wish you Maury Christmas, and an Ampuis New Year.”
Using up the leftovers
A couple of years ago we put together a series of recipes designed to use up the inevitable leftovers after the big Christmas feast, with suitable wines to match, of course. These can all be found on our website here and we welcome your input in the weeks ahead if you stumble across any sure-fire winners.
For some, icing the Christmas cake will be a dim and distant memory already, I am frequently doing that on Christmas day in the lull between frenzied present-opening and starting in on the fizz and smoked salmon. Invariably there’s some marzipan left over to play with. Some years the children have moulded leftovers from the cake into sweets to give to grandparents, complete with indelible thumbprints from much man-handling in the production process! But I was very pleased to stumble across the recipe below which allows for a quick dessert to put together with minimal hassle; the pudding course is one that I often neglect thinking about, much to the disappointment of the more sweet-toothed in my family.
The following recipe for pear and marzipan tarts is an all-together much more appetising way of disposing of surplus marzipan and they look attractive too. The recipe was from a supermarket magazine I believe and the tarts would be lovely with the new Sainte Croix du Monte, Château La Grave 2010 (ref BW5091, £9.50). The wine is made from botrytised semillion and sauvignon blanc grapes from vineyards on the opposite bank of the Garonne from Sauternes and is lusciously sweet but wonderfully fresh too.
Half a 500g block of puff pastry or sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
2 ripe pears
Leftover marzipan (you’ll need up to around 75g)
Sugar – vanilla flavoured or Demerara
A handful of flaked almonds
Crème fraiche, cream or ice cream to serve
Pre-heat oven to 190?c/gas mark 5. Cut pears in half and scoop out core. Make about six diagonal slices through the pear from the stalk end so that you can fan it out. Roll out pastry on a floured surface. Cut marzipan into four and mould it out so that each is big enough to cover the cut side of the pear. Place marzipan with fanned out pear on it on the pastry and then cut around each pear in a tear shape leaving around 2.5cms border. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle over sugar and almonds. Bake until golden in colour (around 20 minutes).
Best served warm with a dollop of crème fraîche, cream or ice cream.
Of the many questions our Member Services team get asked, at this time of year, how to decant is one of the more popular. There are two reasons to decant – to remove the deposit (or sediment) from older bottles and vintage port and to aerate the wine. We publish tips on decanting on our Serving Wine page, along with answers to other frequently asked questions, but we thought that we would share the tips below from fellow member David Richards who feels that the whole process is rather over complicated by some. His approach is sound and one that we sometimes adopt (tights are often used instead of filters), what’s critical, of course, is that everything is clean!
Having just bought a couple of cases of The Society’s Côtes-du-Rhône containing tartrate crystals and with the festive season fast approaching, I thought I’d share a tip that never fails. When decanting a wine, there is no need for silver funnels, candles, torches, white backgrounds or whatever other mystical practices you may have read about. All you need is a kitchen-grade plastic funnel and a coffee filter paper of suitable proportions, plus a decanter, of course. No need to stand the bottle upright overnight either.
Pop the funnel into the neck of the decanter, fold the bottom and side of the filter paper over and place it into the funnel, then simply remove the cork and pour the whole thing into the funnel. You may need to do this in two or three stages to allow the wine to run through. The resultant liquid will be crystal clear, I promise you.
If you are at all nervous when you see the sediment pouring out of the bottle, you can transfer the funnel to a tumbler of sufficient height and allow the final dregs to drain into that, but do not fear, it will be just as clear as the rest. This trick works equally well on a cheap Côtes-du-Rhône or an £80 bottle of port. I have done both. And if you get caught by surprise by a bottle that delivers sediment into your glass when you weren’t expecting it, simply set up the equipment and pour everything through the filter, including what was in the glass. It works a treat and your meal (and drinking pleasure) will barely be interrupted. Simples! Go on, give it a try.
The deadline for Christmas delivery is now past, but our Cellar Showroom in Stevenage will be open up until Christmas Eve for those nearby or able to make a last-minute trip. We look forward to seeing you. You can view our opening times here.
Recently I recommended a rather higher-alcohol option for members seeking a little Christmas spirit; however, whilst it is certainly the season to be jolly, watching one’s intake of everything indulgent is always something to be aware of. And of course we need not overlook those who have to drive or choose not to drink.
For those not drinking alcohol, the James White Suffolk Bramley Apple Juice and Cox Apple Juice (both £2.25 per bottle) are great non-alcoholic drinks and can easily be spiced up with the addition of mulling spices and/or even warmed up a little. The Thorncroft Elderflower Cordial (£2.50 per half) brings a slice of summer and lifts a fruit trifle with its floral notes. An effervescent offering can also be found in Gratien & Meyer Festillant Sparkling Sans Alcool (£4.25 per bottle), a sparkling wine has the alcohol quite literally spun out it by a centrifuge, but still retaining a lovely off-dry quality.
Green Ridge Chardonnay Spring (£2.50 per bottle), a blend of spring water, chardonnay and grape juice, delivers a modest 0.5% with a lovely lemony tinge.
However, lowering one’s alcohol intake need not involve adding lemonade or soda to our drinks, and there’s an array of bottles that not only provide palate-pleasing moments but also offer an alternative to dilution at this time of year.
Our frothy and off-dry Moscato d’Asti, Elio Perrone 2013 (£7.50) will charm you with its sweet-fruited effervescence, and at a conveniently low 5% ABV.
If seeking out lighter reds, 12%-alcohol options include the easy-drinking Pinot Noir, Vin de France, Jacques Dépagneux 2011 (£5.95) from France’s upper Aude Valley and the ripe Beaujolais-Villages, Château de Lacarelle 2013 (£7.95). These would both make great lunch options in the winter months.
For whites, The Society’s Côtes de Gascogne (£6.25) and the aromatic Bruwer’s Dry Mountain Muscat, Robertson 2014 (£5.95) from South Africa both offer lots of pleasure at under 11%. A quartet of dry favourites which weigh in at 11.5% can be found in the form of Piemonte Cortese 2013 (the Gavi grape in a lighter, easy-sipping style; £5.75), Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Bougrier 2013 (a party sauvignon from the Loire; £5.95), The Society’s Vinho Verde (a smoked-fish-friendly delight; £6.25) and the gewurztraminer-esque Hilltop Estates Cserszegi 2013 (£5.95) from Hungary.
Lastly and definitely not least, the lower-alcoholic nature of many German wines is well documented and the delicate flavours make them, for me, perfect aperitif. I recommend The Society’s Saar Riesling (9.5%, £9.50) or Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Kabinett 2013 (10.5%, £6.95). I have personally stocked up on Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett von Kesselstatt 2013 (8%, £12.95), which I’ll enjoy while peeling my parsnips and blanching my brussels in preparation for the main event!
I hope this demonstrates that lowering alcohol need not mean lowering enjoyment.
Whatever you’re drinking, I hope you have a fun, safe and Merry Christmas.
The Cellar Showroom
We have extended our UK Christmas order deadline 24 hours to midnight, Thursday 18th December for most addresses.
As you might imagine, Christmas is by some distance The Society’s busiest time of the year, and, thanks to your support, 2014 has been our busiest to date.
Despite this, and despite other retailers reportedly experiencing problems, our nationwide delivery network has been operating efficiently with no backlog thanks to some improvements we have made to our procedures.
So much so that we can extend the deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery by 24 hours to midnight, Thursday 18th December for most UK addresses (click here to see the exceptions).
What’s different this year?
A few years ago the run up to Christmas saw a nationwide cold snap that put enormous pressure on our delivery network. Since then we have been streamlining our processes to ensure that we run as efficiently as possible. This year for the first time we introduced double-shift working in our warehouse so that we could prepare members’ orders round the clock, and we have reviewed our contracts with third-party carriers to get the best service we can for members.
These changes, and a clear weather forecast for most of the country, mean that there is no backlog and the capacity to extend our deadline to most UK addresses.
We hope you find this extra time useful!
Thank you for your support and please accept our very best wishes for a very merry Christmas from all of us at your Society.
Head of Member Services
You don’t have to love wine to work here, but it helps, and every two weeks members can find a new ‘Staff Choice’ on The Society’s website, detailing something one of our team felt was so good that they wanted to share the experience.At a time when some heads are still being scratched over which wines to enjoy on the big day, and Wednesday night’s order deadline for UK Christmas delivery fast approaching, we’ve asked a number of Society staff about what they themselves will be tucking into. We hope it provides some inspiration.
Liz Brown – Recruitment and Retention Manager
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what brings a smile to my face is a chilled glass of The Society’s Vin d’Alsace (£8.50 per bottle). It’s a versatile, dry, yet full-flavoured white. I enjoy this as an aperitif while cooking, with festive food and when just relaxing watching a Christmas movie with my family.
James Malley – Member Services Adviser
It’s just gone 7pm on Christmas Day, the Christmas presents have been opened, the frantic scramble to find enough batteries in the house to get the kids’ toys working has finished and the older members of the family passed out asleep still with their Christmas hats from the crackers still on their heads.
What better way to settle in for the evening than by opening a half bottle of The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2012 (£9.95 per half)? Its lovely full luscious tropical-fruit aroma and its sweet but slightly oak-influenced palate will shine with creamy, salty cheeses or rich pâté from the earlier feast, and if there is anything left from the bottle, it would make a nice little tipple to any family or guests that are round for Boxing Day.
Pinot noir is a fabulous wine for Christmas, particularly when you find one of the quality of Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 (£13.50 per bottle) but at a very reasonable price.
This makes for a lovely glass of red wine without food, punching well above its weight and – for me – verging on being a fine wine that far outshines many a pricier bottle of red Burgundy.
With food, this Martinborough pinot is a wonderful match for the Christmas dinner – whether it be turkey, duck, lamb, gammon, or even game. It won’t overpower a nut roast for vegetarians either.
Gorgeous red-berry fruit, hints of beetroot, spice and wonderfully balanced acidity. This is sheer elegance and class that will add to our festive cheer.
Conrad Braganza – Cellar Showroom
Size matters for me at this time of year: the generosity a magnum offers reflects the season. I always seek out a large-sized bottle at Christmas and this year The Society’s Exhibition Rioja (£29 per magnum and £13.95 per 75cl bottle) will take pride of place at the Braganza dining table.
The ripe sweet fruit is a crowd pleaser and should stand up nicely to the accompaniments that make Christmas lunch such a hard meal to match. Its silky palate also imparts an elegance that lends itself to contented sipping after the meal and prior to 40 winks. As they say in Spain, Feliz Navidad!
Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne Oncle Vincent 2013 (£16 per bottle). Leflaive is one of my favourite white Burgundy growers. To me, his wines are the perfect embodiment of what Burgundy does so well with the chardonnay grape: luxurious complex rich oaky flavours while retaining a genuine freshness and bite. Unfortunately, his wines are usually out of reach for a father of two on an honest copywriter’s salary. So when I spotted this wine at less than £20 a pop and on which Olivier had been proud to put his legendary uncle’s name, I jumped at the chance. The 2012, now sadly sold out, certainly didn’t disappoint. It was exquisite. Gloriously opulent and nutty on the nose with a palate combining pure citrus fruit with tropical pineapple notes all underwritten by a mouthwatering, oh-so-moreish freshness. Such complexity and length! If the 2013 is half as good I’ll be a happy bunny with a glass of this and a well-stocked cheeseboard come the Queen’s speech.
Shaun Kiernan – Fine Wine Manager
I’ll be enjoying a delicious Half bottle of Williams & Humbert As You Like It Medium Sweet (£22 per half), which was one of my WOW wines of last year. Just so many different flavours going on in the glass. Definitely one for a cold Boxing Day afternoon by the fire watching some sport too.
Gareth Park – Marketing Campaigns Manager
Alheit Cartology, Western Cape 2012 (£24 per bottle; low stock). This South African Chenin stopped me in my tracks earlier this year and has to be one of the most outstanding whites I’ve tasted while working at The Wine Society. Made in ridiculously small quantities, this is deep, rich and wonderful and will be replacing the tried and trusted Exhibition White Hermitage on Christmas day. High praise indeed!
Christmas will certainly include fizz – either The Society’s Champagne (£29.50 per bottle or £19.92 when you buy six in our current Champagne offer) which I am always proud to serve, or something more local which might be our own excellent Crémant du Jura (£12.50) or something as yet undiscovered.
Jon Granger – Tastings Team
We will be devouring a turkey on Christmas Day with all the trimmings. This generally consists of potatoes (par boiled, fluffed and roasted with garlic & rosemary), sprouts (chopped up with chestnuts, cream & bacon), carrots a la Tom Kerridge, honey-roasted parsnips, cabbage (gently fried with ginger) and gravy.
Rather than looking for a wine to match any specifics from the cornucopia of flavours on the plate I would always try to find a wine that sits well with all of it. Year after year I have found that southern Rhône blends work really well for me.
My wine of choice for this year would be Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Chapouins Vieilles Vignes, Famille Perrin 2006 (£40): a wonderful full-flavoured wine dominated by juicy ripe grenache from old vines and from a very good vintage. Still tasting quite youthful with lots of sweet fruit and well-balanced tannins and acidity, perfect for all those yummy flavours on the plate but with the potential to age gracefully over the next 10 years or so too.
Sadly my dwindling stock of mature vintage port is not readily available this Christmas, so I decided to opt for a 20-year-old tawny port comparison.
Port because the gathered assembly regard it as essential to Christmas as it is traditional, perfect with nuts, cheese and those splendid preserved fruits that sit in the sideboard and taste even better at leisure on Boxing Day or the day after.
Indeed, my colleague Janet Wynne Evans has also pointed out in the video below that tawny port is often a better match than vintage for cheese.
20-year-old because it is the perfect age for tawny port. A comparison because there will be several of us and one bottle would simply not have been enough – and besides which some of us need little if any excuse to compare different wines.
They will be served cellar cool to an eager audience, and my guess is that Taylor’s (£34) may win for finesse and class. Graham’s (£37) will score well on account of its depth and rich fruit, and that Noval (£40) will seduce us with its charm.
I look forward to finding out.
Sebastian Payne MW