December means Christmas – and whilst the supermarkets may be vying for your attention and hard-earned pennies with special offers, it’s the independents who really specialise in the wines for special occasions.
This month, in recognition of the time of year, we have increased the budget slightly and asked Cambridge’s independents to suggest three wines for drinking over the festive season.
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz, £17.99 , Noel Young Wines
Red Aussie fizz is miles away from Champagne in every sense, but this Peter Lehmann Sparkling Shiraz is bottle-fermented using the Champagne method.
The fruit, from 2006, spends a year aging in old oak before two more years’ secondary fermentation on the lees in bottle.
Disgorged in 2010, it now has a further year or so’s bottle age.
The mere sight of a purple foaming wine will provoke comment and conversation, whilst the wine itself shows plum and prune fruit with some secondary aromas of dark, bitter chocolate, Christmas spice and liquorice.
There is a touch of mid-palate fruit sweetness, but the finish itself is quite dry with a savoury, leesy richness and depth of flavour.
Serve well-chilled as an unusual aperitif, or better still match the fruit and spiciness to gamey cold starters such as venison terrine or Boxing Day cold cuts with spiced cranberry chutney (an inspired recommendation from Mrs CWB).
Domaine A-F Gros, Pommard, Bourgogne, £18.99 Bacchanalia
Red Burgundy is never cheap and spending upwards of £15 is not even a guarantee that you’ll get something memorable.
This Pommard from A-F Gros, however is one of the best red Burgundies I have had in a while and is a great introduction to the delights of Burgundian Pinot Noir.
Straight out of the bottle, the nose shows complex aromas of cherry, garrigue herbs, woodsy, mushroomy forest floor and a pronounced gaminess.
On the palate, there is cherry and red-plum fruit, whilst the acidity is bright, lively and juicy with a touch of cool mint and a silky smooth texture.
The finish is balanced and lingers with a touch more herbiness.
Match with game dishes, such as pheasant or even with a Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings.
I would not decant this wine before serving as it impresses straight out of the bottle; the delicate aromas will not benefit from large amounts of aeration and there are no chewy tannins to soften.
It also bears mentioning that 2009 was a particularly good vintage for Burgundy generally, so it’s worth making a note of the year.
Smith Woodhouse LBV Port, 2000, £21.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants
After too much turkey and “maybe just one more” mince pie, it may be time to kick back in front of a roaring fire and pour a glass of something sweet and warming.
Late Bottle Vintage is port from a vintage year (declared roughly 3-4 times per decade) that is aged for longer in barrel before bottling and therefore does not need as much aging in bottle as Vintage.
Dark purple in the glass, this Smith Woodhouse LBV has a nose of cassis, herbs, eucalyptus and spice. With a few swirls, the cooked fruit aromas of the added spirit emerge.
The palate is initially sweet and warming before a complex blackcurranty fruit with more cool eucalyptus and hints of dark spice develops.
The finish is long and balanced, with the base wine and the spirit well integrated.
I would either sip this on its own or match with a bitter chocolate and cherry dessert – whilst port and stilton is a classic combination, cheese generally matches better with a less fruity aged tawny with a decade or more’s barrel age rather than a more primary and fruit-driven LBV like this.
It also has a Decanter Trophy.
These three wines are all a little above “everyday drinking” price levels and unlike supermarket wines right now, there are no eye-catching, gimmicky 25% off / BOGOF / Christmas special pricing or artificial discounts offer to be had.
Rather, what you get here are some really sophisticated, complex and well-made wines with individuality and personality that will impress and are worth every extra penny.
If you have been following this column since it started earlier this year and trying the wines (generally priced at £8 – £12), I’m confident you’ll appreciate the step-up in quality of these three Christmas recommendations – the depth of flavour of the fizz, the complexity and texture of the Burgundy, the elegance and harmoniousness of the port.
There is no overall winner this month – just three great wines for festive drinking to enjoy with good food and great company.
Wine of The Month takes a post-Christmas frugality / de-tox break in January, but returns in February with a Valentine’s theme and a new addition to our line-up.
Until then, Happy Christmas !
Noel Young Wines – http://www.nywines.co.uk/
Bacchanalia – http://www.winegod.co.uk/
Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.co.uk/
Main image credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/tvandradioblog/2007/dec/25/yulelogtv
Copyright Tom Lewis 2011
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