December 23, 2011

On my table over Christmas Dinner

Everyone in the wine industry spends an inordinate amount of time deciding which bottles make it onto the table for Christmas dinner. The murmured query “Christmas wines?” in our office means you can write off the next hour to heated discussion. If we were US Senators it would be our topic for a filibuster. You may not have the fortitude for one of these exchanges, but the upshot is we’ve thought about it so you don’t have to.

Delamotte NV Champagne and English Sparkling

Obviously you’ll need more than one bottle, so take the opportunity to try a few different things. And then if your presents are rubbish, you can console yourself with a little comparative tasting. The fact that Delamotte NV practically flows from the taps at C&B HQ hasn’t jaded my view of it – it is plainly still a top-drawer champagne that will embarrass the Grande Marques. But not all that sparkles is Champagne. Unfortunately we don’t stock any English sparkling, but I will allow you to buy this elsewhere (only this). ‘Rule Britannia’ is hardly the tagline for 2011, but a bottle of Chapel Down or Ridgeview will have you fairly bursting with pride.

Tardieu Laurent 2009 Châteuneuf du Pape Blanc, Vielles Vignes

Turkey may be white meat, but who has ever reclined late on Christmas Day and suggested that it makes for a light meal, particularly when all the accoutrements are considered? Pinot noir is a traditional match, but I think a suitably full bodied white is perfect. A Meursault or a new world Chardonnay such as that from Hyde de Villaine would suit, but I’ll be going for this, a 50/50 blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc from a region better known for reds. Dominated by intense orchard fruit with a floral lift and an oily and sleek finish, it will weigh-in for the heavyweight class, but this is no bull in a china shop.

Giacomo Conterno 2008 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia

Red is just what you feel like whilst hunkered down at Christmas, but there are no hard and fast rules as to exactly which. With any kind of feathered feast there are a couple of options provided you stick to some guidelines. It needs some heft in order to not get lost on a table heaving with food, but it also needs delicacy and structure enough to cut through all the butter and fat (these are good things, remember). Pinot Noir is a fine choice, but I’m going for a Barbera d’Alba from Piedmont traditionalist, Giacomo Conterno (now run by his grandson Roberto).  At the richer end of the spectrum but quite Burgundian with its autumnal undertones, urgent minerality and attractive acidity. That it is borne of the same lovely vineyard – Cascina Francia – as his 100 point Barolo Monfortino can only help.

Chateau Guiraud 1996 Sauternes

Not cheap, but if you prefer to do things properly this should be your choice too. And you’ll only need a bottle – this is when ‘too much of a good thing’ potentially does apply. Fully mature, it is reminiscent of orange marmalade, with a touch of tropical fruit and quince too. Slight ginger spice and lifting floral notes. A long honeyed finish, steadied by the cutting acidity of a higher than usual amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. After hearing the King’s College Choir sing ‘Silent Night’ last night at The Royal Albert Hall, I see similarities with this wine – something familiar, but done very well by people who know what they’re doing.

Corney & Barrow 10 year old Tawny Port

Sometimes vintage Port seems like just a bit too much at this point, so I’ll offer tawny Port, lightly chilled. The French serve it this way, and they know a thing or two about good taste.

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