When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
10:48am Friday 12th December 2008 in Wine
Well folks, it is that time of year again. Five stars to the people who have made it this far without redecorating, arguing about where and how long the in-laws are staying or penning a round-robin ‘this is my brilliant family’ Christmas missive.
Christmas can be a mightily stressful time and there can’t be too many of us who aren’t feeling some impact of the economic slow down that we find ourselves in. For that reason I am devoting this month’s article to some of my top-tips for Christmas with both quality and value in mind.
Let’s start with sparkling wine. It seems miserly not to have at least the odd bottle to pop open over the festive season and it doesn’t have to be an overly pricey thing to do. Bear in mind that there’s no rule that says you have to have Champagne (which tends to come at a bit of a premium) with plenty of more economical, well-made alternatives around.
Regular readers of this column will know that I’m a bit of a Prosecco fan — its gentle froth and approachable style making it the sort of fizz that you can drink at breakfast on Christmas morning, or serve as an all-round party pleaser.
Some of the best I tasted this year were from Mionetto, whose wines were extremely classy with a lot of aroma and fruit and good persistent flavours. Corney & Barrow (www.corneyandbarrow.com) are the stockists and prices start from £8.80 a bottle.
New Zealand’s Lindauer sparkling wines have long been extremely reliable and it is hard to argue with their generously fruity nature with hints of toast and brilliantly refreshing mousse.
One of my personal highlights of 2008 was a visit to the wineries of Galicia and, in particular, Val de Sil in Valdeorras. The white wine — made from the Godello grape — just blew me away. Finding it in the UK isn’t easy, but they are absolutely worth it
I tasted their whole range when I was in New Zealand at the start of the year and again in London last month. I was impressed both times. The wines are currently on offer with Majestic (www.majestic.co.uk) and you can buy the Lindauer Special Select NV for just £6.66, which is a steal.
If you can’t bear to have anything other than Champagne, then Virgin Wines (www.virginwines.com) is offering good prices on some of our best-loved brands. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV is just £23.99 (normally £35.99) and Laurent Perrier Brut NV is reduced from £31.49 to £22.99.
I have picked out three must-have whites this Christmas. The first isn’t the cheapest but it’s one of the loveliest Sauvignon Blanc’s I have had all year. Domaine Chavet et Fils, Menetou-Salon 2007 (£10.25 from Stone, Vine & Sun www.stonevine.co.uk) is a fantastically elegant wine with a deliciously rich, mineral and lime palate.
From the same company is the much more modestly priced (£5.95) False Bay, Chenin Blanc 2008 from South Africa. It is a versatile wintry white with generous stone fruits and a refreshing finish.
One of my personal highlights of 2008 was a visit to the wineries of Galicia and, in particular, Val de Sil in Valdeorras. The white wine — made from the Godello grape — just blew me away. Finding it in the UK isn’t easy, but they are absolutely worth it.
Harrogate Fine Wine Company (www.harrogatefinewinecompany.com) is selling the 2006 Godello for £12.99 and this has to be one of the best possible partners for your roast turkey I can think of. It is a stunning wine which is the very expression of the shale soils on which the vines grow; it fills the mouth with a broad array of floral and citrus fruits.
To narrow myself down to just three reds is a bit of a challenge but since I’ve rather blown the budget on the whites, I am going to suggest at least two that I think are something of a bargain. Izar de Nekeas Reserva 2000 is a Spanish wine from Navarra that will normally retail for £9.99 but which is on offer for £5.99 (www.majestic.co.uk) until the end of January 2009. For the price you get an awful lot of spicy, sweet black fruits. It is benchmark Navarra and a very good wine to have in store over the cold months.
Waitrose’s Portuguese Altano 2005 (www.waitrosewine.com) is on offer at £4.39 and it is an easy, up-front red that is another wine that delivers well about its price.
If you can stretch the budget then I can highly recommend another of Stone, Vine & Sun’s wines. Domaine de la Cotelleraie St. Nicolas de Bourgueil (£9.95 www.stonevine.co.uk) is just a charmingly fresh, aromatic red with that sprightly crunchiness that I love in a wine.
In fact, if you do decide to do your wine shopping at Stone, Vine & Sun this Christmas I do have one last and very important tip for you. Their Domaine des Forges, Coteaux du Layon 2007, is one of the best deals of the year at just £9.95. This super-concentrated sweet nectar has fresh, vibrant fruits with honeyed notes and fabulous acidity.
Wherever you are and whatever you are eating and drinking this Christmas, I hope you have a safe and happy one. And, if you are struggling to think of a New Year’s resolution that you might be able to stick to in 2009 let me make a suggestion — to broaden your wine drinking horizons even further and to never be closed to new wines.