Recommended wines for Christmas

Aperitif wines are always useful for when guests drop in unexpectedly, and definitely have some inexpensive prosecco in the fridge (more on fizz next week).

Recommended wines for Christmas

I haven’t mentioned sherry in a while but it is perfectly suited to the long Christmas break given that it stays fresh for up to 10 days. Hence it can be served to visitors or you can have a sneaky glass at lunchtime. Tio Pepe is available everywhere so no excuses, and it remains the benchmark fino sherry, despite its ubiquitousness.

I also recommend the following brands: Hidalgo, La Goya, Valdespino, Lustau and Garvey. To be honest in the dry styles it is hard to find a bad producer and even supermarket own brands can be excellent.

Below I review two Piedra Luenga wines from the little known region of Montilla-Moriles imported by organic specialist Mary Pawle. Montilla is where we get the name Amontillado from and the region makes wines in a very similar way to sherry.

Terroirs in Donnybrook is a jewel of a shop that is always worth visiting at this time of year — not just for the wines (many exclusive to them) but also the large range of wine accessories.

In addition there is the bonus of a fine selection of teas, Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon, Claire Nash Puddings and French goodies such as Breton sea-salt, vinegars, oils, mustards, paté and best of all Michel Cluizel single plantation chocolate.

I met David Llewellyn in Terroirs recently at the launch of his 2013 vintage of Lusca, the only commercially available Irish wine (as far as I know). It is not easy to ripen grapes this far north and David does cover the vines on cooler nights coming close to harvest.

This is the best vintage of Lusca I have tasted, thanks in part to the long summer of 2013, but also to David’s increasing skill as a winemaker — review below.

Happy Christmas.

WINES UNDER €15

Palais des Anciens Gaillac Perlé, South West France — €9.00

Stockist: Tesco

Gaillac is rare in Ireland. Halfway between the Atlantic and Mediterranean, Bordeaux and the Languedoc, the reds can be rich and fruity and the whites aromatic and apple-fresh. Made from Mauzac (also used in Limoux) this has a tiny spritz, a textured pear-apple flavour, and would be perfect with pre-dinner nibbles.

Ortas Rasteau Tradition 2012, Cotes du Rhone, France — €14.49

Stockist: O’Briens

From the excellent co-op in the village of Rasteau with a number of 100-year-old Grenache vines. Rasteau is north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas, between Cairanne and Séguret. Plum and smoke aromas with a rich black fruit-driven palate. This will work well with ham, turkey and almost anything else you throw at it.

Piedro Luenga Fino, D.O. Montilla-Moriles, Spain — €13.49

Stockists: Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, The Quay Co-Op, Organico Bantry, Clontarf Wines. The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny

No, not from Sherry from but Montilla-Morilles near the town of Montilla north of Malaga where the wines are similar but unfortified. Bright lemon, bitter almond aromas, refreshing, clean dry palate with a touch of salt and lemon rind. Perfect aperitif — serve with salty nuts and olives.

WINES OVER €15

Lusca Cabernet Merlot 2013, Lusk, County Dublin 375ml — €24.50

Stockists: Terroirs Donnybrook www.terroirs.ie , Bradleys North Main St, Cork, www.bradleysofflicence.ie, Celtic Whiskey Shop.

This is better than many a Loire red I’ve tasted (with which it has some clear similarities) and is packed with juicy red fruits — cherry, strawberry, red currants — and finishes with a beguiling freshness. Your patriotic granny will be thrilled. Full bottles also available.

Elian Da Ros Cotes-du-Marmandais 2012, South West France — €15.95 (was €18)

Stockist: Terroirs Donnybrook www.terroirs.ie

Cotes-du-Marmandais is south of Bordeaux on the Gironde river and Elian da Ros is its most renowned producer. Organically grown Cab. Franc, Merlot and the local Abouriou (40-20-40). Aromas of black plums, chocolate, and beautifully weighty dark fruit flavours and a lovely lingering tautness. For goose, turkey or cheese course.

Piedra Luenga PX, D.O. Montilla-Moriles, Spain, 50cl — €18.75

Stockists: Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, The Quay Co-Op, Organico Bantry, Clontarf Wines. The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny

Made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes this is like liquid Christmas pudding with huge aromas of raisins and dried figs, rich, sweet and sticky on the palate but with a freshness on the finish. For the pudding, trifle, or perhaps with a big hunk of Crozier Blue cheese.

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