Don’t panic. You still have a few days left to pick up your wine and wine-related Christmas presents. We all fret far too much about the wine for the Christmas dinner, remember that turkey matches everything but nothing matches Brussel sprouts so there is no perfect match.
If I was put to the pin of my collar I would opt for Burgundy, white or red, but consider New World chardonnay or pinot noir. Or go for similarly weighted wines such as Beaujolais, Barolo/ Barbaresco/ Nebbiolo or Blaufrankisch. I also like grenache (S Rhone, Priorat) and even old Bordeaux but serve what you like, it’s Christmas! Try to spend some of your budget in independent off-licences or supermarkets. Christmas gets them through the endless year-long cycle of supermarket half-price and below-cost deals. Note: most independents have a free wrapping service.
Wine books are a great present. John Wilson’s Wilson On Wine (€12) is available in most wine and bookshops and has snappy, informative notes. A new edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson and of course Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book is a must. I buy it every year. Also consider anything you find by Oz Clarke, Raymond Blake, Jane Anson, Nina Caplan and Alice Feiring.
Besides the wine suggestions below you might like to support Irish producers, such as David Llewellyn’s Lusca wines from north Co Dublin; Kinsale Mead is better than ever and widely available in independents such as 1601 Kinsale and in SuperValu. Irish Cider goes great withturkey and pheasant — just make sure to pick apple only cider such as Longueville, Stonewell, Long Meadow, Tempted, McIvors or Killahora — Killahora also have excellent pommeau and iced cider.
My wine suggestions include three bargains under a tenner and three from independent importers. Mary Pawle specialises in organic and biodynamic wines and you can find her wine in every organic shop in the country and in the likes of O’Donovans, O’Driscolls, Clontarf Wines,Mortons, etc. The second importer mentioned below is David Whelehan whose wonderland of a shop in Loughlinstown is a must visit sometime.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Vina Albali Gran Reserva 2011, Valdepenas, Spain — €9.99
This producer from South Central Spain has always been a bargain but I’ve never seen its Gran Reserva at such a low price — half price Spar is claiming, and it seems to be the truth. Lots of ripe mature fruit aromas with spice, leather and vanilla, smooth and developed with dried plum flavours and soft berry fruits with a little kick of structure on the finish.
Mme Claude Parmentier Régnié Beaujolais Cru, France — €9.99
The first of two Beaujolais recommendations this week. Régnié is the least well-known of the Beaujolais Cru villages, geographically just to the west of Morgon but closer to fleshy fruity Fleurie in style. Spicy red fruit aromas supple and soft, bright and juicy with grip and concentration on the mid palate and should go nicely with goose, turkey or the ham.
Marques de Riscal Verdejo, Rueda, Spain — €9.99
This is on special offer for a tenner in O’Driscolls, you will find it in O’Briens and elsewhere for about €14. I had to recommend a white for Christmas and Verdejo is perfect with its mix of citrus and elegance. This has classic herbal, lime-lemon aromas, a fruity, textured palate with a bitter lemon twist on the finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Azul y Garanza Naturaleza Salvaje, Navarra, Spain — €21.95
This organic minimal intervention wine is from 30-year-old garnacha vines grown in the Desert of Bardenas Reales in Navarra — hot days, cool nights and poor soil perfect for coaxing flavour out of Spain’s most versatile grape. Wild yeast ferment, beautifully pure plum.
Sella & Mosca Tanca Farrà Alghero Rosso DOC 2015, Sardinia — €27
Sella & Mosca are the most renowned producers in Sardinia and I was pleased to see them available in David Whelehan’s wine wonderland in south, Co Dublin, worth a detour. This is a blend of cabernet and cannonau (garnacha) with floral blackberry aromas, textured and complex on the palate with darker fruit flavours and a taut finish.
Bonne Tonne Morgon Côte de Py, Beaujolais — €29
Morgon is the most Burgundian of the Beaujolais cru and the sub-region of Côte de Py is even closer. This producer is new to Mary Pawle’s range and this ripe concentrated wine is a lovely example of what is best about Morgon. For €2 less the Les Charmes is also recommended. Dense dark cherry fruit aromas, textured and lively. Perfect for Christmas dinner.