The best wines for Christmas (and where to get your hands on them)
In the UK we know how to make our Christmases merry. Last year we consumed more than 35 million bottles of wine during the festive season. But with so many different bottles on the supermarket shelves, finding a wine that’s right for you and your occasion can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. That’s where David Rough comes in. At the start of this year, David set up Hertfordshire Wine School, an independent wine education company. For the past 12 months he’s been running tasting courses, introducing those with a weakness for wine to different production regions around the world. In short, he’s a wine knight, and these are his tips for anyone in distress over which bottles to buy this Christmas time.
For drinks and nibbles drop-ins
Got some salmon blinis on the go? Make sure you’ve got a Chablis in the fridge to go with them. Try the Chablis Charles Pierre 2009 from Wine Rack £10.49. It’s got a crisp and fruity taste.
Get it from the source: The Chablis countryside in France is corrugated with vineyards and scored with crooked country lanes. The Medieval village at its heart is made up of age-old churches and bell towers. The food here is worth writing home about, too. The rustic restaurants serve hyper-local dishes like escargots with Epoisses cheese and Gruyere-stuffed pastries.
For a Christmas Eve nightcap
Once you’ve hung your stocking up for Santa, snuggle up with a warming glass of port. Look out for Late Bottled Vintage on the labels. Drinks like Grahams or Taylors are sold in most supermarkets for £12 to £13. For a real treat, pair it up with a chunk of mature cheddar or blue stilton.
Get it from the source: If the port itself doesn’t manage to warm you up this winter, the place it’s produced might. Port is born in the Douro region of Portugal, where January temperatures are a clement 15˚.The Duoro River Valley is a World Heritage Site, and the hillsides that border the water here are cornrowed with vine terraces.
To wash down the turkey
When it comes to wine, turkey can be pretty promiscuous. It goes with white or red. Team it with an oaky New World Chardonnay or, if red’s more your thing, try a Burgundy wine like The Wine Society’s Exhibition 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin £25. If you want a drink with a bit more body, choose an Australian Shiraz like Two Hands Gnarly Dudes’ Shiraz, £15.99 from Majestic Wine.
Get it from the source: The Burgundy region in France is a sea of green countryside. The flotsam here is made up of Romanesque abbeys, 18th century chateaux and rustic gites. There are plenty of ways to wear down the rubber on the soles of your walking boots, too. The national parks are scored with trails, which will lead you through ancient woodland and stream-streaked countryside.
The perfect partner to Christmas pudding
Wine and Christmas pudding aren’t always happily married. Most sweet wines are easily overpowered by the rich dessert. Wines that do wear the trousers in this sort of relationship tend to have a high alcohol content. Try a fortified Muscat from Rutherglen in Australia. Campbells Rutherglen Muscat is £10.99 from Waitrose. If you’re going down the contemporary route and serving chocolate cake instead of Christmas pudding, pair it with an Amarone. It’s slightly sweet with lots of fruit, rum and raisin flavours. Try Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Amarone, £15.79.
Get it from the source: The Veneto in north-east Italy is the parent of Amarone wine. The titan city in this neck of the woods has to be Venice. But the area is also close to Verona, where you can put yourself in Romeo’s shoes by standing beneath Juliet’s balcony, and Lake Garda, with its mirror-shine waters.
For Boxing Day buffets
Match your gammon joint and finger food with a spicy Riesling or Gewurtztraminer from Alsace like Marks and Spencer’s Alsace Gewurtztraminer, £9.49. If you’d prefer a red, pick up a Beaujolais from one of the region’s named villages. The grape here is Gamay, which is a light and fruity wine. Try the Fleurie Cuvee La Madone 2009, £12.49 from Laithwaites.
Get if from the source: Alsace slides down France’s eastern border near the Rhine Valley. Louis XIV described the region as a beautiful garden and it’s easy to see why. Cobalt mountain lakes, patchwork grazing pastures and salt marshes are all part of the wallpaper here. The region is also home to Strasbourg, a medieval city that’s the seat of heavyweight political institutions like the European Court of Human Rights.
For New Year toasting
See in 2012 in style with a bottle of bubbly. Most supermarkets now work with leading Champagne producers to create a decent quality fizz for under £20. Give Waitrose Brut NV Champagne a go for £19.99.
Get it from the source: Set east of Paris, Champagne has a rich history. Head to the Notre Dame cathedral in Reims, to see the place where 25 French kings were coronated. Or visit Troyes, where the city centre is made up of half-timbered houses, which date back to the 16th century.
For more information about wines and wine tasting visit http://www.hertfordshirewineschool.com/