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Christmas is the perfect time to bring out your best bottles
Christmas is the perfect time to bring out your best bottles

Wines of the week: 10 reds perfect for Christmas drinking

Whether your taste is for silky, medium-bodied wines or the big meaty heavyweights to match your festive pud or gamey meats, Terry Kirby has them covered

Terry Kirby
Thursday 12 December 2019 16:23
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It’s the perfect excuse isn’t it? Cold weather, great food, roaring fires and convivial company all make me think of fine red wines. Wines that match, mouthful for mouthful, the robust delights of roast meats in all their varied forms, of glorious plates of vegetables, of the warming mixture of fruits/spice/nuts of Christmas pudding and cake, of mince pies and of hard and blue cheeses of all kinds.

So it’s a great excuse to bring out your best bottles, whether your taste is for silky, medium-bodied wines or the big meaty heavyweights. But we also need some party bottles and those all-purpose wines for those occasions we only get at this time of year – a composite plate of leftovers, an open fire and a great film on the telly – or some old friends on an impromptu visit – what do we open then?

Party wines first, then. What we need here are juicy approachable wines that can match buffet-type foods or just for glugging on their own. But hey, it is Christmas, so we need to keep to certain standards, no?

For my money, the Pigassou 2018 (£9.99 or £8.99 each in 12 bottle case, laithwaites.co.uk) fits the bill ideally – a succulent, medium-bodied, instantly appealing southern French blend of two grapes unfamiliar to most: marselan and caladoc, resulting in lovely brambly flavours and a perfect advertisement for the joys of local Languedoc wines, and could be poured cool or even chilled.

For those who want something lighter in weight and also able to take a little chill – which makes it more refreshing and sharpens the flavours for parties in crowded rooms – then the Mandrarossa Frappato Costadune 2018 (£9.99 thewinesociety.com) from Sicily fits the bill very well, bursting with fresh raspberry flavours. Moving in the other direction, for something much more substantial, we come to another relatively unfamiliar grape is durif, also known as petite syrah, a cross which originated in France, but now mostly grown elsewhere, such as Australia. The De Bortoli 1628 Durif (£10.99 or £6.99 for mixed six bottle purchase; majestic.co.uk) has full-on blackberry and blueberry notes, with some vanilla and lots of spice. Definitely one for the turkey or roast beef leftovers, but beware the 14.5ABV.

Moving up a price bracket, a couple of wines that would suit vegetable main courses or lighter poultry and that turkey. In the Loire, the cabernet franc grape produces those kind of easily drinkable, medium-bodied wines I love, packed with fresh blackberry fruits, juicy and succulent, but with plenty of concentrated depth and a decent finish. The Joel Taluau Les Expression St Nicolas De Bourgueil 2017 (£14.25 yapp.co.uk) is just such a wine, with a silky elegance to add to the package.

Similar, but with an Italian inflection is the Crissante Dolcetto D’Alba 2018 (£14.95 tanners-wines.co.uk) lovely, tarry flavours from the Piedmonte and absolutely delicious with anything involving mushrooms and charcuterie and cold meats. If pinot noir is your thing for the turkey or goose – and for many it’s the ideal choice – avoid over priced burgundy and head for the southern hemisphere where you will find the Nautilus Southern Valleys Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014/15 (£24.99 or £14.99 if part of mixed six bottle purchase, majestic.co.uk; £21.99 or £19.99 if bought as part of mixed six bottle purchase, nzhouseofwine.co.uk) which has floral aromas and silky, elegant flavours of red fruits and spices and a long finish. If you are having fish as your main course, but favour a red wine, then this would also be ideal, but drunk cool rather than room temperature.

And if it’s a heavier weight cabernet sauvignon you are seeking for your roast meats, then stay in the new world with the big and bold Journey’s End Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (£10.99 normally £14.99 until January 2; waitrosecellar.com; £15.20 tanners-wines.co.uk) from Stellenbosch in South Africa with rich, ripe cedery, black fruits, but with slight hints of violets and mint on the nose which gives an appealing fresh lift or try the Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (£19.99 noblegrape.co.uk) an utterly characteristic Aussie cabernet, with really intense blackcurrant, brambly flavours, lifted again by some aromatic herbal notes.

Finally, a couple of classic European blockbusters, for those really special meals and occasions over Christmas: the Rioja Vega Venta Jalon Reserva Especial 2014 (£39.99 houseoftownend.com) a limited edition wine from one of Rioja’s most prestigious houses and unusually graciano, rather than tempranillo dominated, it is softly spicy and aromatic, some oaky, vanilla touches and considerable intensity of fruit flavours, but the whole package is not heavy or overbearing. This would be my personal choice to accompany our goose this year.

And from Piedmont in northwest Italy, the Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2014 (£41.95 winedirect.co.uk; £45.00 noblegreenwines.co.uk;) comes from one of the great names in barolo and justifies its price tag with serious complexity, deep, velvety, rich black fruit flavours derived from ageing the Nebbiolo grapes in oak for two years. Open well in advance and a perfect match for goose, game or rare roast beef. There is real quality in both these bottles and that comes at a price. But hey, it’s Christmas and, frankly, it’s when we do this, isn’t it?

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