Best Christmas wines for 2019
Bruce Palling, Wine Editor at The Week Wines, on his favourite festive tipple
Christmas is, inevitably, a time of excess, especially when it comes to food and wine.
My favourite treat was celebrating just before the Millennium with a case, selected by my wife, of 50-year-old wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, including a great La Tâche 42 - but occasions like this happen once in a lifetime.
For the remainder of the time, we always try to have something special, and if there is a large gathering it’s best to focus on alternatives from the big names.
This selection from Private Cellar is not only reasonably priced, but extraordinarily drinkable too. I was particularly struck with the Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine Matrot, one of my favourite Meursault producers.
As for the reds, the Château Carignan would not be out of place on any Christmas dinner table with its elegance and balance.
TOP PICK: Bourgogne Chardonnay, Domaine Matrot 2015, 12.5%
Don’t be fooled by this simple appellation of “Bourgogne” – this is a superb wine created from their younger vines in the village of Meursault, where the Matrot family make two of the greatest
Examples – Meursault Les Charmes and Les Perrières. It has a lovely slightly honeyed flavour with a beautiful citric back note. There are very few New World Chardonnays, no matter what the price, that match this simple white Burgundy in understated style and satisfaction – also helped by being from a great vintage.
Saliente Falanghina Spumante Brut, Masseria Altemura NV, 11.5%
This sparkling wine was an instant hit with my friends as a worthy Champagne alternative. Made from an ancient grape variety from Greece, it comes from Puglia in southern Italy. It has a pleasant, slightly floral aftertaste, with a hint of pear. It’s gentle, with no sharp edges, unlike some of the more popular substitutes. With its low alcohol level it is the perfect drink to start Christmas festivities, leaving plenty of room for stronger drinks as the day goes on.
L’Exuberance du Clos Cantenac, Bordeaux 2018, 13%
This is an unusual bottle – a Bordeaux rosé, made predominantly from the Merlot grape. Most rosé is consumed outdoors in the summer, but this has the structure and depth to be enjoyable all year round. Unlike most rosé, which is fermented in stainless steel to maintain its perkiness, this has also gone through some barrel fermentation, so actually has some mid level depth and charming aftertaste. Good either as a Champagne substitute or with seafood.
Sagesse Rouge, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2018, 13%
This is the personal blend of British wine merchant Mark Savage MW, who only produces several hundred cases annually with a slightly different blend each year. His objective is to create an “upmarket house wine”, which as a description is far too modest. If only all house wines had this sophistication. This particular vintage is fresh and mouth filling, which Mark puts down to the 10% of Petit Verdot grapes; they add backbone to the usual Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sagesse means wisdom in French, hence the charming woodcut of an owl on the label.
Bodegas Pinuaga Nature, Tierra de Castilla, Spain 2015, 13%
I tend to avoid Tempranillos from Spain, as they can be over-alcoholic fruit bombs for my taste. Then along comes this bottle from Toledo in the middle of Spain to demolish my prejudices. Esther Pinuaga started her career as a business consultant in Colorado but returned to Spain to help run the family business. This is a beautifully balanced wine, which appears to be fully mature and capable of matching any Christmas centrepiece. Esther practices low intervention techniques to create this organic wine, which is remarkable value for such a high quality luscious product.
Château Carignan, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 2014, 14%
This is one of the best value Château-bottled clarets available anywhere. Château Carignan has been owned for the past decade by Andy Lench, who has raised the quality to its current high level. Predominantly from the Merlot grape with smaller percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it has an exhilarating plummy core with superb focus and a satisfying aftertaste reminiscent of a far more expensive claret. This would partner perfectly with both white and red meats during the festive season.
Order online at TheWeekWines.com or call Private Cellar direct on 01353 721 999 and quote “The Week” .