Dare we say it, but there are only 6 weeks to go until Christmas, and time to start thinking about a tipple to satisfy you and your guests this holiday season. Whether you’re looking for a tasty wine on a budget, or want to splash out on something special this festive season, Oz has the recommendations for you.
One true way to bring the sparkle to Christmas this year is to drink English fizz. Anyone in the South and West of England (and parts of Wales too) will have a local producer (And I can hear Leventhorpe in Yorkshire wailing – ‘ey, what about oos? –) So, buy a bottle of your local fizz and support your local wine industry. (M&S and Waitrose usually have a decent selection.) And if you don’t have a local favourite, Exton Park is a new operation on fantastic chalk slopes in Hampshire making stunning whites and pinks – go for one of their wines.
If you’re the type who wants to cuddle down to something reliable and predictable this Christmas – look away now. Because my budget white is a wild, wild wine with flavours stolen from swirling breezes among the rosemary bushes and pine trees scattered across the hills of Crete. Deep, soft, scented, and truly dry in the modern Greek tradition – if this won’t bring back midsummer memories in the depths of winter – nothing will. And anyway – who could resist a wine called Daphne?
OK. Back to the mainstream. But is it really the mainstream? It’s not long ago that Tasmania was being dismissed as too cold for top class still wines – stick to fizz, they said. Then suddenly Tassie is the new Chardonnay and Pinot Nirvana. Thank you Climate Change. And thank you some determined Aussies who just love being told they can’t do something – so they do it. This is tremendous Chardonnay – more high quality Burgundy than Aussie in its lean, appetising style, but with the irresistible extra of ripe but dry apple, peach and hazelnut Tassie fruit.
Do I have to conduct this campaign every year? Please start drinking Beaujolais again!! This crunchy, mouthwatering, unoaked, juicy, moderate alcohol crowd-pleaser – why is it so difficult to persuade people to give it a try? Well… Here I go again. 2015 is the kind of vintage that makes you want to dance in the streets with delight. It is a most ‘unsober’ vintage. All the supermarkets have good examples, and you can guarantee that the Independents will have fantastic examples. This Lantignié is a sheer delight – deep, juicy, scented – it’ll go with – or without – any type of Christmas food you throw at it. Well, not pud, but…
I wasn’t expecting this right at the end of a recent Sainsbury tasting, but I was bowled over when I found it. Ribera del Duero is a uber-classy, expensive patch of Spanish vineyard, and Pesquera (who make this) are at the top of this pretty tall tree. The wine has impressive, throat-warming, rich, red plum and stewed raspberry fruit, and wraps that with spice and herbs, then threads this through with a filigree of cedar wood scent (I must stop taking those tablets). One more thing while we’re on Ribera del Duero. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Ribera del Duero at only £8 is very good too.
It’s difficult to track down a wine with more sweetness in it than the mighty, treacle-headed Pedro Ximénez from Jerez in Spain – where the sherry comes from, to misquote Charley’s Aunt [who she? ed:] Often these PXs, as they’re called, are so thick that they’re best poured over a Christmas ice cream rather than drunk with it, but this one is gloriously drinkable and almost refreshing, as well as gloriously rich.