Are you stuck in a Christmas wine rut? Then these suggestions from Ian Fitzpatrick, sommelier at Allta in Dublin city centre, should be right up your street.
Most people stick to their tried and tested favourites at Christmas, but this year why not try some new and different wines? You never know, they might become your new favourites.
Winter is one of my favourite times of year for wine. What's better than sitting in front of the fire with Elf an all-time favourite of mine on the telly and a big glass of Amarone in your hand? But we all know how expensive this time of the year can be, and Amarone is at the higher end of most of our budgets. But there are alternatives out there.
A great alternative
My first port of call would be Ripasso, which is made by adding fresh Valpolicella wine to a vat of Amarone skins.
Ripasso di Valpolicella is a less intense and more approachable, warming wine. A good example of this is Domini Veneti Valpolicella Ripasso 'Torbe', a blend of corvina, corvinone and rondinella grapes that comes from a single vineyard in the Valpolicella Classico region.
If Ripasso isn't your thing and you want to go totally left field, Croatia is producing some stunning wines at the moment. One of them is made by the Vinarija Križ winery in Potomje. The Trica Plavac Mali Križ is dry and juicy, perfect for opening Christmas presents by the fire.
This 100 per cent plavac mali is aged for a year in an oak barrel before being bottled and aged for a further six months.
Opting for red
Pairing a red wine with white meat is perfectly okay, despite what some might say. But pair it right, for example with a Morgon. Domaine Joseph Chamonard's Morgon 'Le Clos de Lys' is 100 per cent gamay from vines averaging 60 years old on a hour hectare plot.
It’s a natural wine, bottled with little sulphur, so expect it to be a little funky but to develop into a rich and full floral beast that would be perfect with turkey.
If you'd rather drink white with your turkey, try a riesling. Whenever I try to sell one of these wines to customers, they automatically assume that it's sweet. But there are plenty of great dry options out there, one being Von Winning's Deidesheimer Riesling.
Now in its 2018 vintage, this wine is very fresh and vibrant. It comes from a selection of vineyards around the Deidesheim area, south of Frankfurt. Von Winning was established in 1849 and fell back into the hands of the original family in 2007.
Perfect with Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts are considered a waste of space at many dinners table at Christmas. This is a shame because they can be cooked in so many delicious ways. Although they are hard to match with wine with for various reasons, some serious pairings can be done with them.
Sauvignon blanc drinkers will love eating their sprouts with Guy Allion's Touraine from Haut-Perron. This husband and wife duo make some great fresh and crisp sauvignon blancs on the slopes overlooking the Cher river in the Loire Valley.
Gruner veltliner should also get a look-in – this Austrian grape variety is a great alternative to sauvignon blanc. Meinklang's grüner is one to behold. From a biodynamic producer in Burgenland, this peppery, green apple-like ripe white is perfect to sip as an aperitif or to pair with those overlooked green veg at the Christmas banquet.
Dessert wine can be a lovely way to finish off the Christmas feast. A favourite of mine at the moment is actually missing the key ingredient, grapes. But that doesn't stop the team at Killahora Orchards from making an ice wine from apples picked in their orchards in Cork.
They freeze and thaw the juice to create a sweet but light 11 per cent dessert wine. Give this a go with your pudding, trifle or cheese plate after dinner. It’s delicious, and it’s Irish!
Allta Wine Bar Corner of Sth Frederick St & Setanta Place, Dublin 2; tel: 01 6170988