Still unsure about what wines to drink over the Christmas period? Wine writer Raymond Blake's recommendations are worth stocking up on.
If ever a season was designed to be difficult for wine, Yuletide is it. Therefore, wine choices must be canny and should major on distinction and character – shrinking violets will get swamped in the hustle and bustle.
The Christmas challenge is robust, though not insurmountable, and each of the following half-dozen has been chosen with that in mind. Each is an excellent example of its type and, crucially, each delivers impressive value for money.
Champagne Lombard, Brut Nature, Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs 12.5%, France €45
Where to start? With a surge of sherbet lemon freshness, that’s where. This wine’s signature flavour wraps and cossets the palate in tingling purity, daring the taste buds not to be charmed. It’s a delight – and perfect for Christmas morning when the senses can be a little jaded. It also comes in an elegant presentation box so would make a good gift, but this is so tasty you will not want to give it away.
Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin, ‘Excelsior’ Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine 2014 12%, France €35.00
I count this beauty as one of the finest white wines I have tasted this year. To begin, the flavour is pointed and precise, only slowly does it unwind to reveal depth and dimension. Muscadet has endured years of neglect, as wine drinkers favoured easy-option Pinot Grigio instead, yet a single sip of this wine should be enough to win back fans in droves. If you are serving oysters on the big day do not look beyond this wine as the perfect match.
Whelehans Wines @ The Silver Tassie, Loughlinstown
Big Sky, Provenance Pinot Noir 2013 13%, New Zealand €28.95 (€25.95 on offer December)
Far too often a fine claret with oodles of tannin is selected to pair with the traditional turkey dinner and the two stand separate, refusing to engage. What is needed is more fruit and less tannin – bouncy, exuberant fruit that starbursts on the palate, able to flex and shimmy to meet the myriad demands of the meal. This Kiwi Pinot is just the ticket.
Cancedda O’Connell, Garnacha not Guerra, Vino Rosso 2016 13%, Italy €32.99
Want to shake things up a bit come Christmas? Move away from the safe and predictable? Think Garnacha (aka Grenache), a grape that seldom gets a chance to shine on its own, always playing second fiddle to the likes of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. But when given the chance, as here, the result is engaging and satisfying: an amalgam of sweet fruit wrapped around a firmer feral note. Perfect for the leftovers feast.
Bradleys, Cork; McHughs, Kilbarrack Rd & Malahide Rd; Drinkstore, Manor St; Greenman Wines, Terenure; other independents.
Machard de Gramont, Domaine de la Vierge Romaine 2016 13%, France €20.95
The words ‘value’ and ‘Burgundy’ have become strangers in recent years, as prices for the top wines have gone way beyond sky-high. Yet a good wine merchant will always winkle out value for his customers, as is the case here. Think abundant, pure berry fruit flavours, leavened with a mild smoke ‘n’ spice note, all leading to a lingering finish.
Karwig Wines, Carrigaline, Cork; The Vintry, Rathgar; Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown, Cork
Taylor’s, Reserve Tawny Port 20% (one-litre bottle), Portugal €55
Time was when tawny was the port style few had heard of, except for the canny shippers who seemed content to keep the best stuff for themselves. The essential difference between tawny and vintage is that tawny is released when ready to drink whereas vintage may require decades of ageing, a practice that few people have time for today. To enjoy the gorgeous panoply of caramelised orange flavours, with hints of spice and nuts, serve this wine cool and in a proper wine glass.
O'Donovan's, Cork; Clontarf Wines; Greenman Wines, Terenure; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Kelly’s, Clontarf; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Gibney’s, Malahide; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk; McHughs, Kilbarrack Rd & Malahide Rd; Mitchell & Son, CHQ, Glasthule & Avoca; O’Briens Wines; Lilac Wines, Fairview; wineonline.ie