The last word in festive wines – part five

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

In our final look at the modish bottles capable of providing vinous pleasure this Christmas, three of our Berry Bros. & Rudd team members – Richard Veal, Fergus Stewart and Martin Hudson MW – look to the far reaches of the Old and New Worlds for the brightest stars.

Richard Veal on South Africa, New Zealand and Australia 

This Christmas I’ll be drinking David Mazza’s 2009 Graciano. Mazza Wines represent a new wave of experimentation with varieties and wine styles in Australia. This native Iberian variety, rarely seen outside Rioja, is vinified with the lightest of touches to deliver a wine of subtlety and finesse, without compromising its fantastic fruit concentration and definition. From the relatively unknown region of Geographe to the north of Margaret River we are presented with a fresh, red-fruited wine with Asian spice highlights that will marry exceptionally with my roast goose on Christmas Day.

Fergus Stewart on the Americas

The Americas are a wonderful source of wines of all shapes and sizes for covering your Christmas needs. California still leads in the USA, as does Mendoza in Argentina for the South Americans, but great strides are being made across both continents, with Chile especially offering exceptional value. Domaine Drouhin’s Dundee Hills Pinot Noir will be my red of choice for turkey this year, although Zinfandel also works brilliantly with its bright berry fruit matching the essential trimmings. Alpamanta’s superb Natal Malbec, the first biodynamic wine in Argentina, would be a perfect match for beef, such is the grape’s affinity to red meat, and is best decanted an hour or so before drinking.

Martin Hudson MW on emerging regions

What to drink over the festive season is always a dilemma – does one go classic or opt for something more esoteric?  We all love our Christmas Claret and Burgundy, but I will be savouring some different tastes this December.  A very appropriate accompaniment to the main event, given its provenance, would be the remarkable Recanati Winery Wild Carignan, a rich, full bodied Israeli red with supple tannins and hints of blueberry, black cherry and damson.  Christmas pudding is always a challenge, it being so rich and sweet.  Many Sauternes would quake at the thought of accompanying plum pudding, but not so the historic sweet wine of Cyprus, Commandaria, whose dark toffee and raisin character perfectly matches the character of the grand finale.  Why not dare to be different this year?

Read more about our Christmas offering on bbr.com.

Category: New World

The last word in festive wines – part four

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

Chris Pollington and Martyn Rolph of our Fine Wine team find no shortage of exciting wines to savour this Christmas from Italy and Spain

Chris Pollington on Italy

What I choose to drink with the main Christmas meal has changed over the 20 years or so that I’ve been in the wine trade. The medium to full-bodied style of Claret was my wine of choice initially with turkey or goose, but as my tastes changed I went initially with the ethereal quality of red Burgundy, which has now segued into Nebbiolo, from its home territory of Barolo. The 2009 Barolo from the talented and dedicated Mario Fontana offers me the best of both worlds, with a wonderfully perfumed and complex bouquet, followed by crunchy red fruit on the palate, with power, balance and energy. It is a real treat for such a special day and makes a wonderful match for duck, goose or even turkey with all its trimmings.

Martyn Rolph on Spain

Spain is certainly not an area to overlook when selecting some suitably-themed bottles for Christmas. An obvious place to look is amongst the traditionally-styled wines of Rioja – classic notes of vanilla, clove, cinnamon and sweet spices can be found here.  Whether enjoying with turkey, lamb, duck or goose, or simply drinking it in front of a roaring fire, the 2004 Gran Reserva 904, La Rioja Alta, is exceptional; in fact, I would argue it is one of the most popular and best-value releases of 2014. A fine Priorat, meanwhile, would be a wonderful match for a rib of beef, offering darker, richer fruit alongside additional structure and weight. The wines of Sangenís i Vaqué are a fine introduction here. A final recommendation is for the Ribera del Duero property, Pago de los Capellanes, whose wines combine concentration with precision and silky refinement. They are not to be missed.

The wines of Austria, Alsace and Germany inspired yesterday’s chapter, whereas tomorrow we look to the New World for the best bottles to furnish the festive table.

Category: Italian Wine,Spanish wine

The last word in festive wines – part three

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A Blaufränkisch vine at Moric, Austria.

A Blaufränkisch vine at Moric, Austria.

Laura Atkinson, Private Account Manager in our Fine Wine team, discovers a wealth of potential new faces for the Christmas table from Alsace, Austria and Germany

Despite its diminutive size, Alsace is home to many of the world’s finest white wines; from the majestic and ancient Riesling grape, the exuberant Pinot Gris or the richly-flavoured Gewürztraminer. I love the wines from the house of Trimbach. Established in 1626, the 12th and 13th generations of the family are making quintessential dry Riesling which balances vibrant, concentrated fruit with intense mineral precision. We are starting to see people understand this great white grape with somewhat of a Riesling resurgence of late. If you want to taste the best, treat yourself to the 2009 Clos St Hune which will reward you over the next 20 years thanks to its exceptional capacity to age. No other Riesling tastes quite like it.

Austria boasts wonderful indigenous grape varieties such as the fashionable and versatile aromatic white Grüner Veltliner, top class Chardonnays, notable Riesling and the surprisingly ripe and concentrated dessert wines from Neusiedlersee. This mountainous, landlocked country has everything, including an historic winemaking history. Recently we have seen a fashionable revival, mainly thanks to sommeliers who admire the versatility and affinity with food that Austrian wines offer. I very much enjoy the dark-skinned Blaufränkisch grape used in Moric’s fantastic, graceful wines – they are fine examples to get you started.

Germany also produces some of the greatest white wines anywhere, from the racy Riesling to the ever-impressive Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). For every acre of white grapes, there are now five acres of red, which has created a real Spätburgunder buzz, with dynamic winemakers broadening all known quality boundaries in the region. My favourite wine from the Berry Bros. & Rudd Own Selection range also happens to be a German wine; a Riesling chock-full of honeyed apples, fresh lime juice, white flowers and ripe, racy fruits. This great value wine, made for us by Selbach-Oster on the Mosel, has a screw cap, making it convenient both for picnics and parties. It also happens to be the white wine I served at my wedding earlier this year.

In yesterday’s instalment Adam Holden examined the inspiring wines from the South of France. Tomorrow members of our Fine Wine team will make festive recommendations from Italy and Spain.

Category: Old World

The last word in festive wines – part two

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The terroir at Château de Lancyre

Adam Holden, Account Manager for our Wholesale Team, turns his expert gaze to the south of France for vinous inspiration befitting the Christmas season

The reinvention of the south continues apace. Since the dark days when ‘Vin du Midi’ was more synonymous with quantity than quality, the South of France has become a centre of innovation, yet much of it remains informed by traditional methods and a close connection to the land. The emergence of creative winemaking and the recognition of the peculiar qualities of small enclaves undoubtedly makes this one of the most exciting regions in the world for wine production at present. All the same it remains an area where great value may still be found, and there are few better examples of this than:

2011 Château de Lancyre, Vieilles Vignes, Pic St Loup, Côteaux du Languedoc - £12.95

This estate has a long and rich history, the château itself dating to around 1500; although the current owners are more recent arrivals – acquiring the property in 1970. The vineyards, now totalling 50 hectares or so, are dominated by that stalwart partnership of Syrah and Grenache, the age of which averages an impressive 25 years – although this particular cuvée benefits from vines with an age closer to double that. Naturally low-yielding with their fruit, the resultant grapes are more concentrated and richer both in structure and aromatic complexity. The Vieilles Vignes is absurdly good value and, like many of the best wines from the region, it has a soft nature that makes it easy to drink. Wines at this level can be drunk immediately yet a few years’ cellaring would be to their benefit.

Further south, and close to the Pyrenees, lies the Roussillon, long associated with lush but sometimes rustic styles of wine. Once you are making inroads towards Spain you’re very much in Vin Doux Naturels (VDNs) territory, but there are some great dry wines here. The altitude afforded by the first signs of the Pyrenees is prime land for back-breaking viticulture. A stand out producer for me is the Domaine de la Rectorie, its wines having such a purity to them, at once so powerful and so fragile:

2011 Domaine de la Rectorie, Côté Montagne, Collioure – £27.50

Marc Parcé is particularly perceptive and intuitive as a wine maker, not always adhering to the appellation rules if he feels they are not in the best interests of his wines; thus, as with many of his neighbours, his superb efforts may be declassified to Vin de Pays status on occasion. The Montagne is wonderfully fine, with distinguished floral notes of violets (often symptomatic of the presence of the Counoise grape) and a piquant lift from a touch of mint. Initially this was a little introverted but, allowed to breath for 10 minutes or so, it blossomed dramatically and the fruit shone through in enthusiastic style. There is a notable purity in the wines of Domaine de la Rectorie, and this, their top ‘table wine’, is no exception, its fresh character partly thanks to the mountainside situation of their vineyards.

These are just two personal highlights, but this is a region which has more than earned the right to some serious attention; the South of France is to be explored with the same enthusiasm, vigour and sense of adventure with which the wines are made.

Yesterday we looked at the on-trend bottles from Beaujolais, Champagne and the Loire; tomorrow’s chapter will look to Austria, Alsace and Germany.

Category: Old World