Friday, 10 December 2010

Dreaming of a white (and red) Christmas

Have you ticked off all the items on your Christmas gift list? At least thought about a Christmas tree? Ordered the turkey, goose, or veggie nutroast? Have you been to far too many Christmas Bazaars and felt obliged to buy something that you will later feel too embarrassed to give? Have you fed the Christmas cake with just a few more drops of brandy and stocked up with all sorts of weird and not so wonderful alcoholic concoctions – which will probably still be in the store cupboard next year? If you said yes to more than one of these - join the club. It is Christmas madness time.
Surrey's towns are agleam with twinkling lights and gorgeous festive displays vying to attract the money from our purses. The streets are thronged with manic shoppers – at least those of us who haven't embraced the joys of internet shopping. In the seasonal spirit of goodwill we would like to save you time and a bewildering choice by listing some of the better wine buys that will make your festive season go with a ding dong, merrily....

Get the party started with a sparkler. Don't splash out on anything expensive, there are plenty of fizzy options including the ubiquitous Prosecco and keenly priced Cavas. They are great for mixing: with orange juice for Bucks Fizz, cassis for Kir Royale, peach juice for Bellini or brandy-soaked sugar lumps and a dash of Cointreau for a great party cocktail. If you'd like to serve something that will stand up to being sipped on its own, then give Cuvée Royale Crémant de Limoux, £8.99 at Waitrose a go. In Limoux, in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, they have been making sparkling wines for centuries – long before Dom Perignon and the widow Clicquot they reckon. This toasty blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and pinot noir would make a great Christmas Day aperitif.

“I get no kick from Champagne” - it definitely wasn’t us who said that! Champagne prices have been taking a hammering this season – but the deals come and go so quickly that you need to follow us on Twitter (@wineandwords) to keep up. But here's a Champagne top tip – buy now and squirrel away a few bottles for NEXT Christmas and New Year. It will only improve with a few months under the stairs. If for some reason you do not wish to finish off the bottle in one go, then buy a Champagne stopper from, based near Guildford. They have lots of great wine related gifts and innovative ideas.

Deep breath: here's our wine-based sprint through the Big Day...listen very carefully, we shall say this only once.

White wines for turkey – drink up the Chablis with your aperitif, the big bird and all the trimmings needs something with more weight and fruit. Head to the Mâcon, in Burgundy, and get a bottle of Christophe Cordier's Mâcon-Peronne 2008, £11.25 at The Wine Society. Floral-tinged fruit and subtle oak make this a classy option.
But the colour of Christmas is red. The Heathers are in agreement that one wine is tantalizing with turkey, gorgeous with goose, and holds no truck with duck – pinot noir. Kiwi Daniel Schuster's Twin Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008, £14.49 from local heroes Caves de Pyrène at Pew Corner is a perfumed, delicate yet heady delight from downunder. Claret may be classic at Christmas, but pinot is, er, prettier.

Save your claret for a roast rib of beef and you'll appreciate the natural harmony between the tannin in the wine and rare meat. Rupert Pritchett of Taurus Wines in Bramley has a good selection of reasonably-priced clarets and knows his stuff – he can of course provide some more luxuriously-priced clarets too. In the same vein, style-wise, is Le Faîte Red, £16.99 at Adnams Cellar and Kitchen (Richmond). Le Faîte means “the peak” in the local Occitan dialect, and this is the top banana of the Plaimont Co-operative – a juicy, inky, full-bodied blend of indigenous and international varieties – one for those who don't like to be a slave to tradition.
Cheese and wine are regarded as a classic pairing but take care: some matches are made in heaven, and others in hell. Try tawny port with the Christmas cheeseboard. Look for something that says 10 year old or 20 year old, to ensure you get the real nutty, mellow tawny experience. Taylor's 10 year old Tawny Port is widely available from around £18 a bottle – great with hard cheeses and stilton. The more adventurous amongst you might be tempted to try Sauternes with stilton – readers, trust us, it's delicious. The Co-operative have Chateau Roumieu 2007 at the tempting price of £7.99 for a half bottle.
Don't forget to set fire to the Christmas pudding – having first soaked it in brandy, or you'll find it rather a disappointment. THE wine for the pud (and any stray mince pies you might encounter) is an Australian Liqueur Muscat, which is like dried fruit in (just about) liquid form, so a natural match. Caves de Pyrène has the classic Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat at £12.10 for a half bottle.
For many of us, there is a certain amount of slumping in front of the TV over the festive period. While you're there, try a glass of Langmeil Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Barossa Valley in Australia (£13.99 at The Vineyard in Dorking). This full bodied, lively as a gazelle red is what we'd call a DVD wine (as opposed to a food wine) – but a DVD wine de luxe, as befits the season.
If you have really over-done it, the kill or cure is port and brandy mixed. Some people swear by it...or perhaps because of it!
We are off to join the masses and, no doubt, over-indulge in some seasonal retail therapy. Next time we will provide a last minute panic buy list - and New Year fizz. Happy shopping!