December. It’s here. Not only is it here but time is moving rapidly towards The Big Day. With that in mind, it’s time to talk about we’d like to be imbibing over the festive period.
So here we go – Christmas lists from three of the VG team, Jake, Rox & John (here we are still standing at the end of our recent portfolio tasting at our sister pub The One Bull). Before I even saw the other lists, I knew each would be different but with a little overlapping here and there. Let’s face it, we all love great juice. Mine (unsurprisingly) focuses on fizz and whites (I knew that Jake & John would balance me with plenty of reds!). John’s list inevitably shines a light on South Africa (I can’t fault him here as they make amazing juice) but he’s also taken inspiration from France, New Zealand and Portugal too and Jake’s list is of course a tour de force of some stunning wines.
A small disclaimer – we’re lucky enough to taste some amazing wines in the course of selecting new juice for the shop so those on our list are some of our favourites right now and which we think lend themselves particularly well to the festivities. Some of what we’ve picked is undoubtedly at the more indulgent end of the scale, it is Christmas after all. We’ve all got plenty of favourites at the lower end of the £ spend though if you'd like other options.
So sit back and enjoy and maybe get a little inspiration for what you’d like to be drinking over the next couple of weeks. Maybe Santa will be reading too (or may even call into the shop or visit us online on your behalf)…
I’d start the day off with Devaux Cuvee D, a gorgeous champagne to go with breakfast! A lovely refreshing bubbly that's bound to put you in a celebratory mood.
For hors d'oeuvres, I'll go for the toasty, buttery, citrussy Jordan Barrel Fermented Chardonnay from Stellenbosch, sure to be the perfect match for smoked salmon.
My choice of wines for the main course varies depending on what I’ll be eating. For gammon, it has to be the savoury, honeyed Gabriëlskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc. Gabriëlskloof is a beautiful wine estate located near Bot River in the Overberg region east of Cape Town. To go with turkey and cranberry, I’d pick Greywacke Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand. For beef, it has to be the full bodied, smooth, sweetish black fruit that the Bodega Luigi Bosca Malbec De Sangre from Malbec in Argentina displays.
Not being a pudding man, I'm heading straight for the Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port. With its notes of nuts, spice and dried fruit, it’s a perfect pairing for cheese.
On Christmas Day, I’d kick things off with a glass of Devaux D Millesime for a real treat. This is rich, toasty and is the best value vintage champagne I can think of. I really love the pinot noir notes that give it a red fruited focus, it’s just delicious.
To start the meal, I’m going English and local with Flint Vineyards Silex Blanc. This is a great starter wine with a nice texture and a rich, creamy palate making it perfect with fish or smoked salmon. Turkey is the hardest meal in the world to pair as there’s so much going on on the plate. I want a light red wine to go with this so I’ve picked Niepoort Nat Cool Baga Tinto. It’s natty, fresh, weird and has a bit of funk. I drank it when I was in Lisbon recently and couldn’t believe how good it was. Serve it slightly chilled, it tastes like cranberries and will be perfect with turkey.
For something posh and delicious, go for Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva. The current 2019 vintage was the highest scoring wine at a recent tasting I went to – Matthew Jukes gave it 99 points. It’s the first vintage produced by Niccolo, son of Federico who owns the estate. It was a beautiful year for this wine. It’s classic sangiovese with high tannins, high acidity, lovely fresh red fruit and notes of tomato leaf and orange peel so is perfect if you want something richer with your Christmas dinner.
Moving onto dessert wine. Everyone has sticky toffee pudding don’t they? For that, it has to be Chambers Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat. It’s just like drinking salted caramel - sticky in an amazing way, really delicious, opulent and raisiny. It’s also equally good with Christmas pudding.
My first drink on Christmas Day is always a glass of fizz and we’re all in sync on Devaux here. We started stocking Devaux a couple of months ago and what a find it’s been. A fabulous grower champagne house which had three generations of Devaux women (The Champagne Widows) at the helm for many years from the mid 1800’s until the 1950’s. I’m also picking Devaux Cuvee D. Made solely from chardonnay and pinot noir (pinot meunier, the third grape often used in champagne, isn’t grown at Devaux due to its location), the Cuvee D is aged for at least five years. It’s non-vintage so 40% of the blend comes from reserve wines and a quarter of that comes from two soleras which have been going since 1995 and 2002. The result is a really delicious champagne that’s right up my street.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to champagne, crémant (French sparkling wine made using the same traditional method as champagne) is a great option and my current favourite is the Joseph Cattin Cremant D'Alsace. I shared a bottle with a friend last night and was reminded how good it is.
I’m always happy to stick with fizz for canapes or the starter on Christmas Day (cue much current debate in the Marjoram household about our lunch menu for the 25th). Whatever we eat, I know I’ll want a full, rich white wine with the main course. I’ve deliberately steered away from South African whites here as I knew John would mention one of my current favourites and he’s so right – the Jordan chardonnay is superb. I’m going to plump for a couple of wines.
Firstly, the Macon Milly-Lamartine. If Burgundy’s your thing, this is an amazing example of great quality at a sensible price for Burgundy. My second option if you want a treat is Maison De Montille Rully. It’s simply deliciousness in a glass! Coincidentally, John’s Jordan and these two wines are all made from chardonnay which lends itself really well to these richer whites. The Jordan and Rully have both spent some time (perfectly judged in my opinion) in oak. If you like your chardonnay unoaked, go for the Milly.
New Year’s Eve isn’t far away and I already know what my choice is for this. It won’t surprise you to know that it’s fizz again but this time English. Yes, you’ve guessed it, Rathfinny. This has been a great find for me this year (many of you have heard me talking about Rathfinny and the trip that Jake and I took there a couple of months back – sorry not sorry!). Grown and made in the South Downs, close to the coast, Rathfinny really is a fabulous glass of Sussex. We stock their full range and I’d be really happy to drink any of them. Here I’ll plump for the Blanc De Noirs, made from pinot noir and pinot meunier. It’s traditional method so made in the same way as champagne and is stunning. Whether or not you make it to midnight, you’ll definitely enjoy your glass if you pick this to see in the New Year...