Gorgeous gifts, fab food matches, sheer self-indulgence … MARY DOWEY’s top picks work festive magic …
This is no time to be tight-fisted. More than any other year, 2020 has made us realise the importance of showing generosity to the people who mean most to us. At the same time, sophistication needn’t cost the absolute earth. These bottles from €15 to around €200 (but firmly towards the lower end of that spectrum) all offer something special in addition to delicious drinkability. Whether they’re mainstream or more offbeat, each has a stylish role to play over Christmas and New Year.
The world’s first volcanic wine fair was held last February – a sign that wines with the tangy, mineral edge associated with grapes grown on lava are very much in vogue. AYUNTA NAVIGABILE ETNA ROSSO 2017 is remarkable – a smoky, earthy, savoury red made by a niche producer from the fruit of extremely old vines and aged in chestnut casks. Complex flavours linger beautifully. Alcohol: 14.5%. From www.siyps.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; Sheridans Cheesemongers outlets, about €35.
ELEGANT, VERSATILE WHITE
A white wine made with flair, to suit most tastes and enjoy with a wide range of dishes … Every Christmas household needs one. My top pick is organic DOMAINE BÉGUDE ÉTOILE CHARDONNAY, LIMOUX 2019. Combining appley freshness with a creamy texture thanks to the subtle influence of French oak barrels, it could pass for a top-drawer Mâcon-Villages – but at a kinder price. Alcohol: 13.5%. From O’Briens nationwide, usually €21.95, on offer at €18.95 until January 3.
SUPERB WHITE BURGUNDY
Although Chablis is popular some find it too acidic – and it won’t provide white wine drinkers with a decent match for turkey. Here’s a swanky solution from the Co Mayo woman who has become an accomplished Burgundy winemaker. RÓISÍN CURLEY SAINT ROMAIN BLANC 2017, citrussy and smooth with a long, savoury finish, will enhance your Christmas table or make a magnificent gift. Alcohol: 12.5%. From www.whelehanswines.ie; www.terroirs.ie; www.64wine.ie, McCambridges, Galway; Mannings, Bantry, €50-55.
ESSENTIAL LIGHT RED
The thought of light red wine strikes fear into many an Irish heart. We like firepower. But the season of overindulgence can easily trigger cravings for lighter styles, especially to serve at lunch, and fashion is embracing them too. Made from Gamay and Pinot Noir, DOMAINE LACOUR BOURGOGNE PASSETOUTGRAINS 2017 is a juicy charmer made for pure pleasure. Alcohol: 12%. From www.lecaveau.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; Drink Store, Dublin 7; McGuinness, Dundalk; Bradleys, Cork, about €19.
FROM THE INSIDE TRACK
Keen to buy something different that absolutely delivers? Good Greek wines are very much on trend, capturing distinctive flavours at impressively high quality levels. KAMARA PURE SHADOW PLAY ASSYRTIKO, THESSALONIKI 2019 offers rippling vibrancy alongside real depth of flavour. It has wine geek credentials too (organically grown grapes, indigenous yeasts, bâtonnage, no filtration) – and is wonderfully food-friendly. Alcohol: 12.5%. From Wines Direct, Mullingar, at Arnotts, Dublin 2 & www.winesdirect.ie, €26.75.
Whether for festive or general consumption right through to spring, you’ll want a few winter warmers. Tasting of blackberries and plums sprinkled with Christmas spices, PETER LEHMANN THE BAROSSAN SHIRAZ 2016 delivers a lusciously rich, velvety mouthful without seeming over-the-top or becoming tiresome. Give it bold food flavours – meat, gutsy vegetarian dishes or the whole turkey/ham shebang. Alcohol: 14.5%. From www.martinsofflicence.ie; www.kwmwine.com; Donnybrook Fair outlets; Molloys outlets; €21-23.
Although Francophiles won’t admit it, suave New Zealand Pinot Noir often fuses heady charm with succulence in a way that Burgundy can’t always match. With its generous, harmonious flavours, silky, pure-fruited WILD EARTH CENTRAL OTAGO PINOT NOIR 2018 is particularly appealing. It will make a posh splash with any Christmas meal besides performing perfectly as a gift. Alcohol: 14%. From www.wineonline.ie; www.thecorkscrew.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Red Island, Skerries; Grapevine, Dalkey, about €35.
A VERY SWISH SAKE
You have a wine-obsessed friend or family member with tastes so finely honed that you haven’t the faintest idea which bottle might be well received? Choose sake. Japan’s famous rice wine is becoming increasingly visible on cutting-edge wine lists, no doubt because it goes so well with food. My current favourite is the exquisitely refined KATSUYAMA KEN JUNMAI DAIGINJO whose lively lemon notes lead into a subtle umami finale. To serve chilled. Alcohol 15%. From www.retrovino.com, €59.
There will be moments when you feel like uncorking festive fizz that’s smart but affordable enough not to seem special-occasion-extravagant. Prosecco has had its day. Crémants from various French regions are a bit more chic, especially M&S CLASSICS No 12 CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE BRUT NV. A gold medal winner in the last International Wine Challenge, it’s light, delicately fruity and uplifting. A guaranteed crowd pleaser. Buy plenty and chill it well. Alcohol: 12%. From Marks & Spencer, €15.
At the upper end of luxury, nothing will dilute my love for Krug (the 168th edition of which is utterly superb). But I admit that the recently released CHAMPAGNE DOM PÉRIGNON 2010 may have wider appeal. Marrying tropical fruit flavours with honeyed, biscuity length and reviving acidity, it exudes opulence, energy and elegance. An immediately enjoyable treat which will age for decades (should it be allowed to). Alcohol: 12%. From www.thecorkscrew.ie; www.mitchellandson.com; www.obrienswine.ie and many more, €195-€219.
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