I’m going to dive straight into the Christmas dessert wines before you have time to blink. I love dessert wines. This year I’ve converted friends to the nectar honeyed delights of these gorgeous special-treat wines.
Go on, be brave. Just think, for less than £7 you could try a half bottle of the consistently award-winning Tesco’s Finest Dessert Semillon, with its layers of honey, citrus, peach and apricots. I just luuurvvve it with Christmas cake, or cheese, or mince pies. Or on its own.
The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2012 (£9.95, a half bottle, www.thewinesociety.com) is a shoo-in with salty cheeses, or a favourite dessert. There’s nose-dip aromas of dried honey and pithy orange zest; yes, it’s sweet to taste but the dryness of fruit peel persists to counterbalance.
Taste the Difference Sauternes, (£14, Sainsbury) is a lusciously sweet dessert wine full of Seville oranges, apricot and a seam of lemon; it has lip-licking apricot and honeycomb flavours which flatter and flirt with cheese.
Muscat de St Jean de Minervois, (just £6.30, for a half bottle, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is a dunking of apricots in caramel but with a slice and a dice of lemon in the background which adds freshness.
Finally, Stellar Organics Heaven on Earth (£8.75, www.hawksheadwines.co.uk for a half bottle) is an ethically produced sweetie from South Africa. What better name than this. It’s a light honey colour and has dollops of honey aromas too, but with oodles of apricot alongside. I’m in heaven with this.
I’ll move on to reds to mix and match with Christmas cheese or a Boxing Day gathering with friends. I asked some Tasting Elves to help me with their thoughts.
Avaniel Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero 2013 (The Wine Society) If you want a rest from all the festive fizz, this young Spanish red is just the thing. Made with no oak and bottled early to capture the freshness, it is sweet and fruity with a nose of blackberries. This worked well with a Stilton on oatcakes and is a bargain at £7.50.
The Chilean Marques de Casa Concha Syrah (£11.99, Tesco) is a deep and fruity partner for more unusual cheeses that, like woolly jumpers, only tend to appear at this time of year. Big, bold and full of blackcurrant and dark cherry flavours, there is a peppery spiciness that balances the fruit.
Luxuriously dark and inky, like a squid on a posh night out, its big, mouthfilling body and depth of flavour means it’s also great drunk on its own. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it with Christmas pudding.
Evans and Tate Breathing Space Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (£11.99, Majestic, or £17.98 for two) is from Margaret River in Western Australia. It is an easy-drinking red that’s ideal for when family and friends pop round.
It balances fresh, red berry fruits with spicy oak flavours that make it a good festive all-rounder, like the Best of Morecambe and Wise. It pairs well with strong, salty cheeses like Stilton.
Tempranillo Aldi Toro Loco Superior has performed brilliantly in blind tastings and confounds all who meet it with smooth depths and easy grace. Aldi are knocking this out for a mind-blowing £3.79. Where does it fit in the Christmas mix?
It’s your house red: perfect for the Boxing Day visitors who can gulp it down joyously with platefuls of turkey curry. Toro Loco means Mad Bull. And at this price you’d be mad not to. But you’d better hurry up if you don’t want to miss out.
On Boxing Day, here’s a wonderful white to cut through all that rich excess of the day before.
Amalaya Blanco de Corte Torrontés Riesling 2014 (£9, winetrust100.co.uk) has a champion pedigree; and by heck, as I would say in my native Lancastrian twang, it’s just champion. The 2013 vintage won three Golds in the awards’ season this year. It has a floral nose, with pears, lychee and hints of spiced mandarins; to taste there’s a lively, mineral zesty finish.
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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 20, 2014