The great thing about wine is that it just keeps on giving – long after the bottle is empty. As in life, moving on is always a wrench – but in the wine world styles evolve, and 20 years ago no one would have imagined making some of the wines we’ve found for this winter and Christmas.
For example, I’d never been a big fan of cabernet sauvignon, but suddenly I’ve started finding that every new wine has a significant chunk of cabernet sauvignon in it. Our two Christmas specials, Paul Mas' Mas des Tannes reserve and Capezzano’s Barco Reale di Carmignano from Tuscany don’t have much in common other than colour and cabernet.
Domaines Paul Mas is no bit part player (600 hectares) and has estates all over the Languedoc, but the top-end wines tend to be made on the farm. Mas des Tannes, Montagna, is one of them; situated in the hills between the Etang de Thau and Pézenas. Mas des Tannes reserve rouge is 55 per cent cabernet with a balance of grenache and mourvèdre, aged for six months in oak before blending and bottling. It’s a big wine with typical cabernet nose of dark fruit and spice – made with us Brits in mind because it’s perfect with roast beef. The white is even better. If my red grape of 2018 has been cabernet, its white counterpart has to be grenache blanc. It’s a grape that’s worth getting to know because it’s equally good as a sherry-style aperitif, with nuts and nibbles, fish (particularly smoked salmon) and white poultry such as turkey breast. White grenache also shines in our new Navardia rioja blanco. Here, paired with sauvignon blanc, it provides the depth, body and creamy mouthfeel without losing the sauvignon’s natural crisp acidity.
As we’ve slipped onto the whites, our other new listing is Signos de Origen ‘La Vinilla’ chardonnay/ viognier/ marsanne/ roussanne, from Emiliana Organico in Casablanca Valley, Chile. For pure chardonnay lovers, we have Domaine Begude, Terroir 11300 but if you’re after something a little funkier the Signos might just do it. The chardonnay/viognier blend is a proven winner and when you start pairing with food it gets even more interesting: smoked salmon – no problem, chicken and turkey breast – even better, slow roast pork – a revelation, but cheese, maybe not stilton but something a bit smelly like comté, aged gruyère and gouda, Godminster or Manchego, is heaven.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a bottle or two of fizz and this year, we’ve kept it simple with a full spumante, extra dry, prosecco. We’re all so used to drinking prosecco by itself that we forget how food friendly it is – particularly, if you’re feeling a little decadent, with dessert and after. There’s always something deliciously debauched about opening up the fizz after a meal – as long as I don’t fall asleep before it’s finished.
We also have two new ‘party wines’. Both come from Dominio de Punctum, home of our best-selling Finca Fabian wines and bear the same ‘very well made and good value’ hallmarks. Doblez Garnacha is about as drinkable as a red wine can get. Bags of summer fruit and minimal tannins make it a vinous equivalent of a session beer – but don’t forget it’s still 13.5 per cent. Punctum’s sauvignon blanc is crafted from night-harvested biodynamic grapes and has all the classic flavours of passion fruit, litchi and grapefruit with underlying green citrus notes. It’s not really a food wine, hence its inclusion in the party section, but it’s delicious nevertheless.
Shop our Christmas wines here