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Neil Sowerby’s Wine Picks: Xmas 2014

The best festive plonk, plus gadgets, a book and even a beer to ask Santa for

Written by . Published on December 10th 2014.


Neil Sowerby’s Wine Picks: Xmas 2014
 

SO Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now the ghosts of shopping past and those of you who craved cheap tellies from Asda are sated. There’s still the angst of cliffhanger Christmas Eve purchasing to come, of course.

Lidl has just been crowned the best supermarket for wine. The budget chain scored a big PR coup with its Premium French Wine Collection, selling 800,000 bottles in autumn 2014 alone

We say, keep calm and certainly buy your wines now. Here are my tips... 

Three Fab Fizzes:

 Blanquette de Limoux Brut Nature Antech (Wine Society, £9.95)

 Being able to make sparkling wines without any added sweetness is proof of ripe fruit and the use of sound winemaking techniques. Labelled as 'brut nature', 'brut zero' or even 'ultra brut', these wines have gained in popularity. This is a very pure and fruity sparkler from the eastern Pyrenean foothills. Bone dry and perfect as an aperitif or with canapés. 

Co-operative Les Pionniers Vintage 2006 (£24.99)

This own brand Champagne never seems to get discounted. Perhaps because it is already a bargain for a classy bubbly developed in partnership with Piper and Charles Heidsieck. This brand new vintage picked up silver at the International Wine Challenge thanks to a palate full of crisp apple and subtle citrus fruit, an underlying minerality and a toasty, quite nutty finish. 

Moutard Brut Cuvee des 6 Cepages 2004 (Spirited Wines, Barton Arcade, £48.50)

 If you seek complexity at a price below the big hitters this is your boy. It is the only Champagne using all six permitted grape varieties. This blend harks back to the 19th century, when the familiar Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were often joined by Arbane, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc. Its slightly smoky nose and prominent yeastiness are initially challenging but, with a good whack of acidity, ultimately satisfying.

Champagne Moutard

White wines

King’s Ridge Pinot Gris 2013 (Marks and Spencer, £12.99)

This rich style of white would cope with a turkey as well as the more obvious matches – spicy food and smoked salmon. It’s from the Willamette Valley in the US state of Oregon and has gloriously opulent peach and baked apple off-dry flavour.

Lidl LogoPicpoul de Pinet, Ormarine 2013 (Lidl, £6.49) and Muscadet sur Lie Domaine de la Vieux Cure 2013 (Lidl, £6.29)

Lidl has just been crowned the best supermarket for wine. The budget chain scored a big PR coup with its Premium French Wine Collection, selling 800,000 bottles in autumn 2014 alone. It’s back again with a range of Clarets from good vintages at prices fro a tenner to £40. At a humbler level, the Picpoul and the Muscadet are perfect for sipping or quaffing with a few oysters. The Picpoul is creamy with a hint of coconut and yet good acidity; the Muscadet crisp and refreshing.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2013 (Reserve Wines, West Didsbury, £13.99)

With grapes grown in the heartland of Soave, winemaker Leonildo weaves his magic. This stunning wine offer aromas of almond and cherry blossom, whilst the palate has stone fruit and a piercing acidity. Lovely.

Red wines – and a Port, naturally
Vinalba Reservado de la Famila Malbec (Morrisons, £9.99)

This Decanter Gold medal winner from Argentina is big at 14.5 per cent, but its freshness and rush of pure brambly fruit and vanilla oak masks its power. It’s from the Uco Valley, exciting new frontier for this hugely popular grape. More a beef rather than turkey contender. It is supposed to be down from £9.99 to £7.99 until Jan 4, but that wasn’t the case yet in my local store.

Uco Valley %26#8211%3B Fresh New Wave Malbec TerroirUco Valley – fresh new wave Malbec terroir

The Co-operative Chateauneuf du Pape 2013 (£13.99)

Again the Co-op collaborating well with a fine French producer. In this case, Ogier, makers of the iconic Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes. This intense blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes will partner turkey (or beef) perfectly. Cherry, blackberry, pepper are all here on the palate with a lingering savoury finish. Another IWC Silver winner, it is on offer at £13.99 from £15.99 until Jan 3.

Aldi Amarone La Sagora 2011 (Aldi £14.99)

Aldi have set the bar high for the bargain supermarket wine offerings, Lidl catching up as we have seen, and this is a snip for such a huge, smoky red made by air-drying grapes to intensify their flavour. Bring on the cheese and chutney.

62 Ann

62 Aniversario Reserva, Primitivo di Manduria San Marzano 2010 (Spirited Wines, Barton Arcade, £29.64)

This top of the range, single varietal Primitivo, made from hand-picked grapes fermented slowly, then aged in French and American oak barriques for 12 months, is amazingly the product of a co-operative in Italy’s Puglia region. It offers remarkable value and will partner cheese or chocolate amirably. On the nose it smells of prunes and coffee with a hint of tobacco; on the palate it is smooth, spicy and full-bodied.

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2012 (Hanging Ditch, £40, Harvey Nichols £47.50)

Kiwi pinot doesn’t come much better than Felton Road, whose wines, while abundant in fruit, exhibit a distinct Burgundian structure. This is a single vineyard wine aged for eleven months in French oak barrels. Elegance and power in abundance. 

1996 Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port (Waitrose Cellars, £23.99, reduced from £27.99 until Dec 30)

This is the second wine of classic Port producer Foneca – a blend from their best quintas (farms) made in years when a true vintage port is not released. This 1996 example is spicy with damson and pepper flavours. Decant and let it breathe for a couple of hours. The ripe fruit makes it an excellent match for rich fruitcakes and puddings.

Buy yourself some decent glasses:

 Lolita Girl Friends ForeverJohn Lewis ave a great selection of wine glasses. I’d steer clear of the garish Lolita range (pictured), a bit wine unfriendly and investigate their Riedel range. Riedel Vinum glasses are 24 per cent lead crystal, whose microscopic roughness of the surface helps wine to develop more intense aromas. The Chardonnay one is a good all-rounder. On special offer; eight for the price of six for £135. 

Gadgets for geeks (one fun, one very serious):

Screwcaps are ever more popular, but they are no use if you want to invest in Wine Bottle Cork Robots (main picture) from the Science Museum in Kensington. Spend £6 via this link and inside a little box you receive the arms, legs, eyes, cogs, bolts and various other industrial parts. All you have to do is stick em into your leftover cork to create a mini Robot friend for life. Available in four different designs: Bella, Luke, Willy and Yuri.

Wine RobotsWine Robots

Or you can bypass pulling out a cork by spending big money on 2014’s trendiest wine toy, the American-developed Coravin (above) the most affordable in the range, the 1000 System (£269) allows you to access, pour and enjoy your favourite wines by the glass whenever you like, without pulling the cork. A thin hollow needle is inserted through the cork, leaving it intact. When the needle is removed, the cork reseals and continues to protect the wine from oxidizing as if it had never been opened. 

 

CoravinCoravin

 

My wine book of the year:

Italy’s Langhe wine region was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in June. It’s he home of two world class wines, which are celebrated in the newly published Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine (University of California Press, £27.95) by Kerin O’Keefe, Italian editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine. It’s comprehensive and enlightening. 

Gift Of The MagiAnd a craft beer that will cost you more than your average bottle of wine:

The 2013 vintage 'Gift of the Magi' from The Lost Abbey costs £13.60 for a 75cl bottle from Beermoth in Tib Street, Northern Quarter. It’s a Belgian style biere de garde with ten per cent ABV, made by a Belgium-barmy brewery in San Marcos, California. The Beermoth team recommend it as a perfect Christmas Beer. It hits the palate with dark dried fruits, big malt, spice and dark sugars. The inititial comparson is  dense fruit cake, but on the finish it comes over surprisingly light and well balanced. Serve with the Christmas pud.

Merry Christmas, and chin chin...

Follow Neil Sowerby on twitter for more food and wine picks @AntonEgoManc

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