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Christmas gives us the wonderful excuse to indulge ourselves without feeling guilty. Roaring fires, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, christmas markets, old films, games, country walks, dinner parties, family get-togethers, wholesome food and the opportunity to discover and enjoy some interesting wines.

I have selected the following wines for Christmas entertaining :

Affordable palate pleasers

Chateau Saincrit, Bordeaux Superieur 2006 (5,20€)
Mostly merlot with just 10% of cabernet sauvignon. Interesting aromas of black cherries with a hint of white pepper. Fresh and fruity – a wine which pleases everybody and accompanies most dishes (except game and hard cheese).
Les Plaguettes, Bergerac, 2007 (5,00€)
100% Sauvignon blanc.
Lemon green colour. Predominant aromas of passionfruit with subtle hints of grapefruit peel. Crisp, refreshing acidity and a delicate citrusy finish which lingers on. The ideal aperitif to be savoured.

Great festive wine buys

Seignoret les Tours, Tradition, Bergerac 2005 (6,90€)
Merlot (60%) and Cabernet Franc (40%). Well structured and concentrated – lots of dark fruits, and spices with a fresh minty finish! Works with most foods.

Chateau de la Colline, Bergerac 2006 (6,00€)
Produced by Charles Martin – who maintains that the best place in the world for producing wines with Semillon is Bergerac – and especially Thenac ! He makes wonderful wines from Semillon – but alas it is not a popular grape variety. A lovely crisp, vibrant fruity wine to be drunk with whatever and whoever takes your fancy.

Chateau des Sarrins, Provence 2007 (11,50€)
A delicate organic rosé from provence. The colour is ‘oeil de perdrix’ – almost transparent, like a pink oyster shell. The nose and the palate are reminiscent of the tiny, succulantly delicious wild strawberries that I used to pick in the country roads of Ireland in my youth, with a spicy touch of black pepper. And this glorious combination just lingers on and on. The ideal aperitif. Crisp, fresh, elegant and mouthwateringly morish. Difficult to resist.

Turn a Christmas dinner into a veritable feast

Pecharmant: Chateau d’Elle 2005, (15,70€)
Lovely aromas of cherries, plums and violets with smoky , peppery hints and a warm touch of vanilla.
Dry, well balanced acidity, medium body and alcohol. Crunchy red fruits on the palate, with a delicate white pepper finish. Fresh and fruity. Not overly concentrated for a 2005.
Australia: Plantaganet Shiraz, 2004 (21,90€)
Typical Australian Shiraz – Briary notes, plum, dark berries and spice. Well structured and complex.
Italy: Brunello di Montalcino, Le Potazzine, Gorelli 2003 (35,00€)
Not having tasted this wine since February of this year, I was not in a position to submit a realistic tasting note. So – purely for your benefit – I had no choice but to open this wine tonight, December 04, 2008! What I can say is that it definitely needs to breathe – at least one hour beforehand (if decanted) and at least 3-4 hours if left in the bottle. This is vital!
This is a stunning Brunello. Still young and extremely fruity and spicy. Black fruit aromas – cassis and blackberries, with lovely black pepper overtones and hints of eucalyptus. As it opens up, it develops nuances of liquorice and very very subtle hints of vanilla.
On the palate it is divine. Dry with medium, perfectly balanced acidity and very soft, ripe, velvety,
well integrated tannins. Medium bodied with subtle flavours of red fruits (cherries and redcurrants), gentle liquorice, nuances of vanilla, and a lovely, long, black pepper finish . Not sure about marrying this with turkey – but great with duck and maybe goose? Let me know what you think.
Cahors: Chateau du Cèdre, Cuvée Prestige, 2005 (12,90€)
90% Malbec, 5 % Tannat, 5 % Merlot
Produced passionately and as naturally as possible with a tremendous respect for the expression of his terroir, Pascal Verhaege has changed the perception of Cahors! Intense aromas of dark fruits, plump ripe cherries, redcurrants, and vanilla. Full bodied, soft tannins and a powerful flavour intensity on the palate, with a long, lingering finish. An elegant wine with a lot of finesse.

Corsica: Antoine Arena, carco 2007 (22,00€)
White wine produced from 100% Vermentino grapes.
Bright, lemon yellow colour with ‘white gold’ reflections. Mouth watering aromas of citrus fruits, orange peel and grapefruit, with subtle hints of honeysuckle and orange blossom.
Crisp, refreshing acidity showing less complexity on the palate – predominately grapefruit and lemon zest, with a strong mineral backbone and a very long finish. An exceptionally expressive wine – ideal with oysters.
Languedoc: Capion, Cuvée Fiona, Vin de pays d’oc, 2007 (8,90€)
Capion has 40% chardonnay as well as some stylish Viognier. Warm, gold colour with mouthwatering aromas of vanilla, honey, and butterscotch. Rich, ripe & velvety mouthfeel, beautifully balanced and a long mellow finish.
Australia: Plantaganet riesling 2007 (12,90€)
Aromas of lime, wet slate, green apple, lemon and citrus blossom.. Refreshing crisp acidity complemented by lemon and limes. Delightful with oysters.
Duras: Chateau Haut Lavigne, Miss Terre (12,00€)
Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc 80%; Semillon 20%
Lovely lemon gold robe with sensual aromas of honey, praline, ripe yellow fruits and vanilla from Madagascar. Complex flavours of apricots, peaches and orange pith. Very long finish with lingering flavours of candied fruits.
Bergerac: Alpha du Joncal 2005 (15.00)€
An interesting blend of semillon, muscadelle, sauvignon blanc and sauvignon gris grape varieties. Produced by ex-fighter pilot Roland Tatard and his lovely wife Joelle. Alpha du Joncal is consistently featured in the French Guide Hachette.
Intense, warm, fruity and floral aromas of orange peel, linden tree and honeysuckle.
Beautifully balanced acidity. Full bodied and ‘gras’ with flavours of candied orange peel, apricots, ginger and an amazingly long finish. Ideal with turkey.

Great ideas for the hard-to-buy-for wine lover

Peri chataigne (made from chestnuts) (15,00€)
Peri noix (popular French aperitif made from walnuts before they ripen) (15,00€)
Perle d’Antan – artisanal recipe (18,00€)
Floc de Gascogne (8,90€)

Chateau du Cedre, Cahors 2005 or 2006 (29,00€)
100% Malbec grape variety
Hugely powerful yet trim, fragrant and elegant on the palate, with substantial tannin that is almost hidden by the intensity of fruit. This tannin doesn’t just provide structure for the future, but a massive, velvety texture that can be appreciated now. This opulent, polished wine will impress all your friends right now, provided it is decanted at least 8 hours before drinking. However, cellar it for 3-20 years to realise its full potential.
Antoine Arena, Grotte di Sole, Patrimonio, Corsica 2006 (22,00€)
Rich, black cherry colour, with powerful complex aromas of dark fruits, leather and maquis, the local Corsican scrubland . Dry, well balanced acidity with a ripe, soft , well-integrated tannic structure. Pronounced flavours of crisp crunchy redcurrants and local fresh herbs.
L’Astore Masseria, Puglia, Italy 2005 (19,00€)
Grape varieties: 50% Aglianico and 50% Petit Verdot
Intense, dark ruby red. Powerful fruity, spicy aromas – dark fruits, mocha, tar, cinnamon, black pepper. Dry, well balanced medium acidity, with soft, ripe tannins. Full bodied with powerful flavours of dark fruits, spices and hints of vanilla, with a very long smooth finish.

Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier Montrachet, Grand Cru , 2006
Domaine Leflaive, Puligny Montrachet , Les Pucelles, Premier Cru, 2006
(price on request)

Corsica: Antoine Arena, Muscat du Cap Corse, 2007 (22,00€)
Style : Vin doux naturel *
Produced from ‘Muscat à petits grains’. There are at least 4 principal varieties of Muscat and the ‘Muscat à petits grains’ is the most noble of these.
Fresh, powerful aromas of peaches and orange zest, with hints of vanilla and a superb minerality . A pure well delineated expression of “terroir”. Incredibly long on the palate. Ideal as an aperitif, with foie gras, blue cheese or a sinfully delicious chocolate dessert.
*Spirit of 90% alcohol is added when the fermenting must has reached about 6% alcohol, with the added spirit constituting between 5 and 10% of the final volume, resulting in an alcoholic strength of just over 15%.
Bergerac: Confit de la Colline (8,00€)
Made from botrytised grapes harvested after several passes through the vineyard. Extremely rich texture, with notes of apricot, honey, vanilla, creme brulee, almond paste, and Seville orange marmalade…a full palate of flavours, which lingers on and on.
Sauternes: La Tour Blanche 1999 (54,00€)
Light gold with a nose of tangerines, intermixed with apricots and peach jam; with a hint of oak and acacia flower. Anticipated maturity : now – 2018.

Armagnac: 10 year or 20 year old
Whiskey: Black Bush

The Wine Collector’s Dream – From the legendary 2005 vintage:

Alter Ego de Palmer, (2nd wine of Château Palmer), Margaux
Sociando Mallet, Cru Bourgeois, Haut Medoc
Haut Bages Averous, (2nd wine of Lynch Bages), Pauillac
Phelan Ségur, St. Estèphe
Château Citran, Haut Médoc
Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg
Château d’Aiguilhe, Côtes de Castillon
Cantenac Brown, Margaux
Malartic Lagravière, Pessac Leognan

Celebrate in style

Aperitif: Bruno Paillard NPU, Nec Plus Ultra 1995.
Entrée: Domaine Leflaive, Puligny Montrachet, Les Pucelles
Main Course: Chateau Bel Air 2000, St Emilion, Premier Cru Classé
Cheese: Quinta do Noval , unfiltered, 2000 Late Bottled Vintage Port
Dessert: Chateau La Tour Blanche 1999, premier Cru, Sauternes

Bon appetit and Happy Christmas