Although a little milder at the beginning of this week, last week saw freezing temperatures in Sussex and across much of Europe as an icy blast swept down from the Arctic.
When I was visiting vineyards in the Cote Challonaise region of Burgundy, temperatures didn’t rise above 3 degrees C for a few days, and here at home there were freezing temperatures, prompting thoughts of imminent snow.
So, will it be a White Christmas this year, as dreamt of by Bing Crosby? The odds have got a lot shorter in the last few days and even the Met Office reckons there is a 25 percent chance of snow on Christmas Day.
The Daily Star believes we are set to experience temperatures of minus 16C with a blast from Siberia, but since forecasters don’t seem to be able to get it right from one day to the next, perhaps this should all be taken with a pinch of salt – or a shovel full if they’re right! But despite the weather, it is possible to guarantee a white Christmas very simply – by choosing white wines to drink over the festive period.
With such a huge range available in the UK, here are a few recommendations of wines suited to various flavours, to help you enjoy the festive period, chosen from wine regions in four different continents.
A traditional wine at Christmas is of course, a white burgundy. Readily available from every wine merchant you can think of, if you want to push the boat choose a Puligny Montrachet or a Meursault, full bodied, deep and oaky. But for a lighter style, try the Saint Veran Les Monts 2015 from M&S, pure Chardonnay from the Maconnais in southern Burgundy and great value at £11.50.
Staying in France, a more unusual choice is a white Chateauneuf du Pape from the bottom of the Rhone Valley. Known mainly for its full-bodied reds, around 5% of the appellation is white, made from a blend of different grape varieties, including Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette. Les Closiers 2016, again from M&S, has plenty of body, with deep flavours of peach and apricot, with an elegant, floral nose. Superb with meaty fish such as turbot, John Dory or poached salmon, a treat at £24 a bottle.
Now for the main event, the turkey - or goose for that matter. Something with a little more ‘Oomph’, to give it a technical wine tasting term. It’s not so much about the poultry, but to do with the other flavours such as the stuffing, parsnips, cranberry and sauces of all kinds. Try Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2015, £17.99 from Waitrose. From Sonoma in California, it is lush and rich, yet not over-the-top, with notes of orange zest, green apple and a buttery, long finish. For a lighter, yet full flavoured New World Chardonnay, the KWV Cathedral Cellar 2015 from the Western Cape in South Africa is a snip at £10.99 from the Co-op. Fine, elegant and restrained, it has aromas of orange blossom, nougat and lime, with a crisp well-rounded finish.
Back to California for a moment, an easy drinking, fruity white for almost any occasion is the very well-made Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc 2016, available for a ridiculously low £7 to £8 from most supermarkets. More in the style of New Zealand than Loire, it has flavours of pink grapefruit and fresh tropical fruit, with a crisp, vibrant finish. For the spicier dishes, many vegetarian and Asian dishes, using spices, sun-dried tomatoes, dried fruit and ginger, you can’t do better than Villa Maria Private Bin Gewürztraminer 2016 from the East Coast of New Zealand. £11.45 from Waitrose, Majestic and Independents, the distinctive aromas and flavours of rose petals and lychees with an off-dry finish, are a great match for spicy, aromatic food.
And to finish, back to traditional Christmas dessert wine with a Sauternes from Bordeaux. Chateau Roumieu 2014 at £12.99 per half bottle from the Co-op is great value when compared to some of its famous neighbours. Sumptuous and complex, with flavours of peaches, apricots and honey from the Semillon grape variety. Perfect with mince pies or apple strudel.
So, keep warm and make it a White Christmas regardless of what’s happening outside the window.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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