15 of the best wines to drink with Christmas dinnerBy Edith Hancock
To start things off
What is Christmas without sparkle? The holidays are the perfect excuse to crack out some bubbles, and with the astronomical growth of Prosecco, Crémant and other sparklers in recent years, we’re sure you can find a fizz to suit all tastebuds….
Rive di Colbertaldo Prosecco
It’s mistakenly believed by many that Prosecco is just Prosecco, when in fact there is much variation in the category, depending on the producer’s approach, and the source of the grapes.
The most common distinction is made between the much larger DOC area of Prosecco, and the hillsides of the DOCG regions, of which there are two: Asolo and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.
But less well known is the fact that Prosecco also has a classification for particular sub-zones with distinct and high-quality sites. Called Rive, these rare Proseccos are worth seeking out as they celebrate great vineyards, and are generally more expressive sparkling wines. Among these, one that shone in our Prosecco Masters competition was the Rive di Colbertaldo from Maschio dei Cavalieri.
With masses of fresh white peach, orange blossom, and a gentle note of ripe orchard fruits, this is a lovely example of delicious aromatic Prosecco that captures the quality of a brilliant area for growing the Glera grape.
Medal: Gold – The Prosecco Masters, 2019
Price: Around £15
Sainsbury’s Crémant de Loire
Bearing in mind the creep upwards of Champagne prices in this decade, it’s becoming more common for consumers to seek out a cheaper alternative to this famous fizz when pouring a sparkling wine for big, celebratory events.
So it was exciting to find in this year’s Global Sparkling Masters that there are delicious options of creamy, gently toasty fizz on the market today at roughly half the price of grandes marques Champagnes. The most keenly-priced Gold-medal winning fizz of the competition was this Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Crémant de Loire Brut, which is in fact made by Bouvet Ladubay for the supermarket.
The sparkling wine garnered a high score for its combination of richness and refreshment, combining cleansing flavours of apple and chalk, with more creamy characters, and a touch of honey-coated toast, which provided added interest.
Medal: Gold – The Global Sparkling Wine Masters, 2019
Price: £11-£12 (although currently on offer for £9)
Find it: Sainsbury’s
Hattingley Valley Rosé 2014
Want something a little closer to home to toast the day with?
This pink fizz picked up a Master in our Global Rosé Masters last year, rising above some seriously impressive wines in the rankings from Italy, Australia and France.
Hattingley Valley’s rosé was singled out for its delicate aromas of apple, red berries, rhubarb and toast, along with its appealing creamy-textured palate.
One judge enjoyed the fact that the pale pink fizz even seemed to carry some blackberry, alongside some zesty citrus and redcurrant fruit flavours, with a mouth-filling, fine mousse to boot. The wine had “lovely definition” according to Stefanowicz, with a pleasing persistence.
The last word on her tasting sheet simply said “yum!”, which tells you all you need to know.
Winemaker Will Perkins enjoys our Rosé with Cherrystone Clam Chowder served with freshly baked bread, so perhaps consider serving this wine with a warming, lightly creamy starter like the one above, or perhaps some combination of goats cheese, caramelised pears and walnuts, just don’t forget the crostini.
Medal: Master – The Global Rosé Masters, 2018
Price: About £30-£40
Champagne Palmer & Co. Brut Reserve NV
And now onto something a bit more traditional.
Palmer & Co’s wines are aged on the lees extensively; at least four years for the Brut Reserve, which goes up to six for those bottled in magnums.
Our judges were enamoured with the scent of grilled nuts and touch of smoke that came from this fizz, which also followed on to the palate. There’s plenty of fruit to admire in this wine, too, with peach, lemon and grapefruit all present and accounted for, ending on a chalky note that’s so typical of fine Champagne. Enjoy this with roasted almonds at your soirees this month, or if you’re feeling peckish between meals on the big day.
Medal: Gold – The Champagne Masters, 2019
Find it: VINVM has it for just under £29 per bottle.
Champagne Rare 2006
Well, it is a special occasion…
This is a little steep for a lot of readers, but quite frankly, we are huge fans of this vintage brut from Piper Heidsieck. Régis Camus selects wines made from the fruit of Grand Cru vineyards for every vintage. This one uses Chardonnay from the house’s Avize, Oger, Villers-Marmery Grand Cru vineyards, and some Pinot Noir from Verzy.
Thanks to a long ageing period (11 years on the lees), this is a wine full of complex aromas of grilled nuts and wood-smoke, along with a lemony lift from the Chardonnay, and hazelnuts with honeyed toast on the palate, while exotic fruits also make an appearance.
We’ve been told that people who order the Rare often prise off the gold filigree from this opulent bottle and repurpose it as an item of jewellery, so this could double-up as a last-ditch Christmas present if you’ve left it too late.
If you’ve got the money to burn, this is a very decent bottle to burn it on.
Medal: Master – The Champagne Masters, 2019
The price: £190
White wines are often overlooked on Christmas Day, but they make for a delightful pairing with many a dish. Zingy Sauvignon Blancs harmonise with smoked salmon spiked with lemon juice and tend to make a fine accompaniment to the menagerie of fresh herbs one might incorporate into your starters and side dishes. Fuller bodied, creamy Chardonnays, meanwhile, help to lift the flavour of lean turkey meat, which can be prone to drying out.
Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, Aurora Point Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc
This wine hails from our Sauvignon Blanc Masters in 2015, where it took the position as the outstanding sample of the day, becoming the only entry to gain the title of Master: the ultimate accolade for the very best examples of their type.
Forget what you know about Sauvignon Blanc. This particular wine, a top-end, barrel-fermented Sauvignon, is more like a great white Bordeaux from Graves, with peach, passion fruit, and a touch of cleansing pink grapefruit, complemented by a lovely creamy taste and texture, along with a hint of vanilla. This is a wine that is both indulgent and cleansing, and a brilliant match for a range of tricky ingredients, from herbal garnishes such as dill, to buttery sauces on fish to white meat, or vegetables such as asparagus or the notoriously tough brussels sprout.
Medal: Master – The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters, 2016
For more more info, click here.
Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay
For a little bit of A-list quality, Bird in Hand is a reliable bet. The label’s wines are regularly called on for events in the fashion world like the Serpentine’s Summer Party in London, and were a sponsor of last year’s British Fashion Awards.
But that’s not why we’ve singled this wine from the Adelaide Hills out, which scooped a Master medal in our 2018 competition.
Medium-bodied, creamy, complex with aromas of white peach, grapefruit, subtle notes of apricot, cashew and flint, this is a good all-rounder for the dinner table.
Medal: Master, the Chardonnay Masters 2018
Price: Round £40
Find it: kwmwine.com
Château Ksara Chardonnay Cuvée du Pape
Key to the concept of our Global Masters competitions is the chance to draw attention to the unusual, as well as confirm the reputation of the established.
It was in a recent Chardonnay Masters that we unearthed a brilliant example at an affordable price. In fact, it was from Lebanon, and represents one of the best-value Chardonnays money can buy.
Hailing from Château Ksara in the Bekaa Valley, this barrel-fermented wine, called Cuvée du Pape, has all the hallmarks of great Chardonnay: a touch of stone fruit, an edgy lemon-like acidity, a slightly oily texture, and a lovely cashew nut richness. The ideal lubricant for turkey and stuffing, but also rich enough to stand up to alternative centrepieces like ham or goose.
Medal: Gold – The Global Chardonnay Masters, 2018
Penfolds Reserve Bin 16a Chardonnay (2016)
If you want to push the boat out, this Penfolds should impress the guests.
The nose is welcoming with aromas of peach, pink grapefruit and apple, all underlined by a toasty creaminess, but it becomes wonderfully complex on the palate with bright citrus, apple, toasty spice, ripe tropical fruit and just a touch of buttered brioche. There’s also a nice saline quality to it, which should match up well with your pigs in blankets.
Medal: Gold, the chardonnay Masters 2018
Pairing reds with Christmas dinner can be a delicate balancing act, but every year, we’re told that Pinot Noir is the ideal match for the big meal.
Pinot Noir-based wines tend to be relatively low in tannin compared to other reds. This means it matches well with white meat and a whole host of fatty and salty foods one expects at dinner parties, that would only accentuate the tannins on a big, bold, young red.
With that in mind, bolder, aged Burgundy reds are a safe bet, but we’re also seeing some very interesting and delightful examples from the new world; in particular Oregon in the USA, but our Masters competitions have also surprised us with fine examples of the grape all over the world.
But it doesn’t have to be a Pinot. The important thing to remember is the structure of the tannins, and many brasher grapes lilke Cabernet Sauvignon and Tepranillo become silky and elegant with a long ageing period, making them a fine match for your feast
Pinot Noir – Edition A
Mixed in among the samples in this year’s Global Pinot Noir Masters was this first-rate wine from a growers-cooperative in Baden. It’s a great option for anyone looking beyond Burgundy for their fix.
Gaining a Gold from all the judges, it was bursting with kirsch-like concentrated dark cherry aromas along with some attractive vanilla notes from ageing in barriques. A ripe and juicy, generous style of Pinot, but with a refreshing finish, it was awarded high marks for being big and taught, like a four-wheel drive BMW, according to our editor-in-chief Patrick Schmitt MW.
Medal: Gold, the Pinot Noir Masters 2018
Price: Around £25
Find it here.
Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
This particular Pinot comprises a blend of wines from the estate’s single vineyard expressions, and wowed the tasters for its “vibrant” fruit, “creamy wood” and “spice” on the nose, along with its “pure red berry flavours”, “definition and persistency”, according to Patricia Stefanowicz MW, who was on the panel last year.
Another judge, David Round MW, found the Willamette Pinot lively with wood and spice, and “pently of ripe fruit”. Knowing the wine would benefit from some time in the cellar, the Penner-Ash team waited until last year to enter this 2014 vintage expression into our Global Pinot Noir competition, and just as well, as our panel gave it the highest accolade.
Medal: Master, the Pinot Noir Masters 2018
Price: Around £30
For more info, click here
Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill Pinot Noir 2014
Domaine Serene is famous for making fine Pinot Noir. Founded in 1989 by Grace and Ken Evenstad, it is a quietly elegant winery perched atop the Dundee Hills, with stunning views of the Willamette Valley. Winemaker Michael Fay was brought on as director of winemaking and viticulture in May 2017, having cut his teeth at Goldeneye Winery in Sonoma, where he developed a talent for making stand-out, terroir-driven Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
This particular Pinot is made from grapes planted at Domaine Serene’s lowest elevation vineyard, 16 miles south of the Dundee Hills in the Eola-Amity Hills, and the terroir shines through. The nose comes with heaps of red and black fruit, with cranberries, cherry, and pomegranate all present, but underscored with the kind of substance you’d expect in a carefully crafted Oregon Pinot. Black tea, smoke and earth add balance to the bouquet, and the judges were blown away by this wine’s structure, velvety smooth tannins, and a finish that never, well, finishes.
This bottle, with its layers of red berries, bright acidity and soft tannins, is an ideal companion to roast turkey and cranberry sauce, while its earthiness can stand up to those slightly trickier dishes on the table like sprouts.
Medal: Master – The Pinot Noir Masters, 2018
Find it here
Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
There are likely to be some die-hard fans of Cab Sav at your festivities this year, and we think they’ll be impressed with this expression from Washington’s Ste. Michelle estate.
This wine was bottled to mark the winery’s 50th birthday, and though it’s predominantly made with Cabernet Sauvignon, the finished wine is a blend featuring Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Château Ste. Michelle is Washington’s Founding Winery, and is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the Columbia Valley.
Editor-in-chief and db’s resident MW, Patrick Schmitt, praised the Cab blended for its “inviting” aromas combining vanilla, olives and sweet black fruit. On the palate, it is “balanced, interesting and layered; with youthful blackcurrant, a touch of tapenade, and some toast and chocolate too”.
Medal: Master – The Global Cabernet Sauvignon Masters, 2018
Find it: Majestic
Conde de los Andes Rioja
There will also likely be die-hard Rioja fans and, frankly, we don’t blame them.
The Murúa family announced its purchase of Bodegas Ollauri, together with the building’s stocks and flagship Conde de los Andes brand, in 2014. Wine was first made on the site of the Conde de los Andes winery in the 1890s, but the brand itself was established about 70 years later, and has held a strong reputation for some years.
Riojas often develop with age, but our judges were already impressed with this expression’s “powerful” red and black fruits on the nose, which carried through to the palate with well-integrated flavours and a sound structure. One judge considered the Conde de los Andes a “modern” approach to Rioja, with a silky texture and powerful, juicy flavours “overlaid with spicy oak and a peppery finish.”
It’s a serious wine, no doubt, but it’s also very drinkable and, with a reasonable price tag, we think this is a perfect go-to red for the long nights ahead. Serve this with seasonal pies throughout the interim between Christmas and New Year, a show-stopping beef wellington on New Year’s Eve, or just with after dinner conversations by the fire.
Medal: Gold – The Rioja Masters, 2016
Find it: vinissimus.co.uk
Clos Marey-Monge Monopole 2016
For something a little more traditional and blow-out, this bottle, which picked up a gold in our most recent Pinot Noir comp, would certainly fit the bill. The winemakers start building the skeleton by using Grand Champs and 75 Rangs. Then comes the flesh, using the well-rounded cuvees from Micault and Les Paules.
The nose is intense and youthful, full of violets, ripe strawberries, red plums and sweet spices such as cinnamon. The palate is well-rounded and velvety, mixing freshness, salivation, and a long finish. Its floral and fruity aromas make it a pleasant wine to enjoy today, but you could definitely stick it in your cellar for a few years and reap the rewards in Christmas 2024.
Medal: Gold, the Pinot Noir Masters 2019
Find it here.
The Global Masters is a series of blind tasting competitions, drawing in entries from across the world. One of the key elements to its success is the quality and the dedication of the judges involved.
Every wine is measured on the taste of its grape and the skill of its winemaker. For the first time all preconceived ideas about the importance of location are pushed to one side as wines from across the world are judged by style and price exclusively.
All Global Masters are judged blind by the finest palates in the world – a panel of Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior buyers only. The best competing wines are awarded medals from Bronze through to Gold, and ultimately “Master” for exceptional examples.
The calibre of the judges guarantees international recognition of all the medals awarded.
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