Wines for the Christmas Table
These suggestions are purely personal and what we will be enjoying at the Wandering Palate Christmas table, although you are most welcome to follow the recommendations, or drop me a line if you need advice on your selection or sourcing.
Roast turkey certainly calls for a white wine with texture and richness or even opulence and conventional wisdom would point to chardonnay as a logical choice, ideally with some bottle age. However this year my preference is for a Rhone-style white, (and an ideal match if I say so myself) is two vintages, 2006 & 2008 of Giaconda Aeolia Rousanne from Beechworth, Victoria, Australia.
This is arguably one of Australia’s greatest white wines and yet is possibly about to be extinct! Legendary winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner has championed this Rhone Valley grape in Australia making a unique wine of extraordinary textural richness and complexity and regarded as the one of the best examples of the variety in the world, indeed often compared to the esteemed Chateau de Beaucastel Vieille Vignes Rousanne.
The problem is that the Australian wine press don’t rate wine, perplexing as it is to Kinzbrunner, who is thinking of grafting it over to chardonnay! Much to the alarm of us international wine scribes who think the wine is totally brilliant; Lisa Perrotti-Brown, who writes on Australian wine for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate rates, it highly, dishing out 95 points for the 2008, and Andrew Jefford, the Obi-wan of the UK wine writing fraternity, recently wrote a wonderful piece on Giaconda in the Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/549e7fe6-c874-11e0-833c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1et6xAFQb
I personally think it’s an incredible wine and have put away several bottles in the cellar, although equally enjoying the occasional bottle now as it so exuberant and wonderfully attractive drinking, and will be delicious with the roast turkey.
You can source it in Singapore from Monopole, www.monopole.com.sg and in the UK through Berry Bros & Rudd http://www.bbr.com/producer-9116-giaconda-vineyard for worldwide agents, visit http://www.giaconda.com.au/
We will kick off with some sherry, as I am absolutely obsessed with the stuff presently. I am not going to labor the point of sherry’s unfashionability. Frankly if wine consumers can’t see the extraordianary uniqueness and quality of the region’s wines, then that’s their problem, because I am taking a bath in it.
My favorite drop at the moment is the terribly fashionable (for those in the know about sherry) Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla 24 Fino Amontillado, a Fino on its way toward becoming an Amontillado, with an estimated average age of 20 years – gorgeously rich and nutty like an aged white burgundy, yet tangy and salty with intriguing rancio and antique woods characters http://www.equiponavazos.com/en/24en.htm
Equipo Navazos have an extraordinary range of aged sherries as well as piping fresh Fino and Manzanilla and are all the rage amongst sherry fanatics and weirdos like me. Available in Singapore through Artisan Cellars, www.artisan-cellars.com, and all around the world http://www.equiponavazos.com/en/contact.htm
All that said, the wife will be demanding Champagne and rosé is generally the speed at Christmas, as an all-round aperitif and you can slurp it right throughout the meal with a reasonable sense of pairing well. I think it’s going to be NV Billecart-Salmon rosé, an old favourite and really the benchmark of NV rosé, incredible (relative) value too.
And for the red, which will be for both the turkey and goose (that is I am considering cooking goose as well), it will be a trio of Bass Phillip Pinot Noirs from Leongatha South, Australia.
Now before you start thinking this is some sort of patriotic bias going on here, drinking so much Australian wine, I’m a New Zealander, thanks very much. Mind you I have spent a good amount of time in Australia and totally enamored with the country’s (artisan) wine producers, even if the rest of the wine world is pooh-poohing Australian wines; folks you have it all wrong and it’s sad really that you can’t see/drink beyond the supermarket wines.
Proprietor and winemaker of Bass Phillip, Phillip Jones, is an enigma to some and a genius to others. Actually he’s absolutely eccentric, like a Burgundian. And he knows more about Burgundy than any Burgundian winemaker I know, yet refutes any suggestion that his wine might be “Burgundian in style”, even if wine enthusiasts regard his wine with the same reverence as a ‘top Domaine’.
Personally, I think he makes the best and most distinctive pinot noir in Australia and equally unique in its location, prime dairy country near Leongatha in South Gippsland with vines planted in deep silty loams with a high iron content – which is redolent in both the wines tremendous colour and minerally bouquet. This is pinot noir in a sappy sinuous style, elegant yet profound with deep dark cherry fruit, always mineral infused with an underlying briary complexity.
This is a tiny vineyard with un-irrigated vines grown using biodynamical methods with miniscule yields – sometimes less than one ton to the acre - with the annual production limited to only a few hundred cases. In some years only one barrel of Reserve will be bottled!
We will be liberating some of his current release 2009 Pinots, the ‘Estate’ and ‘Premium’ cuvees, the later “Possibly the best I have ever made” according to Jones. Also some ‘Estate - The 21’ Anniversary wine, an awesome wine which we featured at the Burghound event and at Iggy’s when Jones visited Singapore recently.
I might add, Bass Phillip was in the line-up of our Domaine de la Romanee Conti vs. the World tasting in Singapore and was ranked the overall best wine with their 2003 Reserve. http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/events/domaine-de-la-romanee-conti-vs-the-world-blind-tasting-results/
Bass Phillip is available in Singapore through Hermitage Wine, www.hermitagewines.net and despite the miniscule production is reasonably fluid throughout the fine wine world, once you start digging around the better merchants. There’s no point me giving you his website address as it is under construction, but here is his direct email address email@example.com to which be warned he is sometimes slow in reply.
We will assuredly serve up cheese before Christmas pudding, invariably a Vacherin Mont d'Or - an exquisite washed-rind cow's milk cheese from the Jura Mountains, France - only made in the winter months, perfectly timed for Christmas.
Unquestionably the wine to go with this is ‘My best wine with cheese of the Year’ http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/wine-feng-shui/must-have-wines-best-of-the-lunar-drinking-year-tiger-2010/ - Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Vouvray Moelleux 1997 – Loire Valley, France.
This is a completely eccentric wine made from the chenin blanc grape; schizophrenically somewhere between a sweet and dry wine, moreover initially weird with a nose that many would assume is cork taint, not to mention curious acetone/benzene smells.
However, give the wine some air and you will be amazed how it evolves, building in richness to an incredibly complex, honeyed, nutty yet savory-tangy sherry-like wine yet with unctuous, creamy layers and a funky-cheesy nuanced bouquet that seems tailor-made for a gooey cheese like Vacherin – actually it’s one of the most perfect wine matches I have ever encountered.
Curiously the sole importer here in Singapore is Cold Storage Supermarket and for added perplexity, they have no idea what they are dealing with. I say this because they usually have the 1997 vintage (selling at S$85) mixed up in a carton stack with what could be the current vintage, 2005, although only S$20 cheaper. One can only assume the 1997 came from an older release direct from the vineyard, and the exchange rate was favoring Singapore at the time.
Anyway, you will need to fossick for this on the shelves/stacks and also at Jason’s (the upmarket Cold Storage) where they seemed to have twigged and at least have it tucked away in the fine wine room. If there’s none left, sorry that means I beat you to it!
You will find Domaine Huet in practically every country in the world to which you will find agent listed on the winery website www.huet-echansonne.com In the UK, the Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com often have packs with amazing back vintages, and the importer, Richards Walford www.r-w.co.uk also have amassed a significant range of back vintages.
With the Christmas pudding, well, I can’t go past Vintage Port, a classic pairing but also, when does one get a chance to liberate an old bottle of VP these days. Mind you, with winesave, http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/buying-wine/must-have-wine-accessory-of-the-year/ it is certainly feasible to open up vintage Port (as old as you like) and have a glass or two, and reseal it perfectly preserved with a squirt of argon.
My favourite port last year was the 1980 Grahams, although the importer here is most definitely corked, so I have stopped buying it. Thus, I am on the lookout for a different VP this year and have it in mind to go shopping in Hong Kong from one of the auction house catalogues for something with a good 20 plus years on it, given the ludicrously cheap prices for Vintage Port these days. I shall update you on this.
Good hunting and drinking.