WINE columnist Rose Murray Brown shares her top ten festive reds for the Christmas table
OLD WORLD CLASSICS
Rioja, Spain: LOPEZ DE HARO RESERVA RIOJA 2005
(£8.25, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
For those doing Christmas on a budget this aged rioja stormed our tasting against all those half-priced supermarket riojas. From the historic village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, the modern Hacienda Lopez winery do have strange retro labels, but this rioja is all good stuff with classic leather notes, baked red fruits and it’s as smooth as velvet. This is a Reserva, with two years maturation in American and French oak: predominantly tempranillo (90 per cent) with a touch of graciano and garnacha. Light, gentle and undemanding rioja – snap up this bargain. STAR VALUE BUY
Southern RhÔne, France: DOMAINE GRAND ROMANE GIGONDAS 2010 Pierre Amadieu
(£23.30, L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline)
This very popular wine at our tasting is made from high altitude-grown old vine grenache, syrah and mourvedre from one of Gigondas’ largest private estates on the slopes of the famous Dentelles. Their vineyards are surrounded by pine and oak trees and I swear there was a hint of pine and spice in the flavour. It’s beautifully made, smooth, rounded and complex and put many of the St Joseph in our tasting to shame. A good alternative to overpriced chateauneuf du pape.
Bordeaux, France: CLOS FOURTET 2007
(£41, Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
For those wanting to push the boat out with a classic claret, this prestigious merlot-dominant 2007 St Emilion is drinking beautifully right now. It might be a lighter vintage but this wine has a surprisingly full rich palate. It also has soft acidity, sweet, red, cherry fruits, mellow smooth tannins and nutty, coffee undertones. Serve with roast beef or roast turkey.
Languedoc, Southern France: CUMULO NIMBUS MINERVOIS 2011 Abbotts & Delaunay
(£16.99, exclusive to Averys, www.averys.com)
From an excellent little boutique winery in Marseillette near Carcassonne run by Laurent Delaunay, this would suit those who usually like New World fruit ripeness. This award-winning Minervois has really opulent ripe fruit, spicy undertones and silky smooth well-integrated tannins. It’s a pretty grenache/syrah blend that would match well with turkey.
Maremma, S Tuscany: FERTUNA PACTIO 2011
(£15, Virgin Wines, www.virginwines.co.uk)
This is an inexpensive super-Tuscan from the recently revived Maremma region of southern Tuscany, south of Siena and Montalcino. Sangiovese, the same grape as chianti, is mixed here with cabernet sauvignon and merlot in this memorable blend. It has a delicious red cherry and tea leaf nose with a riper fruit palate than chianti. Try with roast lamb, guinea fowl or mature cheeses.
CÔte de Beaune: VOLNAY PREMIER CRU CHEVRETS 2005 Domaine Henri Boillot
(£42, The Wine Society)
For those who adore a good red Burgundy: a combination of the superb ripe 2005 vintage and the great craftsmanship of Henri Boillot. Amazing considering he does not own his own vineyards, but clearly sources his grapes well from meticulously maintained vines. This is spicy, earthy pinot noir with good minerality and it’s now deliciously mellow – it would match with roast salmon, pheasant, roast veal or even roast turkey.
NEW WORLD CLASSICS
Stellenbosch, South Africa: GLENELLY LADY MAY 2010
(£23, Marks & Spencer)
This is a very elegant Bordeaux blend from a new Glenelly winery on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch set up by May-Elaine de Lencquesaing, next door to popular Rustenberg. May-Elaine used to own one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious Pauillac second growth chateaux, Pichon Lalande – when she sold up she headed to the beautiful Cape. Predominantly (90 per cent) cabernet sauvignon with 24 months in French oak, this is one of the most elegant Bordeaux-style reds I have tasted from South Africa. Try with slow cooked roast lamb.
Amador County, California: EASTON ZINFANDEL 2012
(£18.99, Luvians, Cupar/St Andrews; St Andrews Wine Co)
Former winemerchant Bill Easton is now winemaker at his own Domaine de la Terre Rouge in the Sierra foothills. He makes this spicy, dense French-oaked zinfandel from his mountain vineyards with their decomposed granite soils. This old gold mining area of Amador County is now home to some of the oldest zinfandel vines in California and usually produces the plumpest most concentrated forms of this grape – peppery, earthy with dark black fruits.
Marlborough, New Zealand: LAY OF THE LAND BEN MORVEN FARM PINOT NOIR 2013 (£12.99 bt, Naked Angels price or £18.99 bt, Naked Wines)
Mike Paterson is a winemaker for a well-known Marlborough winery, but he also wanted to make wine under his own label. With ‘angel’ funding through Naked Wines, he has created a very juicy, liquorice-toned pinot. It’s just what you expect from Marlborough with its pure sweet notes, less earthy than Martinborough and less elegant than Central Otago. Produced from a single vineyard, dry grown (no irrigation) and farmed organically, it’s very easy to drink and a pretty good price for a Kiwi pinot – if you are an angel. Perfect with roast lamb.
Adelaide Hills, Australia: OLD PLAINS LONGHOP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012
(£14.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com)
This was hugely popular at our tasting – very ripe, intense blackfruit, succulent and luscious mouthfeel made by old school friends Tim Freeland and Domenic Torzi of Old Plains winery. Here they have a mix of 50-year-old vine fruit from Adelaide Hills blended with 15-year-old high altitude grown vines from the Mount Lofty Ranges to freshen up the blend. Classy, elegant and not too pricey, the only thing I didn’t really like was the packaging which made it look cheap, but the name will amuse cricketers, I guess.
• Join Rose at her Premier Cru & Grand Cru Champagne & Burgundy Masterclass in Edinburgh on 29 April, www.rosemurraybrown.com