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Saturday, 18 December 2021

Three Christmas Wines - Retro, Old Classic, New Classic

Three Christmas wines - Retro, Old Classic, New Classic

I've long argued that Christmas is not a time for wild experimentation or straying too far out of your comfort zone.

With multi-generational family gatherings, lots of cooking and the general weight of expectation, I prefer to reduce the stress levels by keeping wine choices fairly simple.

The most straightforward approach can be simply to have slightly better versions of what you normally drink - with plenty of it to go round.

Here are three wines for Christmas that meet that requirement and should keep all-but-the-fussiest of drinkers happy.

The retro choice - pale cream sherry

Sherry has been enjoying something of a revival, but pale cream remains an anomaly.

Stuck in something of a time-warp, pale cream was only created as a category in the late 20th century but remains something that only one's parents or even grandparents drink.

Essentially a sweetened fino, it is an easier sipper than bone-dry sherries, but like its darker, more complex sibling Cream Sherry, it has not quite managed to shake off its "Maiden Aunt" image, which is a pity as it is a lovely accompaniment to all sorts of slightly sweeter foods.

Croft Original Sherry (£12, The Co-op)

yeasty flor, blossom, white pepper and baked white stone fruits; honey, baked apples with sweet spice, white flowers and candied pineapple; warming, substantial, unctuous and complex, yet also mellow and harmonious.


Serve as a strong-sweet aperitif or match with blue cheese, roasted nuts such as Brazils, melon and parma ham or rich pâté, such as goose liver.

Also consider:

- spicy chorizo or in a Martini in lieu of Vermouth

The Old-School Classic - Bordeaux

Red Bordeaux was my first oenological love and it's a wine I just keep coming back to for its food-friendly, savoury freshness, complexity and aging potential.

Crus Bourgeois are the better wines of the Médoc sub-region of the Left Bank before you get into the stratospheric prices of the Classed Growths; expect just a bit more of everything but without the trophy-wine price tag.

These wine rub shoulders with some of the greatest and most expensive wines you can buy - and it shows.

Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, 2018 (£17.50, The Co-op)

Vintage matters in Bordeaux perhaps more than anywhere else apart from Burgundy; 2018 is generally considered an exceptional year that favoured the red wines with plenty of warmth.

black cherry and dark plum fruit with complex spice and woodsy sous bois; ripe bramble fruits, raspberry, blackcurrant and plum with minty liquorice and peppery spice; fresh, savoury and supple; long and complex with perfect ripe, very well-integrated tannins

Very Good.

Drinks nicely with plenty of fruit to the fore on first pouring; improves with aeration and has the ability to age.

Match with plain roast red meats or toad-in-the-hole.

The New Classic - Languedoc

From Europe's wine lake to perhaps France's most exciting and innovative region. And almost certainly once of its best-value areas, also scoring well for reliability given its plentiful sunshine.

Languedoc just keeps getting better and better.

Domaine Gayda's first vintage was less than 20 years ago; this 2019 is two-thirds Syrah with one-third Grenache plus some Cinsault making up the balance.

The wine is aged for 21 months in oak in a range of sizes and ages.

Domaine Gayda Chemin de Moscou 2019 (£25, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents)

dark purple with complex dark fruits, scrubby garrigue herbs, spice and leathery sous bois; full, supple and fresh with an inky texture, red and black fruits, violets, complex spices and cool mint; plush yet firm; harmonious with well-rounded tannins. Very long.

Very Good.

Drinks nicely with plenty of fruit to the fore on first pouring; improves with aeration and has the ability to age.

Match with garlic-and-rosemary lamb or chicken with a sage-and-sausagemeat stuffing.

The first two wines are currently on special offer at The Co-op until January 4th, 2022 :

Croft Original Sherry - reduced to £10.50 
Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, 2018 - reduced to £16.50

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