Not everyone can enjoy Christmas Day at Hotel du Vin with the help of a Sommelier to choose their wines, so we thought we would bring the Sommelier to you this year with some Christmas wine buying tips for your celebrations.
A tradition in our house has always been to have a glass of fizz in the morning with some smoked salmon for breakfast. Very civilised I’m sure you’ll agree, but what’s the best tipple to wash down your smoked salmon? It’s got to be bubbles, and I would look no further than Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Champagne. At £20 per bottle it’s great value and is a white champagne made only from lightly pressed black grapes. It has a wonderful freshness that will complement the Salmon superbly.
A glass of pink fizz would work very well too, and a great value way of buying quality sparkling wine is to buy a Cremant or Cava rather than a Champagne. At Hotel du Vin we have a beautiful, pink Mayerling ‘Cremant de Alsace’ by Cave de Turckheim. Pale salmon in colour, it's a lovely, light and fresh bubbly. Strawberries and cream soda on the nose, the mouthfeel is clean, dry and fresh. Cremant is a sparkling wine that must be made in a specific, classified area and, like champagne or indeed Cava, the secondary fermentation must take place in the bottle. This means when you make Champagne or Cava or Cremant, the bubbles are formed by adding yeast to a still wine in the bottle, this is called ‘méthode traditionnelle’ or ‘traditional method’. Conversely, with prosecco all the fermentation takes place in a stainless steel tank before bottling so is much simpler, and therefore cheaper to produce. With our ‘traditional method’ sparkling wines, the yeast ferments under pressure, gas is formed but can't escape so is retained in the wine and makes it fizzy. The sediment is then tipped into the neck of the bottle and frozen so it pops out like a cork leaving the clean, clean nectar behind. If you do get a chance to pop into Hotel du Vin over Christmas, do give our pink Cremant a try.
Moving on to the main event, what wine to go with Turkey? Does white meat always mean white wine? Your own opinions will vary, and so will those of your guests. So let’s pick both a white and a beautiful red to keep everyone happy.
For the white I would suggest splashing out on something from Burgundy - a silky smooth Puligny Montrachet from Ocado at £24.95. The Le Clos du Château de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Blanc will give you great bang for your buck; ripe peach and citrus with toasty complexity, this delightful drop will marry perfectly with your Turkey and roasted vegetables. If you are looking for a more reasonable alternative then - believe it or not - Aldi’s Limoux Chardonnay from their Exquisite Collection would also work very well, especially at only £6.99 per bottle. Limoux is in the South of France, very near to the walled city of Carcassonne and is the second most famous Chardonnay producing region in France after Burgundy. Thankfully, the prices are less famous too. It is here, in Limoux, and not Champagne, where the first ever sparkling wine was produced by monks in 1531.
When we go red we won’t go far wrong by heading to the same region of France. We don’t want a wine heavy in tannins (the puckering, dry mouth feel you get from a wine full of structure, akin to drinking strong tea with no milk) instead, we want something with soft smooth tannins, some fruit flavour and a freshness to match the cranberry sauce and stand up to the pigs in blankets. How about then, a nice drop of Beaujolais from the South of Burgundy? In Beaujolais it is the gamay grape that is used and produces a wonderful, light and fruity wine. Much better value than the sexier, more Northern wines of Burgundy (Pinot Noir of Gevrey Chambertin for example). You will find a number of great Beaujolais examples in the Supermarket for under £10 but I recommend a Fleurie from Waitrose by Bouchard Pere et Fils. We have a wonderful Château de Belleverne, Beaujolais, from a village called Chénas on our Hotel du Vin Wine list at the moment that is going down a storm. Chénas is one of ten Cru classe villages in the region (others include Fleurie, Brouilly, Morgon, Julienas and Moulin-a-vent ) and is named after chênaies, the dense oak forests which were all over the Beaujolais region before Philippe V ordered them all to be cut down to make room for grapevines.
Now what to go with your Christmas pud? Well, I’m cracking out the Port and what better way to finish than with a 20 year old Graham’s Tawny Port. At £36.49 a bottle from Waitrose, this would be a cracking purchase. A blend of many vintages aged in oak. Flavours of walnut, dried fruit and orange will marry perfectly with your quintessential Christmas Pudding finish but will also work amazingly well with mince pies.
Wishing you all a very special Christmas and a peaceful New Year . . Cheers!