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Ben's Christmas Tips

Christmas is coming and, whether your goose is getting fat or you are vegetarian, it is time to decide what you will be drinking with your Yuletide feast. There are so many wines to choose from and it can be difficult to find what you want without breaking the bank only to find that the expensive treat does not match the food and might as well have been water.

Here are my favourite wines to have during the festive season and, especially, the best food matches.

With the aperitif, with turkey, with beef and let's not forget the sweet wines!

Sparkling and Aperitif

For a great many people, a sparkling wine is an absolute necessity for celebration and Christmas is no exception. I have also included a couple of still wines for those who prefer not to drink bubbles.

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Sekt Mathäi, Stift Klosterneuburg - Special Sparkling Chardonnay from Austria. This is a great way to have all the enjoyment of Champagne but at a better price. As it is 100% Chardonnay, it will allow for Buck’s Fizz as well as being delicious on its own. £21.60

 

Blanc de Blancs Brut, Domaine de Maison Blanche – If you are pushing the boat out, I advise you to go Swiss with this fantastic sparkling Chardonnay from the talented Yves de Mestral. It is crisp and lovely and very fizzy! £31.86

Blanc de Blancs Demi-Sec, Domaine de Maison Blanche – For absolute decadence you must have some of this wonderful creation. The Brut (above) is lovely and this slightly sweet version is divine. The aroma of elderflower is heady and exciting and the flavours are incredible. Drink it as an aperitif of as a dessert wine with lemon based puddings. £31.86

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Perle Rouge, Domaine Matray – Sparkling Red! Yes, this is a sparkling Gamay from Beaujolais. For those who love to have fizz with their Turkey, this is the perfect choice. Not only that but with the addition of a drop, or two, of sloe gin this creates the most amazing Christmas cocktail. It smells and tastes of Christmas! £16.80

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Doral “Expression”, Cave de la Côte – Not sparkling! This relatively new grape was created at the end of the Twentieth Century and is already a hit. It is a delightful wine to have as an aperitif as well as a great accompaniment to fish or cheese. £18.98

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Graacher Himmelsreich Riesling Spätlese 2009, Philipps-Eckstein – Not sparkling! A gorgeous dry Riesling from the Mosel which is made from late harvest grapes. It is complex and aromatic and a perfect festive aperitif. £16.20

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Wines with Turkey

AS anyone who has discussed wine with me will know, I am an ardent advocate for the Gamay grape as the perfect match for a Turkey Christmas dinner. It is the one grape that will consistently hold its flavour against all the conflicting flavours of Christmas Day without the flavour of the food being altered. That said, Gamay is not the only fruit!

Red

Fleurie 2009, Domaine Gravallon-Lathulière – My top pick for Gamay must be Beaujolais Cru and, of those, Fleurie. The greatest year in living memory is still 2009 and this is a perfect example. £14.39

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Julienas "Vieilles Vignes" 2009, Domaine Matray – This wine, from old vines, spends 10 months in oak so it has a soft vanilla creaminess to it. It is a stunning wine. £15.30

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Gamay du Chablais Vaudois 2009, Badoux Vins – Switzerland loves Gamay as much as, if not more, than France and this would be an excellent choice giving everything that a good Gamay should with the added interest of its origins. £20.60

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White

Roussette de Savoie Altesse 2013, Domaine St Germain – This is a beautifully complex wine, made from the Altesse grape, that matches perfectly with any white meat and is an excellent accompaniment to Turkey. £17.35

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Paien 2012, Simon Maye et Fils – This is a choice that is intended to spoil you and any guests. The lovely Swiss grape, Heida, is complemented with a touch of oak and it is smooth, creamy, aromatic and bursting with wild, exciting aromas and flavours. £45.17

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Wines with Beef

Beef requires a very different style of wine than Turkey. It is best to look for something with a good tannic structure as that helps to soften the fat of the meat in your mouth which, in turn, helps to release more of the fruit flavours of the wine.

Red

Cabernet Fût de Chêne 9/9 2011, La Cave de Genève – This is a big blend of several different Cabernet varieties, the principal one being Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a splendid piece of Swiss wine engineering to create an almost black concentrated wine. £24.82

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Cabernet Franc 2007, Margalit – Wonderful Cabernet Franc from a cult Israeli vineyard. What could be more perfect for Christmas than a wine from Judea? It is absolutely fabulous! £37.61

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Cornalin "Champmarais" 2008, Cave Jean-René Germanier – If you are choosing the best beef for Christmas then it deserves the best wine. This is a phenomenal wine made from a rare grape, Cornalin, by one of Switzerland’s best winemakers, Gilles Besse. Treat it with reverence and awe and wallow in the wonder of this perfect pairing.

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White

Sauvignon Blanc Quercus 2012, Weinhof Waldschütz – This is a well oaked, big wine that is perfect for matching with red meat, including beef. Watch out for the high alcohol! £22.20

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Chardonnay 2005, Mystery Creek – Mature New Zealand Chardonnay at its very best. Ten months in oak give this a full body and a lot of fruit. A lovely alternative to Chablis. £13.78

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Sweet Wines

Remember that sweet wines are not exclusively for dessert purposes but can be excellent as aperitifs and as accompaniment to salty snacks and savoury starters. Here are a few which span the sweetness levels from light to syrup!

Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese 2011, Philipps-Eckstein – With 92 g/L of residual sugar, this is quite sweet. It is, however, one of the most wonderful Rieslings I have ever tasted. It is rich and deep and is, to me, the very quintessence of the Riesling grape. Perfect at any stage of the meal and especially with a fruit salad. £25.90

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Mitis Amigne de Vétroz 2010, Cave Jean-René Germanier - A full-bodied sweet wine made from late harvest Amigne, with a lovely gold colour and a sublime bouquet of quince, honey, whiffs of orange peel and a touch of vanilla. This is Swiss heaven and perfect with foie gras, blue cheeses and fruit. £41.15

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Trockenbeerenauslese Welschriesling 2006, Josef Lentsch – This is the top of the shop for sweetness! On the palate it is beginning to taste a lot like Christmas with dried and crystallised fruits in abundance. The honey is exceptional and, although this is quite a viscous wine, the texture is not cloying. The finish is very long and filled with fruit and sweetness.

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