It’s easy to feel sick of Christmas before it’s even started. Shops are so desperate to tap into your Christmas spirit by piping the same stale old songs ad nauseam that by the time the actual event rolls around, most of us have built up an immunity to even the simple charms of tinsel and fairy lights.
When you feel like you’ve lost your Christmas twinkle, there’s nothing like a glass of wine or three to bring back your seasonal sparkle. Here’s a list of reds and whites that are guaranteed to get you back into the mood.
If you’re looking for a robust red to couple with red meats and rich cranberry sauces, your instinct might be to reach for a classic French wine with a picture of a fancy chateau on the front. But those after a quality tipple would do well to try out a Californian number instead. The sun-kissed region is well capable of producing wines to equal the complexity and elegance of Bordeaux’s most famous labels.
Take Vine Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 (¥6,805 from www.iwine.jp), a wine with wonderful pippy bramble fruit flavors and a hint of blood orange. Dark and juicy, it would go great with a full-on Christmas dinner.
If you’d like to try something a bit lighter than a heavy-hitting Cabernet, go for Grgich Hills Zinfandel Napa Valley 2007 (¥5,995 from www.iwinejp ). It’s a great example of the spiciness of the Zinfandel grape; exceptionally smooth, this one is best drunk young.
Even less complicated, but still charming, is Pepperwood Grove Merlot 2008 (¥1,395 from www.iwinejp ). Warm and round, oozing blackcurranty scents and soft tannins, it’s a gluggable treat that’s perfect to take to a party.
If you, like Woody Allen, balk at the idea of a Californian Christmas, there are plenty of bargains to be found in France. It’s even possible to buy something reasonably priced from Bordeaux. I like Cha^teau Boutet Mercier Cuvee Prestige Bordeaux (¥1,300 from Odakyu department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo), which displays nice licorice and plum flavors. Its slightly rough tannins that can overpower the fruit in the mouth are compensated with a hint of oak in the palate.
Of course, if you’re prepared to splash out a little bit more, you can get a glass of something much more accomplished. Mademoiselle L Haut Medoc 2006 (¥3,500 from Odakyu) has a scintillating dash of spice that warms up the rich fruit flavors. A hint of fennel suggests that this would make a good match with veggie dinner, say a succulent nut roast.
If you’re looking for a red blended wine from outside of France then I highly recommend Antiyal Kuyen Maipo Valley 2006 (¥2,950 from www.iwinejp ). At the small-scale biodynamic concern in Chile run by Alvaro Espinoza, a great deal of skill and care has gone into the production of this blend, which contains 55 percent Syrah, 35 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Carmenere. Right now it’s got some mouthwatering savory flavors of almonds and sesame accompanying a blueberry fruit core. If you can hold off, this one will mature into something even more delicious over the next few years, making it a great gift.
Rich Christmas food deserves equally robust wine, and they don’t come more imposing than a plump but powerful Italian wine such as Balbium Rosso Terre di Balbia (¥4,200 from kkvinarius.com ). This one has great damson fruit oomph produced by the indigenous Calabria grape and has acquired full operatic gravitas after being aged in oak for 12 months.
There’s nothing like the summery whiff of an elegant Chardonnay to melt the frost from your toes on white snowy nights. If you’re after a really special Chardonnay, try Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay 2008 (¥2,660 from www.iwinejp ). A brilliant production from the maestro’s vineyard, this wine is golden hay yellow and displays a pea-pod freshness over classic Chardonnay melon and peach flavors. Delicate and elegant, it has a faint peach blossom scent that will have you recalling warmer days.
Also from California is Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros Napa Valley 2008 (¥3,495 from www.iwinejp ). Floral and fruity, this has cantaloupe, peach, white flower and yellow rose flavors. Slightly candied with a great length in the mouth, this wine is exceptionally well balanced.
For those who prefer a more muted and classic Chardonnay, Berry Bros. and Rudd do a nice line in reasonable — considering the region — Burgundies made by promising young winemakers. My favorite is the Meursault by Syvain Loichet from 2006 (¥5,080 from www.bbr.com ). Golden colored, a sniff reveals hints of mint leaf and wild heather. In the mouth it’s buttery with a slight hint of burned caramel. This one would match well with slices of jam on on a crusty loaf, best consumed, of course, on a rug in front of a warming fire, or if that’s not possible, sprawled out on the floor in front of the electric heater will do.
Riffing on the Chardonnay theme is Cordillera 2008 Miguel Torres Chili, (¥2,000 from Kinokuniya International, Aoyama, Tokyo): 85 percent Chardonnay and 15 percent Viognier makes for a lovely concoction of yummy melon and violet flavors with a faint hint of licorice to add interest.
Another distinctive wine is Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris 2009 (¥1,850 from www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/wineuki ), which displays ripe pear fruit coupled with yeasty bread crust flavors. The refreshing acidity makes it a great pairing for lighter white chicken or fish dishes.
If you’re fond of bone-dry whites, try Vernaccia di san Gimignano 2009 (¥2,625 Vinarius): A great scent of newly mown hay accompanies nice, light citrus flavors. Nice and light, this one would work well with an entree.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, I recommend Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halbtrocken Emrich- Schonleber 2004 (¥2,480 from www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/wineuki ): Magnolias and lilacs bloom on the nose of this slightly sweet late-harvest wine.
Hopefully this list of Christmas crackers will help you get your twinkle back. And once you’re back in the spirit of things, don’t forget to leave out a glass of something nice for Santa too.
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