The Lull Before The Storm....
Giles offers some sound advice for Christmas wine shopping
You know there are times when I miss the wine trade. The people are generally a delightful bunch, if a trifle obsessed with what goes into their glasses and ultimately down their throats, and you get to taste a lot of very jolly things that you wouldn't otherwise have the chance, or more realistically, the cash to take a look at. For all that though as soon as I start to see the leaves change and the weather turn cool I start to lose the rose coloured specs and remember that the wine trade has one massive downside; its called Christmas.
Whilst customers are busy putting up bunting, buying turkey's that look like their mother's have formed too close relations with a passing troupe of elephants and trying to find the one of only three PS3's in the country (good luck out there!) the wine trade are breaking their backs to get enough booze in boxes to satisfying the demand bought about the entire world deciding they are going to see what life is like for the average soak for a week or so...My apologies, a bad back and memories of dark hours with a tape gun die hard!
Before the bun fight kicks off however (ah the point at last!) things go very quiet on the wine scene, save for the distant sound of the rainforest dying as Laithwaites prepare to mail you into submission and goof offers get a little thin on the ground. But for those such as I for who wine is for life and not just for Christmas help is at hand as I countdown five wines that no autumn should be without. 'Bullseye' music if you will...
INNN One: It's German, its riesling, it's got a tiny amount of residual sugar and its brilliant, it's the Dr L 2005 (Sainsbury's £5.99) This gem of a wine is made by the great Ernest Loosen (don't mention the fact that its father that's the doctor, it upsets him!) from his extensive holdings in the Rheingau, Rheinhessen et al. Now don't be put off, this is a seriously good wine and terrific with food - try it with poached Salmon or grilled mackerel or creamy poultry. The freshness of acidity (think Chablis/Sancere) and the bushels of green apple and grape fruit make for a clean, refreshing and stunningly elegant glassful at a price that is almost too good to be true.
INNN Two: It's French, its chardonnay (no it's proper chardonnay) and it's from Burgundy (see, told you it was the real thing) it's the Montagny Vieilles Vignes 2004, Cuvee Speciale Buxy (£6.99 Majestic). This big, creamy, nuts and peaches driven wine is from the south of Burgundy in the Maconnaise district. This is wine that was just created to go with soft cheeses, roast pork or just on its own as an evening sipper.
INNN Three: It's Spanish, its palamino fino, its drier than my drinks cabinet during lent and though you might not think so it goes spectacularly well with food, it's Tio Pepe (widely available £7.99). Sherry, once the preserve of the vicar and the every neglected sideboard, has had a bit of renaissance over the last few years and if sherry is now sexy then Tio Pepe is the Kate Moss of the sherry world. Firm, full bodied and bursting with tones of almonds, grapefruit and citrus it's like a good sauvignon blanc...only it tastes of something!
INNN Four: It's Spanish, its tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo and probably some graciano for colour and backbone; it's the Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2004 (£5.68 based on six Tesco.com) Rioja doesn't come more does what it says on the label than this. Rich, velvety and carrying amble weight, this raspberry and cranberry soaked wine is one for the Sunday roast or a hearty casserole or if you are Ernest Hemmingway then milk fed lamb eaten with your fingers.
INNN Five: It's Argentinean, it malbec and it's a bargain! It's the Argento Malbec 2005 (Majestic £3.99 for two or more or Sainsbury's, Oddbins, Wine Society et al £4.99). Years go by, pre- the 2001 vintage I think, I was not a big fan of this wine. It was big and bold as it is now, but it was also quite astringent and a little lean. Since then they have, I suspect, allowed the fermentation temperatures to rise a touch and as such have produced a wine of more extract and lower, softer acidity. Whatever the case what we have now is a wine of unctuous texture, soft, jammy red and black fruits and easygoing acidity. Whatever the case you get a lot (if anyone gets that joke please mail!) of wine for the money.
INNN Six: Last but not least its South African, its grenache, syrah (shiraz) and a half dozen others that space doesn't allow me to list and its got a name that landed it in court, it's the Goats do Roam in Villages 2005 (£5.99 Majestic, Oddbins, Threshers et al). Silly name, great wine, a good Cotes du Rhone given the New World treatment by the ever-inventive Charles Back - one for the red meat and cheese fans me thinks.
PS Don't forget the Boughton wine tasting on the 9th December. Tickets are already selling fast so please mail me on email@example.com for details.