Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Richard Esling December 8
Perhaps not in terms of the weather, even though it has been pretty chilly of late.
But in terms of white wines for Christmas, there is plenty to choose from. With advances in technology and winemaking techniques in the last thirty years, poorly made white wines are now largely a thing of the past – there are just a lot more grades of ‘good’. With such a global offering of wines, a tome the size of Tolstoy’s War and Peace would not be sufficient space, so I am going traditional in order to recommend just a few wines from our closest and dearest wine-producing neighbour - France.
Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps the most ‘in vogue’ white grape variety today and is produced all around the world, often associated with wines from New Zealand. Its original home, however, is France and the style and character of the wine is quite different. The central part of the Loire Valley is perfect for Sauvignon and one of the best sub-regions is that of Pouilly Fumé, on the opposite side of the valley to Sancerre.
One of the most highly respected French white wines, it has a particular mineral character, with aromas and flavours slightly reminiscent of smoke, hence the name. The flinty, limestone soils and cool climate give perfect growing conditions. The Wine Society’s Exhibition Pouilly Fumé epitomises the character of this wine. Fresh, dry, with crisp acidity, gooseberry and flinty-mineral flavours and an elegant finish. Longer ageing on the fine lees imparts greater finesse and complexity. Another benchmark wine is their Domaine Seguin at £14.50, in case the other has proved too popular and is low on stock.
One of the top estates in the Pouilly Fumé appellation is the 80 acre Chateau de Tracy. Producing outstanding wines from around £23 per bottle, some of the special cuvées are exceptional. Chateau de Tracy Haute Densité 2018 is a highly concentrated wine, the vines being planted so close together that only one glass of wine is produced per vine. Made in very limited quantity and available on-line from Millesima at around £45 - £48 per bottle. Tremendous depth of flavour and length.
Another of the classic wines at this time of year is burgundy. In our house Christmas isn’t Christmas without a decent white burgundy. If you like the oaked style of Burgundian chardonnay, look no further than Edouard Delaunay Septembre Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018/19. Delicious buttery chardonnay, with hints of vanilla, hazelnuts and lemon peel. Barrel fermented with stirring of the lees to impart extra flavour, this is exceptionally good value white Burgundy. Majestic £14.99 or an amazing £10.99 mix 6 price.
But if you prefer the unoaked style of white burgundy, The Wine Society comes up trumps once more. Chateau de Beauregard 2018 is from Le Vernay Saint Véran – another of my favourite regions – and is tank fermented to preserve the fresh fruit flavours. Crisp and appealing, with enough body to pair with roast chicken or turkey. £16.50. Perfect also with a variety of seafood – scallops with black pudding, giant prawns and garlic mayonnaise or pan-fried wild seabass fillets. Dream on…..!