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Red Wines for Christmas

In the second of our Christmas special posts, the spotlight goes on red wines - ranging from the the traditional to new world stars like a malbec made by a French family in Argentina.

Having looked at impressive sweeties and fortified wines last week, today it is the turn of reds for the Christmas lunch table.

In compiling the list, I have made two assumptions – we need to be pretty traditional in our selections and, being a season of indulgence, folk are prepared to spend a bit more on their wine at this time of the year.

Being MidWeek Wines though, the lion’s share of the recommendations are available in High Street stores as we recognise that accessibility is important too.

In addition, four new world wines have been included as well as the more traditional fare.

Remember that many featured wines now have a hyperlink to the retailer’s website for all the reasons I set out down the page in a recent Top Tip.

As ever, use any available pictures to help you find the wine on a crowded shelf – which is not always as easy as it seems.

Let’s start with shiraz – but a restrained one

This is a lovely shiraz made by the impressive McWilliams operation in the Hunter Valley, but – despite the considerable heat there – the style here is surprisingly restrained.

Medium bodied with limited tannin, 2015 Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz (£10 – instead of £12 until 3 January -at the Co-op and 13.5% abv) has blackberry and raspberry fruit supported by hints of cinnamon and a lively acidity.

But Australia is not all about shiraz

In most minds Barossa and shiraz are inextricably linked but more than 15 other red varieties are grown there and third (by volume) is grenache which, here, leads a classic Rhone GSM blend – that contains a surprisingly high proportion of mouvedre.

Intense with firm (but proportionate) tannin 2017 Taste the Difference Chateau Tanunda Barossa Red (£12 – instead of £14 until 1 January – at Sainsbury’s and 14%) has bright cherry and loganberry fruit with good acidity, attractive sweet edges and a background that includes cinnamon and vanilla.

Moving now to New Zealand

While Central Otago grabs most of the pinot noir headlines, other parts of New Zealand’s South Island are also producing presentable versions, often with more affordable price tags – Marlborough is one as is North Canterbury, home to this particular offering.

This wine may be moving on to the next vintage around Christmas time

2016 Catherine’s Block Pinot Noir (£19.95 at www.davywine.co.uk and 13.5%) has ripe raspberry and cherry fruit with good acidity, hints of chocolate and that delightful earthy depth that can make pinot noir so enticing.

Don’t forget malbec – especially when it’s this good

As the name of this wine suggests, it is made by a family that emigrated from France about 20 years to combine some French winemaking techniques with the climate in Argentina and, in this case, in some of the very high vineyards – at Tupungato.

This may be moving on to the 2017 vintage around Christmas time

Inky dark, 2015 Domaine Bousquet Malbec Grand Reserve (£22.50 at www.davywine.co.uk and 14.5%) has dense black cherry and loganberry fruit with sharp acidity, suggestions of cloves and herbs but surprisingly soft tannin.

Now for the Old World

This first of today’s clarets is a cabernet led blend (with a dab or two of cabernet franc and petit verdot as well as merlot) from a Crus Bourgeois producer in the Haut-Medoc and made in a thoroughly modern style.

With especially well defined fruit 2016 Chateau Senejac (£15 – instead of £17 until 3 January – at the Co-op and 13.5%) offers ripe blackcurrant, prune and elderberry flavours with touches of caramel, eucalyptus and cinnamon plus that lovely graphite savouriness claret does well but only limited tannin.

And another claret

Our other claret is from an older (and very tricky) vintage and from an area further south (Pessac-Leognan).

It emanates from a historically important property which is now in the hands of the Yvon Mau house – with whom Tesco seem to have a forged an excellent working relationship.

Note the depth, balance and savoury backdrop to 2013 Chateau Brown (£20 at Tesco and 13%) which also has herbal influenced plum and cherry fruit with vanilla and baking spice touches and relatively firm tannin.   

 Where Beaujolais meets Burgundy  

With Burgundy prices still at a high level, it is wise to have a few alternatives in mind (that Christchurch pinot is one) but it is noteworthy how some of the top Beaujolais Crus get quite Burgundian results from the gamay grape – as you can see in this version from Morgon where some of the region’s spicier and most robust options are found.

Graphite depth and nippy acidity come  together nicely in 2017 Domaine Dominique Piron Morgon Cȏte du Py (£16 at www.thewinesociety.com and 13.5%) where raspberry and damson fruit are nicely supported by a chocolate background that has herb influences too.

Well priced Chateauneuf (not words often seen together)

It is interesting to see how canny wine buyers have moved away from Chateauneuf du Pape to explore the similar but good value options in areas like Vacqueyras and Gigondas but, here, Tesco have found a tasty, well priced example from Chateauneuf itself.

Soft with nice sweet edges 2017 Finest Chateauneuf du Pape (£18 at Tesco and 14.5%) brings us ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit with firm acidity, balanced tannin, touches of mocha and savoury herbs.  

Not forgetting Christmas Rioja

Another traditional Christmas lunch favourite is Rioja – especially if something other than turkey is on the menu – and here is a splendid Reserva (the second highest category in that region’s firm but helpful hierarchy).

An Award winner in the IWC and DWWA competitions, 2015 Cune Imperial Rioja Reserva (£20 – instead of £22 until 5 January – at Morrisons and 14%) has well defined blackberry and cherry fruit, nippy acidity, firm tannin, suggestions of clove and a lovely mineral depth.

Ah! Amarone

What a joy well-made Amarone can be, repaying (with ample interest) the time spent drying the grapes, using a long, slow fermentation period and maturing the finished wine for a lengthy period.

This is part of a special parcel Morrisons have acquired so may not be in all stores but should be available online before Christmas.

Luxurious (and inevitably expensive) 2011 Sartori Amarone Corte Bra (£30- instead of £35 until 2 January – at Morrisons and 15.5%) has smooth bramble jelly and cherry fruit with firm acidity and limited tannin but carefully balanced by a chocolate and plum stone depth.

Finishing in Burgundy (where else?)

Finally to Burgundy – for many the last word in the indulgence that makes Christmas our last surviving feast day – and to Chambolle-Musigny, famed for its combination of power and delicacy, that sits at the top end of the Southern Cȏte de Nuit.

I am warned, incidentally, that stocks of this wine are not plentiful.

Soft and with balanced tannin, 2017 Chambolle Musigny (£40 at M&S and 13.5%) has minty raspberry fruit with considerable depth and a background of chocolate, herbs and a whiff of cola-like influences.

Next week we move on from reds to recommend whites that I think will help make your Christmas extra special.

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