Why I'm still dreaming of a white Christmas...
Which wine should we be sipping with the turkey on the 25th? It's natural enough to suppose that something hearty and red is the default choice. But this year, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.
I promise that serious white wines can make a fabulous pairing with the traditional seasonal meal. White is the obvious choice with smoked salmon or shellfish, but this can be equally so with roast turkey and Christmas pudding.
In my dreams, these are some of the wines (as pictured), all from the classic regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux in France, that I would choose...
Simmonet-Febvre Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2010 (Waitrose, £17.99) will be just the ticket with a starter of smoked salmon or shellfish. Chablis is the northernmost outpost of the Burgundy vineyard zones and makes appropriately crisp, cool-climate dry white wines from the universal regional grape variety, the chardonnay. This one, from vines in a prime hillside site, is a classic flinty-mineral Chablis with stimulating apple-lime fruit. Pure class.
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Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru 2010 (Waitrose £29.99) from a lushly named village appellation of the Côte de Beaune is the kind of white burgundy I think about, but seldom get to try. This is already drinking well, rich in colour and with a nutty, peachy plumpness in ideal balance to the ripe-apple acuity of the chardonnay grape on home territory. Luxury in a glass, and the most consoling partner to the desiccated delights of roast turkey.
Louis Latour Château de Blagny Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru 2009 is really rather good value by burgundy standards, at £30 from Majestic. The Château de Blagny is a monopole, an individual estate, owned by leading Burgundy producer Louis Latour in the tiny Meursault-Blagny appellation midway between the villages of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. Colour is lemon gold, texture borders on oily, a sinful sumptuousness of weight. In what I call the oxidative style, it's a young wine from a great vintage, 2009 – very ripe. It's still developing but already mellow, complex and thought-provoking, with a lick of caramel richness from new-oak contact counterpointed with the apple and citrus freshness of the chardonnay fruit.
Lions de Suduiraut 2009 from Averys of Bristol at £15.99 for a half bottle is an ambrosial dessert wine from the princely premier cru classé Château Suduiraut of Sauternes in Bordeaux. At well under half the price of the Suduiraut grand vin itself, it is honeyed and rich, and lighter in weight than is usual for Sauternes – a feature much in its favour, I believe. A fabulous aperitif wine with olives or salty nuts, as well as an excellent substitute for Christmas pudding.
The catch, of course, is that these wines are a shade on the pricy side – although all the above are, I believe, fairly priced for the quality and class they deliver. By no means all such wines are sensible value at all.
On a more everyday budget, you can find some sterling Christmas chardonnays.
For starters, The Co-operative Chablis 2010, currently cut from £9.99 to £8.49 in most Co-op outlets, is a bit of a bargain. Bright with mineral freshness and a sleek rush of fruit, it is made by the dependable Jean Marc Brocard. This is that rare bird – an authentic Chablis for under a tenner.
From Chile, Leyda Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 at £10.99 at Majestic, reduced to £8.79 if you buy any two Chilean wines, is a lush yellow wine not at all unlike grand white burgundy. And Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009 (Tesco £11.99), also from Chile, strikes me as Meursault-like in its plush complexity and ripeness; clever stuff.
For the end of the meal, Chateau St Amand Sauternes at Morrisons, down from £10.19 to £6.79, is a nicely poised sweetie with honey richness effectively balanced by a healthy citrus acidity. Real Sauternes, keenly priced.