Wine expert Clive Platman looks at festive wines available at independent Midland outlets
Part of the festive fun is choosing the perfect set of wines to cover the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
I’ve been visiting Tanners in Shrewsbury, Connollys in Birmingham and Underwoods in Warwick, gauging the best offers for the coming season.
The best way to kick off any festive event is with a glass of bubbly. If expense is no problem, then the classic choice must be Champagne, but from a good producer. There are few better than Pol Roger (Connollys) and its Non-Vintage Reserve is the complete Champagne, intricately combining finesse, power and complexity. Gosset (Underwoods) also fall into the same bracket and its rich and creamy Grande Reserve is perfect for cold winter nights.
Such is the demand for these labels that, alas, they are never discounted. Neither is the bargain Tanners Brut Extra Reserve, but this comes with a more sympathetic sub-£20 price tag.
I’m also gradually being converted to the joys of Prosecco. At its best, it’s just light and frothy and the Fabio Ceschini version (Tanners) fits the bill perfectly. Better still is the Prosecco Zucchetto Puro Fol from Connollys, with delicious lemon flavours.
Crisp dry whites are often ideal as an aperitif on their own, or carrying straight on to a starter dish, be it vegetarian or white fish. At Underwoods, the South African Doolhof Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ticked the right boxes and Connollys impressed with the Turckheim Vieilles Vignes Sylvaner. An unfashionable workhorse grape from Alsace, this had classic flavours of new-mown hay. More versatile is the Gruner Veltliner by Wieninger, with smoky gunflint flavours.
With enough weight to combine superbly with turkey or pork, there’s no substitute for chardonnay, or more specifically, white Burgundy. At Tanners, one is spoilt for choice, so my recommendations are the Guillenot-Michel 2007 Macon-Villages, the Laurent Borgeot Santenay 2007, the Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 2006, and the Moret-Nominee 2005 Meursault 1er Cru. Over at Underwoods, the Laforge Auxey-Duresses 2007 also caught my eye.
If you are a member of the ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay) then try L’Inattendu 2008 by Clos du Gravillas (Underwoods), with minerally creamy stone-fruit.
My Christmas default red is pinot noir, once again specifically Burgundy, which is ideal with poultry. Tanners has the range well covered, with its own-label Red Burgundy 2008, the Michel Gros 2007 Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, the H Germain Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes, and the Denis Mortet 2004 Mes Cinq Terroirs Gevrey-Chambertin.
A little less conventional, but performing the same trick is the Esterhazy Zweigelt 2009 and Pinot Noir 2008, as well as the Benon Chenas 2009, a Beaujolais Cru from a fabulous vintage. While stocks last, hoover up the Bocchino 2007 Nebbiolo d’Alba, a Barolo substitute at a fraction of the price, with classic flavours of tar and roses. (All Tanners.)
Over at Connollys, I’d plump for some grenache-based Christmas crackers. Again from the superlative 2009 vintage, try the inexpensive Domaine de la Bastide 2009 Visan, or better still J. M. Arnoux Vacqueyras. Warm and spicy, the Domaine de Pesquier 2005 Gigondas will win many friends, too, but I was really taken with the Domaine de l’Hortus Grand Cru Rouge 2008 from Pic St Loup, which had remarkable freshness and dimension. For something highly unusual, Connollys also list a Veneto Carmenere by Inama, with the perfect structure for beef.
Across to Underwoods, again I was seduced by their southern French reds. From, Domaine du Gravillas, try both the fruity and structured Sous Les Cailloux 2009, and the soft and elegant Lo Vielh Carignan 2006. In the same vein, I was also taken with the Chateau de Rieux 2008 Minervois and the exceptional La Mascaronne 2005 from Provence.
As an alternative to port, combine the superb Tanners Sauternes with your Stilton. You’ll be surprised by how well it goes. As for a match with Christmas pudding, the fresh-tasting Muscat de St Jean de Minervois by Clos du Gravillas (Underwoods) has sufficient weight, or alternatively, try the incredibly complex but reasonably priced Moscatel de Setubal from Tanners, which has all the Christmas characters.
* Tanners: 01743 234455, Connollys: 0121 236 9269, Underwoods: 01926 402100