By Luisa Welch, AWE
It’s that time of year when I start popping corks. As the festivities approach, I find myself looking for a good bubbly, to enjoy on my own or to share – sometimes reluctantly – with friends and family.
If, like many others, you are ready to ring the changes from Prosecco and can’t always stretch to Champagne, a good Cremant is my go-to bubbly of choice. Cremant is a sparkling wine made exactly like Champagne, but outside of the Champagne region. There are eight different regions in France making Cremant. Each uses its local grape varieties and has a different micro-climate which imparts different flavours and aromas.
One of my favourites is Cremant from the Loire Valley, which uses primarily Chenin Blanc as the base grape for its style of Cremant. I often turn to WineTrust as their Langlois Chateau De Loire Cremant Brut is a true expression of the region. From the Saumur area, it’s fresh and elegant, with a lovely zest, notes of white flowers and citrus fruit. Not many people know that Langlois-Chateau is owned by Bollinger Champagne. The winery has long had a fine reputation, but in the last 40 years significant investment by Bollinger in both the vineyards and cellars has elevated the quality. Today they are one of the very finest producers in the region.
It’s the perfect aperitif for any celebration and it’s of course great with fish too.
For the festive table I usually choose a selection of wines which will pair well with fish, vegetarian and meat dishes, so I offer white, red and a dessert wine at the end – my guilty pleasure!
Soave is an often maligned wine as we have not been blessed with a choice of good, ‘proper’ Soave when we shop. When it comes to purchasing Soave, it’s worth knowing the producer. That’s why I turn to WineTrust as they stock the wines from one of my all-time favourite Soave producers, Pieropan. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave, Veneto, since the 1890’s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930’s and the estate is situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. They were also the first to make a single-vineyard wine, and have since built their reputation on this.
Their Soave Classico 2020 is an absolute steal, brilliant straw yellow in colour with the typical greenish hints. I love the aromas of white flowers on the nose, that note of almond blossom, and a touch of citrus. But it’s the palate that is a revelation, rounded, elegant and perfectly balanced, with flavours of ripe fruit, clean acidity and a long and fragrant finish.
If you can bring yourself to share it with your guests, try serving it ‘blind’, e.g. without telling them what it is and relish in the expression on their faces when you do tell them!
WineTrust also stock Pieropan’s La Rocca 2020, their Single Vineyard Soave Classico, probably the finest Soave you have ever tasted. It’s one of Italy’s greatest white wines, with honeyed richness and stone fruit intensity. I will confess that I have two bottles in my cellar, one of which is waiting to be opened later this month.
Another white wine that caught my attention is the unbeatable white Burgundy Saint Veran Terres Noires, Domaine des Deux Roches in the heart of the Maconnais. A fruity, creamy white with plenty of body and texture for a classic festive choice.
When it comes to red wines, I have a little secret up my sleeve that I don’t mind sharing with you, as I have recently discovered a Chilean wine from the famous Colchagua Valley, called Adobe Carmenere 2020, Emiliana Organic. Did you know that Carmenere is a grape with a double life? For years it was thought to be Merlot planted in Chile, until DNA testing revealed its true identity. This wine is smooth, ripe, with velvety tannins and a great structure. Standout aromas of plum and redcurrant and a hint of toast. Worth stocking up on this wine as it can happily see you through the whole festive season.
I am also quite taken by the Taló Primitivo di Manduria 2021 Cantine San Marzano, from Puglia, the heel of Italy. It’s simply sensational. A bold smoky nose leads into rich and ripe savoury dark fruits with a hint of spiciness. It’s a complex wine with a long finish and you will relish every sip. Ideal with meat dishes but also with firm textured cheeses, such as a vintage cheddar.
Personally, I love a glass or three of dessert wine instead of pudding at the end of a meal, and why not?
If you like to end your festive meal with something a bit lighter, then go for Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato from Austrialia’s cool Yarra Valley. Think of mandarin peel and Turkish delight, strawberries, and blackcurrant. This wine is petillant, which means it has a gently sparkling finish to lift the taste. I find it ideal with panettone or mince pies. It comes from one of Australia’s leading family-owned wine companies, Brown Brothers. The grapes are transported to their winery in Milawa, Northern Victoria, where they have what they call a ‘Kindergarten Winery’ specially designed for small matches and different winemaking techniques to produce wines which are as natural as possible.
I met one of the brothers, John, many years ago when he was travelling to the UK regularly to introduce its range of wines. Even then they were at the forefront of the wine making industry in Australia, and to this day they have continued to be innovative in their winemaking: this lovely Pink Moscato is testament to what they do.
Wines for the festive table sorted!