Written by Tom Innes
This year, let’s take a little bit of a risk with the reds, and go for wines that are less well known. There should be something for everyone among my selection, with prices ranging from less than £10 to nudging £20. I will set them out in ascending price order.
Hungerford Hill Hunter Valley Shiraz 2010 @ £8.95
* SPECIAL OFFER * Buy two bottles for only £15!!
This represents excellent value, usually costing around £15 for one bottle – so if you buy two, you are getting the wine at half price. This is an Australian Shiraz, with a spicy, blackcurranty flavour. This has real elegance and goes especially well with food. Less rich and alcoholic (only 13.5%) than you might expect from an Australian Shiraz, but a lot more class. This will go well with turkey, or any other roast that you are having for Christmas dinner.
Bourgueil “Les Marsaules” 2008 Domaine du Bel Air @ £16.50
This comes from a vineyard area across the River Loire from Chinon. The grape variety is Cabernet Franc. The vines are cultivated organically, and the wine spends two years in cask before it is bottled. “Les Marsaules” is a single vineyard, where the vines are on average 60 years old – old vines produce better wine. It now has some nice bottle age, yet the wine is still wonderfully fresh and lively. The estate bottles the wine without filtration, and so there is some sediment – you need to decant this wine to remove the sediment. Occasionally a wine displays a breath-taking vividness of flavour that makes me gasp and, to quote Anthony Hanson, makes me exclaim: “How can it smell and taste like that? That is amazing!” This is such a wine. This was my reaction on first tasting it. Breath-taking. It is light in alcohol (12.5%), yet with good deep colour and masses of flavour, and will go with all Christmas meats: roasts, hams, leftovers the next day!
Barbaresco 2008 Azienda Agricola Ronchi @ £18.95
Barbaresco is a twin of Barolo, but not as famous. They are neighbours, both just outside the town of Alba south of Turin. The grape variety in both cases is Nebbiolo, which the Italians regard as their noblest grape.
This wine spent two years in large oak botti before being bottled. It is full-bodied, though not too deep in colour, with a fabulous smell – bitter cherries; in the mouth it displays flavours of fresh fruit, earth, truffles, cinnamon, damsons, with a wonderful long, classic, bitter almond finish.