Could Chardonnay be a good choice for a Christmas wine?

When it comes to shopping for Christmas wine, most people stick to the tried and tested favourites. For some, it’s all about the fizz, whether Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, for others it’s about a nice red to go with dinner.

If you’re looking to simplify the Christmas wine options, then you could look at resurrecting an old favourite with a nice Chardonnay. There are plenty of options for this wine, particularly when it comes to looking for something that will be a good all-rounder.

What is Chardonnay?

Having been very popular a couple of decades ago, Chardonnay somewhat went out of style over recent years. However, it’s long been due a comeback, so why not at Christmas time?

Chardonnay is a very neutral grape. It’s known as a ‘winemaker’s grape’ as it’s relatively easy to grow. It’s also very adaptable and can be made into different styles of wine, ranging from crisp and fresh to buttery oak. When fermented, Chardonnay grapes have notes of green apple, and sometimes tropical flavours such as pineapple.

If a second fermentation is processed, then the tart green apple notes transform to buttery oaky creaminess. Some winemakers alter the style even further by ageing it in oak barrels. This adds further flavours such as vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and toast.

Choosing a Chardonnay

For those who like their wine light, then a Chablis is a good choice. For a very fresh taste, choose a recent vintage. Both 2016 and 2017 were good years, according to experts. It goes with anything light and is perfect for the fish course.

For a creamier, fuller style of white, you could go for the pricier option of a Chassagne-montrachet. To keep the budget down, try Vire-Clesse or Macon-Vergisson from the Maconnais region in central France.

Elegant varieties of Chardonnay can also be found from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Any are good with turkey, if you don’t want another red wine, and go spectacularly with the traditional leftovers.

If you’re not sure Chardonnay is for you – perhaps you find the deep, oaky flavour a bit much – then try one from the Jura, on the Swiss/French border. These have an almost savoury, nutty flavour that means they go well with cheese.

Rock legend Jon Bon Jovi’s rosé wins industry accolade

Legendary rock stars from the 80s and earlier often turn their hand to something unexpected later in life. Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson enjoys flying planes, while The Stone’s Ronnie Wood paints portraits. And if you’ve ever wondered what rock god Jon Bon Jovi has been up to since his heyday, wonder no more.

Earlier in 2018, he launched his own brand of rosé wine, named Hampton Water, along with his son Jesse. To the surprise of many, the wine made the Wine Spectator’s top 100 best wines of the year. But, much more excitingly than even that, it’s been named the best rose wine of 2018, which is a huge accolade for a young brand.

Best rosé wine of 2018

Hampton Water is named for the summers the Bongiovi family spend in the Hamptons, sipping rosé and enjoying the fruits of a rock star lifestyle. Bon Jovi’s son, Jesse Bongiovi came up with the concept and went into business with his famous dad. And while this could have been dismissed as a vanity project, the Wine Spectator gave Hampton Water a high rating of 90, making it the best of the year on their list.

French wine expert Gerard Bertrand worked with the label to produce the winning rosé. So, while the wine is named for an American holiday destination, it’s actually made in France. A blend of Consault, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes, the wine is described as ‘the perfect companion for any occasion’.

What makes a good rosé?

It could be that star power is behind the wine’s initial success, but it’s an impressive start for a new wine. So, what makes a good rosé? There are various misconceptions surrounding rose wine, as it was traditionally considered rather inferior to red and white. However, over the last decade, rosé has exploded in popularity in the US and Europe, as people discover its light, refreshing flavours.

There are also misconceptions in how rosé wine is made. Contrary to some popular belief, you can’t make it by mixing red and white wine. Instead it’s all about skin contact. When any grape, whether red or white, is juiced, the resulting liquid is clear. The colour comes from the contact between the juice and the grape skins. For example, soaking red grapes with the juice imparts the colour into the final product. This is called ‘maceration’.

Rosé wine is made by juicing red wine grapes and leaving the skins to soak for a very short period. This is usually only a matter of two or three days. As soon as they can see the juice turning slightly pink, the maker will remove the skins and let the juice ferment.

The wine region consistently making the best rosé wines is Provence in France. It creates more rosé than any other wine variety, and consequently have become skilled at this particular wine. As the growing region is so vast, there are rosé wines available at all price points. So, if a rock star’s wine isn’t quite to your taste, ask for a rosé from Provence and you’ll be on the right track.

Just some of the best wines to choose for Christmas 2018

Christmas is all about choosing the tastiest food, the fanciest presents and, of course, the best wines. Whether you’re looking forward to a quiet, restrained festive period, or you plan to be partying December away, here are just some of good wines available to help you on your way.

 

Best wines at a bargain price

Proving that a good red wine doesn’t have to break the bank, here are a few good value wines to enjoy in front of the festive fireplace.

Ostorosbor Egri Pinot Noir 2016 is a bargain wine from Hungary, that can be found for around £6.50. It has hints of earthy forest floor and juicy red berries and offers a lighter red perfect for a turkey dinner on Christmas Day.

From north-eastern Italy comes Villa Vincini Il Gran Rosso Veneto 2017, which has dark plummy notes and a tang of black cherry. Its sweet fruity style is perfect for the cheese course.

 

Red wines with a deep flavour profile

For deeper, darker reds you could try Lirac Les Closiers, which comes from the southern most pint of the Rhone Valley. It’s powerful but polished, with notes of leather, black olive and blackberry.

Or, try Thymiopoulos Atma Xinomavro 2017, which comes from Macedonia in Greece. It’s made from the xinomavro grape and is bursting with flavours including cherry, mountain herbs and tangy raspberry. It’s perfect for a dinner party during party season.

More expensive reds include Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah South Africa 2017, which comes in below £35. It’s made by a new producer who sources grapes from old Cape vineyards, and gives a deep, rich profile of blackberry, liquorice, sage and black pepper.

For a special treat you could buy your loved one Le Vieux Donkon Chateuneuf-du-Pape, France 2015. A blend of the darkest fruit with a complex and fine-grained texture, this is a real treat.

 

Best white wines for Christmas

It’s not all about the red wines, of course. There are plenty of whites to enjoy too. A couple of great value options are Paul Mas Reserve Languedoc Blanc, France 2017, which is a blend of vermentino, Marsanne and grenache blanc grapes. It’s fresh, but complex with a mix of stone-fruit flavours.

Another from France, this time in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is Domaine de Lasserrre, 2015. It’s an excellent value sweet wine blend with tangy grapefruit and a tropical fruit finish. Try it with a wedge of stilton after dinner for maximum effect.

For a real treat enjoy Liquid Farm White Hill Chardonnay, 2015, made in Santa Rita Hills, California. It’s a well-balanced, beautifully made chardonnay with notes of subtle toastiness and white flowers wrapped around a lemony core. It retails for just under £40, making it ideal for festive fun times.

What are the most expensive red wines in the world?

While most of us think of buying wine as a weekly treat for a dinner party or cosy night in, some people spend a fortune on the perfect bottle. Fine wines are one of the highest performing luxury assets, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index for 2017.

The index shows that wine outranks art, jewellery, coinage, stamps, cars, watches and other luxury classes to become one of the favourite classes among investors. The most expensive wines in the world will always be specialist collector’s items. Fine wines increase in value over time and rare vintages will naturally be the most expensive.

Expensive wines hard to find

And for the average investor, many of these rare vintages will be impossible to add to their portfolio. They may never be for sale, are one of a kind or are being carefully hoarded and kept away from the market by someone who is extremely rich and has no intention of selling.

Here are some red wines at crazy prices, that could only go to the most exclusive collectors.

Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992
Price: $500,000 (£389,855)
This cult wine technically reached the highest price for a bottle when it was sold at the Napa Valley Wine Action in 2000. The six-litre bottle was produced by a small operation located in the Dalla Valle vineyard in California. A rich, oaky aroma with blackcurrant, liquorice, boysenberry and dark chocolate combine to make this not only expensive, but delicious too.

Chateau Margaux 1787
Price: $500,000 (£389,855)
This wine is known as the most expensive bottle that was never sold. It had an opening price of about half a million dollars as it was found to be part of President Thomas Jefferson’s private collection. The owner was William Sokolin, a New York wine merchant who was looking forward to selling it for this incredibly high price. However, it was broken by a waiter during a Margaux dinner party at the Four Seasons Hotel and insurers devalued to it to just $225,000.

Chateau Lafite 1787
Price: $160,000 (£124,754)
Another wine connected to Jefferson’s collection, this was sold to publisher Malcolm Forbes for $160,000 back in 1985. This is roughly equivalent to $400,000 (£389,855) today. Jerfferson was such a wine connoisseur that he’s also linked with other eye-wateringly pricey vintages, including a 1775 Sherry valued at $33,917 and a 1787 Chateau d’Yquem for $56,588 (£44,122).

Penfolds Grange Hermitage
Price: $38,420 (£29,956)
Currently Australia’s most expensive vintage, Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 has held this record since May 2004. A wine collector scooped it up at a MW Wines auction in Adelaide, South Australia. Just twenty bottles are thought to exist.

Cheval Blanc 1947 St-Emilion (Bordeaux, France)
Price: $135,125 (£105,358)
This particular vintage is one of just two wines that have been awarded Class A status in the Classification of St-Emilion wine. The bottle was snapped up at Vinfolio in San Francisco for the impressive price back in 2006. Just 110,000 bottles were e ever made, and only a few have survived. It’s a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and is considered by experts to be the finest Cheval Blanc of last century.

The best wines for cooking your favourite food

The most useful tip for choosing the best wines to cook with is to never select one you wouldn’t put in your glass. If you wouldn’t drink it, then don’t cook with it!

Wine is pretty much indispensable when it comes to cooking. It adds depth and richness to dishes that can’t be achieved using stock or water. Bad wine gets worse in the pan and could spoil your dish, so be selective and don’t stick with those labelled ‘cooking wine’.

Decent quality wines

Most decent quality wines will work for cooking, but there are things you must avoid. While some dishes will specify a sweet wine, for example, it doesn’t suit most recipes. Those wines labelled cooking wines are usually imbalanced. This is because they concentrate the sugars within the wine, which makes reds taste thick and jammy and whites syrupy.

Avoid wines that are heavily oaked, as this can turn into bitterness when cooked. Wines that are very full-bodied threaten to overwhelm a dish as they reduce in the heat of cooking. You should instead opt for wines with a sharp acid, as this provides a counterbalance to any rich, deep flavours in the food.

White wines for cooking

Good white wines for cooking include Pinot Grigio, Grillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet and Albarino. Those that should be avoided include Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Marsanne and Viognier.

Try Stemmari 2917 Grillo (Sicilia), with its fresh and fragrant flavour profile that includes tropical fruit and white wild flower. A salinity adds something to its lemon and grapefruit taste. A Californian Sauvignon Blanc from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi is also a great choice for a cooking wine. It’s full of spice, with herby flavours encapsulated in a light, crisp dry white. Fennel bulb and hints fo lemon gives this a delicious twist, and it adds tang to a rich dish.

Red wines for cooking

Pinot Noir is a good all-rounder as a cooking wine. This is due to its ability to provide structure, freshness and balance to a dish. It has a pleasing richness, but never feels too heavy. As well as Pinot Noir, you could try a Chianti, selected Cabernet Sauvignon wines or Barbera. These have high acidity and the fresher styles of Cabernet Sauvignon give a deep, oaky flavour to a dish.

Among those best to avoid when it comes to creating the ideal dish are Grenache, Zinfandel, Grenache and Beaujolais Nouveau. This is because their hard-hitting berry flavours often transform into too much sweetness when cooked. If you don’t have a corresponding acidity in the dish to balance out this sweetness, it could knock the balance off.

Rosé wines for cooking

You won’t find too many recipes that specifically ask for a rosé, but you could substitute it for whites. It will add more wine and fruity flavours to your dish. If you want to substitute for red, you could try Tavel, which is the only rosé that would hold up to the deeper flavours.

Seek out dry rosés from France, Portugal and the West Coast of the US. Their crispness and mineral salinity work beautifully for cooking and drinking.