The 12 wines of Christmas

ON the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.

The spectacular scenery of the Douro Valley vineyards

ON the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.

Now partridge, like turkey, is very wine friendly, but with pears, and especially picked pears, it shouldn’t be anything too tannic. A red with a lighter touch would be great.

When I tasted my way through a wide range of possible wines with this feature in mind, I was particularly impressed by a gorgeous red from Fronton, the local wine of Toulouse. It would be perfect.

Château Jouaninel 2009, is a blend of the local Négrette grape, which seems to have an almost floral aroma, with Cabernet Franc.

It is very attractive, perfumed, with rather savoury plum and bramble fruit, quite fresh acid, and light, supple tannins. And it’s a snip at just £7.99 from Majestic, or £6.99 if you buy two.

As it would be a shame to eat the two lovely turtle doves that my true love so thoughtfully provided the following day, it seems like a good excuse, instead, to open a rather fine bottle of sherry. Waitrose have a superb Palo Cortado, from the excellent Lustau cellars. This rare style, bone dry, elegant, nutty, slightly salty and spicy, with the scent of orange peel is even more of a Christmas cracker at £8.99. I would have recommended it at twice the price. Enjoy it with cheese, dried ham and olives, or left-over turkey.

Day three’s French hens might just be those superb Bresse chickens, said to be (by the French themselves, of course) the finest fowls on the planet.

The French would undoubtedly call out for a bottle of the best Beaujolais, served a little cool. The 2010 vintage was superb, and Morgon Domaine des Rochers, Côte du Puy (£14.99 from Carruthers & Kent) is Gamay at its finest. It’s concentrated and very juicy, with black cherry fruit and just enough tannin to cut through the rich sauce you’ll undoubtedly serve with the chicken (or yet more left-over turkey).

On days four and five, my true love’s generosity has no obvious gastronomic link, so I fancy something fishy to eat and a crisp, aromatic dry white to accompany it.

Dourthe’s lovely zingy Bordeaux ‘La Grande Cuvée’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (£7.99 Waitrose), pictured right, with its creamy lemon and gooseberry flavour is richer and more savoury than a Marlborough Sauvignon, and is just the ticket.

Day five is Saturday, if I’ve got my sums right. With any luck the cold turkey has all gone and a warming meaty stew would be comforting. I’m very impressed by Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2009 (£10.99 Majestic). This rich South African red is a wonderful mix of ripe, dark, minty chocolate fruit, with a seasoning of spicy oak. It’s food-friendly, savoury and sophisticated, and I love it.

Day six and my true love has come up with something special for Sunday lunch ... goose. As they’re laying it might be better to serve a rich omelette, but eggs aren’t terribly easy to partner with wine, so I’ll roast one of the birds instead and open a fabulous bottle of Spanish red wine ... Miguel Torres’s ‘Salmos’ Priorat 2009 (£17.99 at Waitrose).

It has a terrific, spicy, sweet and savoury complexity that would match the richness of the meat brilliantly, and has enough tannin to cut through the fat.

On day seven it might not be politic to roast one of her Majesty’s swans. Finish off the goose and then linger over a nicely matured Stilton with a glass of fine port. There are a host of porty bargains to be discovered this Christmas, but I feel like pushing the boat out and opening a lovely old vintage port.

Those made from single vineyards in very good if not quite the greatest years offer the best value of all. Try Fonseca’s Guimaraens Vintage Port 1996 (£20.46 from Sainsbury’s). It has layers of sweetly ripe, spicy fruit, all raisins and liquorice, great concentration and a finish that lingers as long as an entire episode of The Archers.

Day eight brings eight cheery milkmaids, who might be relied upon to provide us with a spectacular cheese board.

If you’ve finished up the port, I can’t think of a much better cheese wine than another sweet wine from the Douro Valley, Portal’s Moscatel de Douro Reserva 1996 (£7.95 from the Wine Society). It’s one of the hottest bargains of the year with a lovely sweet intense favour of bitter Seville orange marmalade. It too has a lazy, lingering finish.

On the last four days of Christmas, my true-love got a bit too carried away in an ever-more desperate attempt to impress, with lords, pipers, drummers and half the cast of Strictly Come Dancing. It would be enough to turn anyone to drink.

But as we’re now into the New Year, a couple more bottles of Champagne wouldn’t come amiss. I associate Canard-Duchêne with value for money rather than style or the last word in finesse, but I was blown away by their new, organic Authentic Green Brut.

It is full of ripe, fruity flavours, rounded off by a fine savoury finish. It’s well worth sending off for a bottle (£28 from Alternatively, R H Lamotte Champagne Premier Cru offers, rich, complex, lemony flavours, freshness and classic, toasty elegance, all for £25 (from The Wine Chambers).

After all that time in the kitchen over the last 10 days, it’s time for a takeaway or two. I find that Chinese food needs something relatively fresh and fruity, especially with seafood, chicken and pork dishes.

I’d be very tempted to try Viñalba Reserve Chardonnay 2012 from Argentina (£10.99 or £8.99 if you buy two, at Majestic). Its ripe pineapple fruit, with a hint of peach and ripe fruity flavour, balanced by fresh acidity and a kiss of oak, would work very well indeed.

The twelfth and final wine of Christmas would be terrific with a spicy, lamb curry. Clos de Los Siete is a blockbuster red, also from Argentina, and is a blend of Malbec with a dash of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot.

Deep and purply, it has a huge concentration of ripe plum and damson fruit, with silky tannins, and would undoubtedly make the rich blend of spices in the curry seem even more intense. And if you drink and eat your way through all that by January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, you’ll feel like a king ... or maybe three of them. Happy Christmas!

If you drink and eat your way through all that by January 6, you’ll feel like a king ... or maybe three of them



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer