Wine and drinks expert Judith Dunlop of the newly opened Kingsbarns Distillery pulls the cork on the best wines, sparklers and spirits for the festive season.
Judith’s top tip is the Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne. “A scene stealing Co-Op own label bottling from the Piper & Charles Heidsieck stable that won World Champion Vintage Blend at the prestigious Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, beating hundreds of famous brands like Moet that typically cost three times Co-Op’s modest £24.99 price tag.”
“Or there’s my personal favourite Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV. Though non vintage the cuvee is based on a 2007 base wine and about 40% of its constituent is made up of reserve wines that are up to ten years old. Delicious.”
But, says Judith, “Why drink champagne, or indeed prosecco? The bubbles fizzing in fashionable glasses this year come courtesy of Franciacorta, a refined methode champenoise from the Lombardy region. Try the deeply elegant Bellavista Cuvee Brut (Slurp, £28.40) or award winning I Due Lari Franciacorta (M&S, £18.99) both more seasonally appropriate than summery prosecco.”
Others sparklers worth noting are Delemotte’s Blanc de Blanc (Fortnum & Mason, £267.75 case of 6), or J Laurens, Le Moulin Brut NV Blanquette de Limoux (Stone, Vine and Sun, £12.75).
Judith suggests Chablis as an elegant start to the meal “Try Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons Domaine Vincent Dampt 2011 (Corney & Barrow, £20.75). At 13% this is a gentle choice for what can be a long day. Or, perhaps Chablis La Maladière 2013 William Fèvre (Majestic, £14.99). Full-bodied equivalents hail from the USA, Schug Chardonnay 2011 Carneros (M&S, £16.99) is nicely balanced and full of ripe fruit. For something more aromatic, steer yourself towards a Riesling, or a Gewürztraminer, such as the wonderful Rolly-Gassmann Gewürztraminer 2002 Alsace, or push the boat out with a Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet (Corney & Barrow, £295 for a case of 12), or Meursault (Corney & Barrow, £295 for a case of 12).
When it comes to reds, Judith’s old favourite is Niepoort, Drink Me 2011 Douro (Vinoteca, £12.95). “The body and fruity complexity of this 13% wine is excellent value. I also like something gamey and slightly earthy with a Christmas meal, perhaps New Zealand’s Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (Wine Direct, £19.95), or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, fabulous with turkey and cranberry sauce. Alternatively try Yalumba’s Old Bush Vine Grenache (Majestic, £13.99), or Badenhorst’s Secateurs Red Blend (The Oxford Wine Company £11.99), South Africa’s answer to a French Chateauneuf.
Digestifs and Desert Wines
To finish the meal Judith says “South Africa’s Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance (Majestic, £35) is hard to beat, though I am a little biased, having started my wine journey working on this estate. However, we are in Scotland so let’s not forget whisky. Wemyss Malts, Edinburgh-based blenders, independent bottlers and soon to be distillers have launch a limited run of 200 cases of Velvet Fig (Master of Malt, £32.91), a blend of single malt whiskies aged, in, mainly Oloroso, sherry casks. This has Christmas written through it, with abundant Christmas cake notes, of figs, rum-soaked raisins, cinnamon and cloves, finishing with chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Its availability will not last much beyond January.”
“Or very much out of fashion, but unjustifiably so, is Maderia. Try Barbeito Rainwater Reserva Madeira (Old Bridge Wine, £13.50). The colour, the bitter-sweetness, acidity and complexity will excite you, but at 20% alcohol we are ramping this up for a long, slow, relaxed finish.”
If you are looking for a Boxing Day day pick-me-up, try Wemyss Malts’ Darnley’s View Spiced Gin,(Majestic, £32.50) instead of vodka, in a Bloody Mary, or Red Snapper (the gin alternative), or, if you are having a party, as a Christmas cocktail, with ginger ale, which brings out this gin’s ten botanicals, including Christmas spices of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
Weymss Malts newest venture, Kingsbarns Distillery opens to the public 1st December, 2014, at 10.00 am. Hour long tours, of the distillery, run on the half hour, from 10.30 am, to 3.30 pm, in the winter and there is a sunny, south-facing café, stuffed with delicious cakes and drinks. The Kingsbarns Golf Links, Cambo Estate and, the much celebrated, Kingsbarns Beach, are all a short walk from the distillery.
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