The Obligatory Christmas Dinner Wine Review

It is a truism that wine bloggers get all jittery and gooey-eyed this time of year, and not for festive purposes. Christmas is the one guaranteed time of the year that ‘the good wine’ is permitted to be pulled out without an inkling of hesitation, uncertainty or guilt.

Throughout the year, wine-lovers, whether cognisant of the fact or not, torment and vex themselves on occasions where wine is requested of them, performing complex mental cost/benefit analyses in an effort to choose a bottle that fits criteria relevant to the situation. When a nice dinner is to about to be had, when friends call around on short notice, or something comforting is needed in front of the telly after a long day, all eyes turn to ‘the wine guy/girl’ in expectation and the mental gymnastics begin.

Of course the occasion for which the wine required is a big factor in the decision to be made. Should the wine be reliable or ‘interesting’; will the recipients ‘get’ an unusual bottle you choose; is it a time for alternative varietals or not? Are most of your wines in your collection for laying down for a couple of years or are some ready to drink now, and how can you be sure it’s in its drinking window? Should it be food-friendly or sipped on its own, and if the former then what food is being served and what will match it (and the complete can of worms that itself entails)? All these considerations and more jumble around your head while your hand hovers over various options until you find yourself, shamefully, weighing up if the occasion and the people involved are ‘worth’ a particularly fancy bottle on that specific occasion, before re-shelving that Super Tuscan for ‘another time maybe’.

Christmas is different though. ‘Tis the season for wild abandon of course, so the month tends to see your special wines wheeled out for all and sundry. Out come the vintage Champagnes, the icon Aussies, the Super Tuscans, the French Premier and Grand Crus, the bottles with just the right amount of aging or ones you’ll take a punt on. And of course with the ups come the downs: the bottles left too late; the ones that really should have been better; the oxidised, corked and TCA’d. But it’s all part of what we love about wine.

Anyway, here’s what we had on the day:

Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV[singlepic id=3 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Owned by Bollinger, the typical Bolly style is very apparent, though perhaps toned down a little – think of this as a ‘Baby Bollinger’ perhaps. Very vivid gold in the glass, there’s the toasty nutty nose and touch of butter and grilled nuts on the palate. The perlage perhaps isn’t as fine as some more expensive wines but this is just a niggle. Very good, and a decent QPR. Consistently a favourite of mine.

2001 Domaine du Duc de Magenta Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle 

A rare foray into cru white Burgundy. I’m suspicious that this may have been perhaps past its best or a victim of the scourge of random oxidation that white Burgundy has been suffering from of late. Notes of butter (real butter, and not just ‘buttery’) and nuts on the nose, even some sherry characteristics, which made me more wary of the possibility of oxidation. More sherry on the palate which blew off shortly to give more by way of nuts, a lick of oak and yellow-green apples. A sip with some Christmas turkey resulted in an explosion of this over-ripe, yellow apple characteristic which astounded me. Following from this was more sweet apple juice and some recurrent sherry notes. Overall this was an interesting bottle though I’m not sure I’d have it again.

2004 Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon[singlepic id=7 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Good solid wine but its time may be now. Blackcurrent liqueur, some firm menthol (but not to the usual Aussie blockbuster level), a lovely all-rounder. I’m guessing it’s slightly past it: I had this last year and it was firmer and more structured, but now it’s a little sweeter and not as balanced. A recent tasting of the 2002, which was certainly on its descent, suggests a similar prognosis. Still a rich, deep wine that’s very enjoyable now though. Perhaps give it a half-hour decant too.

2005 Chanson Beaune-Grèves 1er Cru[singlepic id=4 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Took a time to open up (initially it was jarringly harsh and acidic), but when it did it provided some nice Burgundian Pinot characteristics, but not to a a 1er Cru level I felt. Some nice mature baked red fruit, quite drying in the finish and nicely integrated acidity (eventually!), it went well of course with the Christmas dinner (especially matching and elevating the cranberry sauce) but as I said, perhaps not the 1er Cru level I was expecting.


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