Wines ideal for Christmas dining

PUBLISHED: 15:36 29 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:36 29 September 2020

Which wines will you choose for Christmas?
Photo: Ibne Sina/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Which wines will you choose for Christmas? Photo: Ibne Sina/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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It’s time to think about your Christmas wine - consider Côtes du Rhône for something rather special

The wines of the C�tes du Rh�ne are often overlooked
Photo: Frederic DahmThe wines of the C�tes du Rh�ne are often overlooked Photo: Frederic Dahm

The wines of Côtes du Rhône are lauded by BBC Food and Drink’s Joe Wadsack as his insider’s tip for incredible value and unique character. He believes they represent some of the best wines in France, for a third of the price of their Bordeaux counterparts. He’s a huge fan of their white wines, which he holds up as some of the most underrated in the world. When we embarked on our most recent tasting, we realised he might just have a point.

Back in 1967, 21 select areas of the region were identified as those who could claim the coveted ‘Village’ title, allowing them to specify the name of the village where the wine was produced. Strict regulations mean that only ripe, low-yielding vines, producing the most complex wines of outstanding character can lay claim to the accolade.

For those dipping their toes into the world of Côtes du Rhône white for the first time, look no further than Montirius Vacqueyras ‘Minéral’ (£29.95, stannarywine.com ), where the vines are in safe hands with fifth-generation winemakers Christine and Eric Saurel. Following health problems with their first child in 1989, they discovered homeopathy and soon changed their approach to healing themselves, feeding themselves and, crucially for us, winemaking. In 1999 they totally eliminated chemical pesticides and by 1999 had gained certified organic and biodynamic status.

Montrius make delicious organic wines
Photo: Oliver HauserMontrius make delicious organic wines Photo: Oliver Hauser

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Made with 25% white Grenache grapes, 25% Roussanne and 50% Bourboulenc, from 30-year-old vines, the wine is simply beautiful. The clue is quite literally in the name, with exceptional minerality, citrusy freshness and gentle floral notes. With high acidity it’s very much a food wine, pairing perfectly with soft cheeses and seafood pasta dishes and makes the ideal first bottle to accompany a seafood or smoked salmon starter for Christmas lunch. And the vineyard itself? It’s 58 hectares of pure beauty. From the vast plateau of Grenache and Syrah vines with slopes on all sides, to the huge 100-year-old oak wood protecting them from the elements, it’s stunning from every angle.

A much newer kid on the block, but equally impressive are the wines of Domaine Malmont. The steep and rocky slopes of this vineyard create unique challenges for the young Swiss winemaker, Nicolas Haeni, who learned his trade from his father and began winemaking as a labour of love at Malmont in 2013. The aptly named ‘Bad Mountain’ has been notoriously challenging to farm since the Middle Ages, making their Côtes du Rhône Red (£21, stannarywine.com) all the more impressive. 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache, it’s an incredibly punchy wine, oozing with pepper and black fruit, it stands up perfectly to the heartiest of steaks and makes a great bedfellow for roast rib of beef, for those whose traditional Christmas lunch swerves the turkey for something rather richer.. With Christmas just around the corner, it’s one not to be missed.

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