Christmas Food & Drink: Buying by Numbers Why Rush around Trying to Find the Perfect Wines When Richard Ehrlich Has Done It for You?
Ehrlich, Richard, The Independent (London, England)
Welcome to the third annual exercise in Buying by Numbers. We're seeking wine for the Christmas dinner, setting ourselves a budget for drinks to go with every stage in the festive meal. The exercise assumes that most people want to buy their Yuletide alcohol at one supplier. Life's too busy at this time of year for dashing about from shop to shop. It assumes, also, that most people have a budget for this famously wallet- draining holiday. So once again, I have aimed to answer the question: "What can I afford to drink, and where can I buy it?"
Figuring that wine buyers know their lists inside out, I got them to do the picking for me. I asked them to assemble a set of lists with very basic requirements: three or four bottles to drink with the traditional meal, in three price ranges. The Budget range was up to pounds 20, the Mid-Price from pounds 20 to pounds 30, and the Top- End could indulge in fantasy at pounds 30 and up.
Here are the results, with a few comments and notations of my own where appropriate. There's no question that the real fun starts in the Mid-Price lists, but of those bottles I have tasted (a good proportion) I can't see anything that would make me turn away in contempt while carving the turkey or goose. But this year, as last, I urge you to buy early. A few wines had disappeared from shelves by the time some readers did their shopping in years one and two. Don't take a chance on being disappointed. ASDA The Rosemount Pinot Noir is a light Australian, not at all Burgundian in style but very attractive. The Valdepenas is good. The Pauillac is eminently respectable. Budget n Asda Vintage Cava 1996, pounds 6.49 n Vina Albali Gran Reserva 1991, Valdepenas, pounds 5.99 n Muscat de Frontignan 1998, pounds 4.99 Mid-Price n Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs NV, pounds 15.99 n Rosemount Pinot Noir 1997, pounds 7.49 n Vouvray Denis Marchais 1997, pounds 4.99 Top-end n Charles Laffite NV, pounds 14.99 n Pauillac Bellechasse 1995, pounds 11.99 n Rutherglen Muscat NV, pounds 5.49/37.5cl ODDBINS This list has a high proportion of interesting and unusual wines, as one might expect. I'm pleased to see several of the Greek wines they've been acquiring over the last year, and a good number of wines from the New World - just to prove that Christmas is not just about Champagne and claret and port. NB: Oddbins says that the Landmark Overlook Chardonnay is "delicious, and could hold up to the turkey as well". NB also: the Cava Amethystos is available only from Oddbins Fine Wine shops. Budget n Schaetzel Pinot Blanc 1997, Alsace, pounds 5.99 n Sentinal Shiraz 1997, Paarl, pounds 5.99 n James Halliday Botrytis Semillon 1996, Griffith, pounds 6.99 Mid-Price n Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 1996, Sonoma, pounds 12.99 n d'Arenberg Custodian Grenache 1996, McLaren Vale, pounds 7.99 n Nyx Mavrodaphne, Spiliopoulos, Greece, pounds 6.99/50cl Top-end n Condrieu la Cote 1996, Cuilleron, pounds 19.99 n Cava Amethystos 1994, Greece, pounds 14.99 n Torcolato 1995, Macaulan, Italy, pounds 18.99 MAJESTIC There are some fantastic wine in here, especially in the big-bucks list. Noble One is one of the few New World sweeties that can hold its own against the best of France and Germany. There are also some pretty cool reductions on offer: coolest of all, Dom P is pounds 49.99 each if you buy two bottles. Budget n Cava Verano NV, Freixenet, pounds 4.99 n Sauvignon Lot 279 1997, Calvet, Bordeaux, pounds 3.49 n Fortant de France Grenache 1997, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 3.79 n Kirchheimer Schwarzerde Beerenauslese 1997, pounds 4.39 Mid-Price n Angas Brut, pounds 5.99 n Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay 1997, Chile, pounds 5.99 n Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 1995, Australia, pounds 8.99 n Clos l'Abeilley Sauternes 1995, pounds 6.99/37.5cl Top-end n Dom Perignon 1990, pounds 60.59 n Chablis 1er cru 1997, Cote de Lechet, La Chablisienne, pounds 9.99 and/or Nuits-St-Georges 1996, Jaffelin, pounds 14. …