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Food and drink: On the Grapevine

It’s Christmas: time to raise a glass of something special, says Nicholas Corke of Thos Peatling in Bury St Edmunds

As our thoughts turn to forthcoming festivities, the choice of which wines to drink becomes ever more complicated. We are spoiled with an extensive choice of wines from all over the world and, as wine-making techniques improve year on year, there are a lot less poor offerings around.

However, this doesn’t mean anything goes and it is certainly the time of year when we get more customers requesting our advice. As a result, it’s a time of the year when an independent wine merchant comes into his own, Christmas presents the opportunity and excuse to spoil yourself, family and friends with delicious wines.

Firstly, let’s consider something sparkling. All the major Champagne houses put much time and effort into producing a consistent style with their non-vintage Champagne upon which their reputation rests, whether it be Veuve Clicquot’s Yellow Label or Bollinger’s Special Cuvee. However, in the best years they produce Vintage Champagne that really provides that extra depth and flavour. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that you must spend more!

Raising a glass of Champagne at Christmas (20782897)
Raising a glass of Champagne at Christmas (20782897)

One of the best producers in my opinion is Roederer, perhaps best known for their famous Cristal Champagne. But for around half the cost of a bottle of Cristal (often consumed when too young, for as a fine wine it often needs some ageing to be at its best), a bottle of Roederer’s ‘ordinary’ Vintage will provide all the complexity and finesse you could hope for. The 2012 is £65 and I doubt many could tell the difference between the two if blind tasted.

If you are not fixated on the label and origin, not only are there lovely alternatives from our own English offerings, but also from further afield - in fact the other side of the world, with Tasmania crafting a reputation for being the place to produce sparklers to rival the best of Champagnes, albeit often with prices to match! Peatling’s imports directly from Tassie and currently has the Moorilla Muse Sparkling Brut 2011 on offer at £39.99, £10 less than normal. Rich and with some lovely age, it’s a real treat.

A year ago I wrote about the great vintages of Port produced recently, extolling the virtues of 2016, only to be met with an equally successful vintage in 2017; certainly ones to be laying down for a few years. Maybe we drink less Port these days, but nevertheless Christmas does provide an excuse to open the odd bottle.

Go with a mature Vintage Port for that wonderful combination of sweetness, powerful fruit, often luscious fig and plum flavours and the perfect end to many a festive meal. The 2000 vintage was a great year and still provides some great wines that are now ready for drinking. We still have stock from a few houses and certainly the Taylors’ 2000 vintage port is quite exceptional (£70).

This will be my final column for Velvet and is one that has given me great pleasure writing every other month. I hope it has given readers a few pointers and points of interest in the world of wine which continues to be so fascinating. If you have any wine matters you are itching to ask about, or are just in need of some friendly advice, do contact me at nicholas@thospeatling.co.uk or visit our website.

Thos Peatling Fine Wines, based in Bury St Edmunds, is an independent wine merchant specializing in importing wines direct from the producer, including Australia and Burgundy. See thospeatling.co.uk for more.

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