The beginning of December sees the calm before the Christmas storm for drinks retailers. Many offer enticing discounts in an effort to lure in the early shoppers; so it’s a great time for savvy consumers to pick up a few bargains. Today sees the beginning of O’Briens Off Licence Fine Wine Sale, with over fifty of their premium wines getting discounted by up to 40%. Over the coming weeks I will do a post about the best bargain Christmas Cracker wines in each major retailer, but today is all about that special Christmas Day dinner wine.
The key to matching wines with Christmas dinner is not so much the meat served, but the accompanying sauce. If you lean towards a rich red wine gravy and cranberry sauce over your turkey and ham, match it with a wine of similar stature, such as an Amarone. These are big bruiser reds from the north-east of Italy, made by partially drying the Corvina and Rondinella grapes; a method known as appassimento. Raisining the grapes concentrates their flavour and richness before fermenting them into a rich, dry, powerful (and high alcohol!) wine.
Due to the long, expensive production process, these wines are never cheap but there are a number of great quality Amarone wines included in the Fine Wine sale. At €24.99 (down from €34.99), the Rizzardi 3 Cru Amarone 2010 offers terrific value and is a great introduction to the Amarone style. However, if your budget can stretch to the Musella Amarone Riserva 2009, you will be well rewarded. At €40 (from €52) this is a big outlay for one bottle of wine and may not be to everyone’s taste. But if you like a highly concentrated wine with massive body and lashings of deep, dark fruit, balanced with a rich elegance you will not do better than this superb wine.
Sticking with big reds, the Spanish are represented in the sale by one of Rioja’s great houses: Marqués de Murrieta. Founded in 1822, this is one of the stalwarts of the Rioja region and continues to make wines in the classic style; expect plenty of oak ageing and complexity from time in the bottle. The daddy of the Bodega is Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva 2005. Made from Tempranillo and Mazuelo grapes from their premium 80-year-old La Plana vineyard, this wine is left in predominantly American oak barrels for over 2 years, before ageing in bottle. It is full of cherry and bramble fruits, toasty and complex, with a long spicy finish; still surprisingly youthful for a 10-year-old wine. Delicious.
However, as their flagship wine, the Castillo Ygay is still €63.75 (from €85) in the Fine Wine Sale. As this falls well outside most of our budgets, you can pick up the excellent Marqués de Murrieta Gran Reserva 2007 for a more reasonable €24.99 (usually €34.99). This offers a very similar palate to its illustrious older-brother without the price tag. With deep, rich black and red bramble fruits; spice, vanilla and toast from the oak barrels. As the world moves in the direction of more fruit-driven, fresher red wines, I remain a huge fan of well-made classic Rioja Gran Reserva and this is a big, classic Rioja at its best.
Although not in the Fine Wine sale, I would like to give an honourable mention to Marqués de Murrieta’s Cappelanía; a classic oak-aged white Rioja. With roughly 18 months in wood (depending on vintage) these wines are a rare gem as the wine world becomes more homogenised. Although they will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, these wines offer notes of over-ripe pear, Christmas spice, toast and vanilla alongside a distinct fino sherry-character from the intentional slow oxidation. These white wines age extremely well and there are a few vintages to be found around Dublin for the intrepid Bacchant. The 2010 is currently available in O’Briens and the 2005 is available from Sweeney’s on the Finglas Rd.
The pick of the French is Chateau Kirwan 2012: reduced by €26 (from €65 to €39). This elegant Cabernet-dominated Margaux offers rich black fruits and a spicy finish; although drinking very well now, it would be even better if put away for next year.
The O’Briens Fine Wine sale ends Sunday and store limits apply, so be quick. Happy Drinking. HB.