Wine: Give yourself a festive treat

Terrific flavours in Greywacke sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
Terrific flavours in Greywacke sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
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The region’s independents have some top tipples in store for the big occasion, discovers Christine Austin.

It was a full house at the Roberts and Speight tasting in Beverley last week as hundreds of customers slurped their way through a good chunk of the range, and most of them had Christmas very much in mind. “This is where I find wines that I haven’t bought before. I like to taste a wine before I buy anything new and here I can try lots of new wines,” said one lady who was steadily working her way through a selection of Riojas.

And that is the great advantage of an independent wine merchant. Here in Yorkshire we have some of the country’s best independents and usually the man (or woman) behind the counter has selected the range and so they know precisely what it tastes like and what it will go with, so they can steer you towards a bottle you will enjoy. Most of them hold regular tastings, especially at this time of year, and the real joy of independents is that the price you see is generally the price you pay, apart from the usual 10 per cent case discount. There is none of the supermarket nonsense where you don’t know whether the price on the ticket will be doubled or halved next week depending on which end of the promotional cycle you buy it.

This is what I enjoyed at Roberts and Speight.

Among the whites Kevin Judd’s Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Marlborough, New Zealand (£15.49) shone out for its minerally crunch wrapped up in citrus and floral fruit. This estate is really charging up the quality stakes, which is hardly surprising since Kevin was the winemaker at Cloudy Bay and set that label on its path to fame. Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc (pronounced Greywacky) is delicious as an aperitif but also good any time you need a crisp white to accompany grilled fish, salads and young cheese. Less expensive is Yealands Black Label Sauvignon 2012, also from Marlborough, New Zealand (£11.99) which has all the pure zesty character of good Kiwi Sauvignon.

Yealands also produces a rather good Reserve Single Block Pinot Noir 2010 (£14.99) with silky, black cherry fruit and a sappy finish.

With Christmas in mind, I would definitely be tempted by Domaine William Fevre’s Chablis 2012 (£15.99) which stood out at the tasting for its honey, oatmeal and clean citrus flavours. Fuller and rounder while showing a lot less oak than in previous years is Marimar Torres’ Acero Vineyard from Sonoma in California. By the bottle this is rather expensive at £22.99 but John Roberts has done a deal which brings the price down to a great value £12.99 as part of a mixed case. This is definitely worth trying.

Other stunners at Roberts and Speight include a surprisingly well-structured, lime-edged, silky Nunzio Ghiraldi Lugana 2012 (£10.99). Step up to the Ghiraldi, Lugana Superiore 2010 (£15.89) which has spent time in oak but that merely supports the elegant, nutty, almost Burgundian flavours.

For sheer good value drinking look no further than the Marius pair of wines from Michel Chapoutier. Better known for his fabulous top-notch Rhône wines, Michel has dedicated these wines to his great-grandfather Marius whose portrait appears on the label and created simple, well-made flavours from vin de pays d’Oc vineyards. The white is a fresh light, peach and floral Terret and Vermentino blend while the red is a lively spiced, red-berry mix of Grenache and Syrah. At just £7.99, which comes down to a great-value £6.99 as part of a mixed case these should provide easy, well-made drinking flavours for the whole of the festive season and beyond.

Other good reds to try include the terrific Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2009 from Santa Tresa in Sicily (£9.89) made from Nero d’Avola and Frappato. The estate is organic although no claims are made for that, however the care that goes into its production shines out in the silky dark cherry fruit and minerally structure.

From South Africa, the Painted Wolf range is also well worth checking out. The grapes are sourced from parcels of vines, often un-irrigated and quite often organic, and made into wine by Jeremy Borg who has a great track record from several well-known estates. Painted Wolf refers to the particular species of wild hunting dog found in the wilderness of South Africa and this project supports their conservation. My favourite is the Black Pack Shiraz 2010 (£11.99) for its dark, chunky fruit and crushed white pepper notes.

All quoted prices are for single bottles and there is usually a 10 per cent or more discount when you scale up to a mixed case. While you are at Roberts and Speight check out the fabulous range of cheese, coffee and other deli items.

The Latitude tasting in the centre of Leeds was also packed to capacity so if you didn’t manage to elbow your way through the crowd you should call in to the shop in The Calls just to marvel at the range of spirits as well as wines. The bars of Leeds use Latitude to source some of their more obscure cocktail ingredients so if you are looking for a particular Spiced Rum, Japanese Whisky or Marmalade Vodka then Latitude will probably have it. But they also manage a fairly broad range of wines too.

Top choices among the whites include the restrained, precise notes in Samuel Billaud’s Chablis 2012 (£16.50) or the rather softer, nuttier, ripe fruit in Gerard Thomas’ Saint Aubin Champs Tirant 2011 (£19.99). Both are ready for drinking now although they won’t come to any harm if you keep a few bottles back to enjoy later in 2014.

Among the reds I would head for Joseph Drouhin’s Savigny-Les-Beaune, Clos des Godeaux 2010 (£27.99) for its amazing supple, elegant ripe raspberry and spice flavours which are still evolving and adding depth. If you are planning Christmas dinner à deux then indulge in this quality of wine.