Hello everyone and a welcome of festive-hearthside-level warmth to our special Christmas edition of TWSTaste!
This will be the live thread for the evening, so do make yourselves comfortable and join in as and when ready.
The theme for this evening’s line-up is Festive Fine Wine. Rather than opt for three French hens, we’ve got bottles from Greece, the USA and Spain to taste; so without further ado let us unwrap some of the delicious details about tonight’s crackers…
White: Lafazanis Geometria Malagouzia 2018 (£10.95)
This Greek white features in the ‘Christmas Curiosities’ section of our Fine Wine List, chosen by buyer @Freddy Bulmer to showcase wines that will be well suited to the time of year, but which we might not think to reach for. I caught up with him earlier to glean a little more info about just what made it stand out as such a good option in this regard. His response? ‘It goes really well with sprouts’, dear readers. So if you have any of these to hand, do put them through their paces with it. Other suggestions include baked Camembert with rosemary, plus Boxing Day cold cuts.
The Lafazanis winery is the heart of the Peloponnese region, south-east of the ruins of the Cleonae acropolis and south-west of the Temple of Hercules. The history of Lafazanis however is a more recent story, which begins in 1946, when Vassilis Lafazanis started making wine in Piraeus. By 1960, his family had built its first winery in Magoula, Attica. It moved to where it is now in 1993, thanks to Spyros Lafazanis, who had grown up steeped in the family’s winemaking way of life. The winery is completely state-of-the-art, meaning they are able to capture the clean crisp character of grapes like malagouzia perfectly. With lime and green apple aromas, and a mouthwatering and moreish saline twist on the palate, this wine has, in our opinion, nailed it.
Freddy first tasted it among a series of samples when I am told he exclaimed ‘by Jove, this is delicious’ and upon hearing the price, ‘by George we’ve got to stock it’. We look forward to hearing what you think!
Red: Sobon Estate Rocky Top Amador County Zinfandel 2017 (£16)
We think that California zinfandel, when done well, is one of the wine world’s great gifts to Christmas dinner tables, capable of hitting the spot for its full-throttle charm and refereeing all the competing components and condiments of the meal with its lovely mix of sweetness and black-fruit flavour. Trimmings, sweet sauces, stuffings – a good bottle of zin should have you covered.
This one, which we’ve stocked for a few years now, comes from the excellent Sobon Estate. First established as Uhlinger in 1856, the winery was sold to the d’Agostini family in 1911 and then to the Sobons in 1989. The Rocky Top vineyard is in Amador County and was planted in 1926. These relatively old vines produce a rich and intense style but, thanks to the altitude of the site, also retains freshness. It’s a blackstrap old-school zin but the balance is right, and it’s also well worth applauding this heritage-steeped winery’s forward-thinking environmental efforts while we’re at it (such is the abundant sunshine here, their solar panels have helped them to become not just carbon neutral, but carbon positive!).
Sarah Knowles MW, our buyer for the USA, has also let it be known that this red’s culinary prowess doesn’t stop at the main course – it’s also a great option for cheese if you have any to hand this evening. Enjoy!
Optional fortified: Romate Maribel A Selection of Amontillado Medium Dry (£9.50)
This is my fault, I mean suggestion: I think it’s a hidden gem in our range and I always have a bottle of it around at this time of year. Sherry is often highlighted as one of the wine world’s great bargains and I think this proves it.
It comes from Sánchez Romate, who produce a number of the sherries in our range. Based in the historic heart of Jerez de la Frontera, it’s also one of the few bodegas still entirely owned by local Jerez families. With its pretty streets lined with fragrant orange and lilac trees, it is no wonder that families have been flocking here for centuries to produce its most famous wines. Romate’s founder, Don Juan Sánchez de la Torré, did just that in 1781, meaning it is now one of Spain’s oldest wineries still in operation.
They’ve built up a portfolio of vineyards in some of the best locations in the so-called ‘sherry triangle’, and in the winery you’ll be entirely unsurprised to hear everything is done the traditional way, using the solera ‘steps and ladders’ system to make all types of sherry from fino to Pedro Ximenez. This amontillado could be said to be in the middle of this stylistic diversity, offering sweetness but also a dry fresh complexity that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Another nice touch, when I consider how many wines these days are named after the individual winemakers behind them (from eponymous domaines like Miles Mossop in South Africa to the Chilean ‘Corte Ignacio’ range we stock made by Ignacio Recabarren), this was probably one of the very first: Maribel takes its name from past Romate winemaker Maribel Vergara.
Food-wise, this will take on all manner of courses and cuisines, but is particularly at home with almonds, fruitcake, cheeses (again!), pâté and (my own guilty pleasure) shortbread.
In @Ewan’s absence, I feel the need to add just one last festive pun to the proceedings, so I’ll leave you with the sincere hope that yule enjoy the wines.
I’ll get my Côte.
Look forward to tasting along with you at 8!