Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Wines-Dare 2 Pair Goes Old World

"Eat the bread with joy and 
drink the wine with a merry heart."                         
                            Ecclesiastes 9 

~Doc Lawrence

The day we’ve been waiting for. Family, gifts, laughter, all kinds of food everywhere, a beautifully adorned evergreen tree, and uncorked bottles of wine ready for pouring into lovely stemware.

What is absent? Jugs of wine, cheap wine that smells like garbage when opened, fizz that pretends to be Champagne and anything that remotely suggests Ebenezer Scrooge. 

We established that variety is the key to wine enjoyment when Christmas celebrants gather. Different generations, family and friends from vastly different backgrounds and often different countries, commonly come together on this day when love and deep friendships seamlessly blend with the occasion.

Like millions of Americans, we’re enjoying so many dishes, from amuse bouche (finger food) to entrees of prime rib of beef, duck, ham and countless sides. We enjoy oyster stew on Christmas Eve, and serve oyster dressing with the Christmas feast, something my family first observed in the 18th Century. 

Does all this complicate wine choices? Not one bit.

I’ve chosen some delights that represent perhaps the oldest wine cultures. True, not always easy to find, but a good wine merchant will cheerfully get them. The Three Wise Men so prominent in the observance of Christmas, were from the East and historians have assumed this could include places like Armenia and Iran. The Armenians were the very first people to adopt Christianity as a national religion,  and their wines have been produced for 6,000 years. Zorah - Karasi Areni Noir 2015 can be ordered through your wine retailer or online. Each glass contains centuries of history and this red is truly delicious.

Lebanon’s ancient winemaking heritage is well-represented with Musar Jeune Red is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply-colored and vividly fruity, inky-dark, silky-textured and aromatic, with hints of cherry jam, it’s topped with subtle spice.

Macedonia gave the world Alexander the Great who in all likelihood enjoyed local wines, with many of the wine grape descendants present today in bottles of exciting wines. Tikves Winery Kratosija Tikves, Republic of Macedonia, will surprise guests with taste and kinship. A sumptuous curiosity, it is zinfandel, made famous in California but with origins in the Balkans. Like its American cousin, it’s deeply colored and will be a guest favorite.

Armenian Wines Appeared 6,000 Years Ago
Greece has a wine  heritage older than the origin of democracy.  Atma Xinomavro Macedonia, Greece 2017, made from the great Greek red grape xinomavro, radiates a wild personality flavored with tangy pomegranate, cherry and indigenous herbs. Ruby red Atma is defined by easygoing drinkability.

Hungary refuses to be ignored. Unfairly stereotyped as producer of sweet but elegant wine, there are far more diverse superior wines as evidenced by Ostorosbor Egri Pinot Noir Hungary 2016, earthy with red berry fruit that will pair with anything served at Christmas. Good value as well.

The holiday dinner would be laking without Italian wines. Villa Vincini Il Gran Rosso Veneto, Italy 2017 is a rich red blend of merlot and corvina with just enough sugar and spice for dinner or with cheese trays.

Spain deserves presence this time of year. One interesting wine is Carta Roja Pura Organic Monastrell Jumilla better known as Mourvèdre, that thrives in the warm climate of southeastern Spain’s Jumilla region, offering abundant tangy red and black fruit seasoned with peppery spice.

Pricey but almost obligatory at Christmas, Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of Rhône’s legends. A blend of fruit and sensuous aromas, this is a top-tiered wine you give to the person who made you so rich this year. Easy to locate.

Who would dare recommend Old World wines and ignore Bordeaux?
Château Jouanin Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, France 2014 is delicious and  affordable. With a predominance of Cabernet Franc, it’s just waiting to be enjoyed now.

German Pinot Noir? Today, Germany grows more Pinot Noir than New Zealand and Australia combined and German Pinot Noir also known as Spätburgunder) is getting better all the time.

Katharina Wechsler Riesling Trocken Rheinhessen, Germany 2016, is a scintillating dry riesling featuring ripe and juicy tropical fruit. Its acidity makes it perfect for an aperitif and it handles heat-infused appetizers with ease.

Sherry was served by Scarlett and legend has it that Captain Rhett Butler enjoyed it daily. It should have an exalted place during this holidays. Impressive Mil Pesetas Manzanilla Spain NV is a festive and a crowd pleaser.

Bubbly was saved for last. The world loves Champagne and favorites run from moderately expensive to highly affordable.  Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite, Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne, France NV is what you give to a member of a royal family who was kind and generous to your mother. A less expensive but high quality choice is Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve Premier Cru Champagne, France NV.

Don’t overlook a Cremant like La Cave des Hautes Côtes Crémant de Bourgogne Burgundy, France NV. Created under the same protocol as champagne, here’s an excellent value complete with gazillions of little bubbles and regal flavor.

Then there’s Cru Beaujolais. Stay tuned.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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