TOP TEN WHITE WINES FOR CHRISTMAS

by Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 13 Dec 2014

OLD WORLD CLASSICS

Loire, France:  MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE LE PALLET 2009
(£9.99 each for 2 bts or £14.99 bt Majestic Wine)

This is probably the most unusual Muscadet I have ever tasted.  It hails from one of Muscadet’s previous three ‘Crus’ – Le Pallet – so expect something much richer and more intense than you will ever have tasted from the ‘almost’ forgotten Muscadet appellation.  This intriguing wine is made by Les Dix du Pallet, ten growers from the village of Le Pallet grouped together to raise Muscadet’s game – and they definitely have with this part-oaked, long lees aged (sur lie, of course) tangy, citric masterpiece – I reckon this might work well with the Christmas bird.  Best in show at the Decanter Wine Awards too.   STAR BUY

Upper Loire, France:  POUILLY FUME ARRET BUFFATE 2012 Tinel-Blondelet
(£16.50 Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews www.luvians.com; www.agwines.com)

We had several high quality Pouilly Fumes in our tasting, but this stole the show for its great depth of fruit and finesse.  Named after the liquid-refreshment rest stop for horse-drawn carriages (arret buffate) beside the old Roman road in Pouilly Fume on the eastern banks of the Loire.  This sleek Sauvignon Blanc is made by Annick Tinel-Blondelet from 35 yr old vines grown on Kimmeridgian marl, the same soil as you find in Chablis.

Burgundy, France:  THE SOCIETY’S EXHIBITION ST AUBIN BLANC 2012 Domaine Prudhon (£13.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
This is one of the best value Cote de Beaune white Burgundies I have tasted all year.  St Aubin, an appellation near the great villages of Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet, which is now not as cheap as it used to be.  For those who like their burgundies very minerally with very dry crisp focused palate.  Quite a versatile style – a bit like a cross between Chablis and Puligny Montrachet – with enough richness and depth of citric fruit for those who like serving white with the turkey.

Languedoc, S France:  CALMEL JOSEPH VILLA BLANCHE CHARDONNAY 2013 (£9.95 Vinos wine shops, Edinburgh)
I first spotted this ripe Languedoc Chardonnay in the top 100 Sud de France tasting.  It would suit those who like lots of melon and tropical fruit on the palate and plenty of zip on the finish in their Chardonnays.  Loved the nutty aniseed flavours too, a third of the blend goes into oak for 3 months.  Made by the enterprising vintners Laurent Calmel and Jerome Joseph from vines grown in volcanic, clay and limestone soils.  Rich enough for the roast turkey or even goose – and well priced too.  Check out their Terrasses de Larzac red too.  Love their biblical labels.

Top Ten Christmas White Wines Rose Murray Brown MWVeneto, Italy:  LA ROCCA SOAVE CLASSICO 2012 Pieropan
(£25 each for 2 bts or £30 Majestic Wine; £27.95 bt Valvona & Crolla)

Visiting the Pieropan family in the beautiful walled town of Soave, this was one of my favourite wines in their range.  La Rocca is a special single vineyard with limestone and clay soils just by the famous Soave castle – standing in the roof of the Pieropan house you get a splendid view of this well sited sunny vineyard.  As with the best Soave, it is made from 100% Garganega.  Dry, melony, honeyed , exotically fruity with a pure citric fruit flavour.  This would match any rich starter like pork or veal and has enough body and acidity to combat a rich fatty goose.

Danube Plain, Bulgaria:  BOROVITZA CUVEE BELLA RADA 2011
(£13.50 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com; vintage 2012 is £11.50 The Wine Society)

Now for something very different – still in the old world – but an unusually good Bulgarian dry white made by the charmingly named Dr Ogi Tzvetanov.  Intriguing it is too – made from a blend of old Rkatsiteli vines, a Russian variety, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to freshen up the blend – grown on vineyards near Belogradchik on the Danube Plain in north west Bulgaria.  Tzvetanov has revived this boutique winery using old vines that have survived the Gorbachev anti-alcohol and vine-pull purges.  Aged in ola oak, but this is not too noticeable on the palate.  Dry, nutty, herbal with a deliciously creamy palate – it has enough weight to serve with slow cooked pork or roast turkey.

NEW WORLD CLASSICS

Marlborough, New Zealand:  DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 (£13.50 The Wine Society; £14.66 each for 2 bts or £22 bt Majestic Wine)
Dog Point is known locally as Cloudy Bay heaven – this is where the ex-winemaker (James Healy) and ex-viticulturalist (Ivan Sutherland) of Cloudy Bay have found their niche with their own winery just down the road still in the ‘golden triangle’ of Marlborough’s famous Wairau Valley.  They also make extremely good Pinot Noir too.  Serve their Sauvignon with smoked salmon or shellfish starter.

California, USA:  CARMEL ROAD LIBERATED RIESLING 2011
(£17 Vinos wine shops, Edinburgh)

Hunting for the ideal wine to match with goose, I discovered this unusual Riesling.  Not only does it hail from Monterey in sunny California – up in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Highlands to be precise – but it is just off dry with a hint of sweetness and, rather oddly, bottled in a very un-Riesling shaped bottle.  It does smell typically Riesling-like with honey and kerosene nose, unoaked palate, with grapefruit and lime notes, creamy sweetness, underlying minerality and juicy acidity.  I gather there is a hint of Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay in this blend.  Farmed sustainably without chemicals too.

Margaret River, Western Australia:  SIBLINGS MARGARET RIVER SAUVIGNON BLANC/SEMILLON 2013 (£16.99 Lockett Brothers, North Berwick)
This passionfruit and gooseberry scented blend hails from the famous Leeuwin stable.  The name derives from the affinity of these two French grapes – and is of course the staple blend of many dry white Bordeaux.  This Aussie blend is zippy, vibrant and fresh with creamy honeyed texture and just a hint of oak.  The Semillon in the blend is oaked, but the Sauvignon Blanc is stainless steel fermented to retain its primary green fruit aromas and flavours.  Good value for Margaret River.

California, USA:  FIDDLETOWN VIOGNIER 2010 Domaine de la Terre Rouge
(£21.50 St Andrews Wine Co; www.bottleapostle.com; Domaine Direct)

A very popular Viognier at our recent Thanksgiving tasting.  Dynamic winemaker Bill Easton (who used to be a winemerchant until he decided to actually grow the grapes instead) makes this wonderful white Rhone-style wine from granite soils 800 metres altitude in Amador County’s Shenandoah valley.  This is old gold mining country, about 150 miles east of San Francisco Bay – now the home of some serious ‘Rhone Rangers’.  Watch out Condrieu growers, this is seriously good, voluptuously peachy and now getting very mellow with age.  A serious white for the turkey and its trimmings.

Join Rose’s New Zealand Wine Tasting at 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh on Thursday 12 February 2015 £40 (13 wines & cheeses)  www.rosemurraybrown.com

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