By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 21 December 2019
My top twelve red wines for serving this Christmas:
Sicily, Italy: PURATO SICCARI APPASSIMENTO 2018 (14%) ***STAR VALUE***
(£8.99/£9.99 Majestic Wine; Ocado)
A very successful Sicilian sundried grape wine – Siccari comes from ‘seccare’ meaning ‘to dry’ in local sicilian dialect. Delicious modern fruit-driven style with sweet ripe damsons, Morello cherries and dark chocolate with a spicy finish – tasting like a mini-Amarone. Grapes from Vittoria in south eastern Sicily grown on sandy soils are dried on the vine and again on racks before fermenting and ageing in large Slavonian oak casks. The vineyard is carbon neutral too with grapes grown organically.
Central Otago, New Zealand: OUTLOOK BAY PINOT NOIR 2017 (13%)
Great price for a Pinot Noir from Central Otago. Ideal for those looking for a Boxing Day bargain to serve slightly chilled with cold turkey and cranberry sauce. With its light, bright fruits, sweet ripe cherry and cassis nose, delicate red berry fruits on the palate, it is not very typical of Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s most southerly region as they are usually much darker and more concentrated than this – but it is attractively fragrant and savoury.
Uco Valley, Argentina: EXQUISITE MALBEC 2018 (13.5%)
Malbec in Argentina is so much more lush and succulent than in France – and this is as good as it gets at a modest price point. High altitude plantings in Uco valley up to 1300m mean grapes ripen well by day, but acidity is retained at night. The result is a sweet upfront plummy blackcurrant fruited Malbec with a super-smooth palate which will appeal to New World wine lovers.
Rioja, Spain: MUGA RIOJA RESERVA 2015 (14%)
(£16 The Wine Society)
Tasted alongside The Wine Society’s own label Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2013 from La Rioja Alta, this fabulous Reserva 2015 from Muga knocked it out of the park. Muga might be one of the traditional Rioja bodegas, based at Haro’s old station complex, but winemaker Jorge Muga makes brilliant Rioja using oak from their in-house cooperage. Primarily Tempranillo in the blend, this old vine Reserva is spicy and intense with vanilla undertones – even better when decanted a few hours before serving.
Tuscany, Italy: INSOGLIO DEL CINGHIALE 2017 Campo di Sasso (14%)
(£22.95 Corney & Barrow)
A new Tuscan find from Bibbona – just north of Bolgheri on Tuscany’s coast. Campo di Sasso is owned by Lodovico Antinori who creates this clever blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Loved its soft supple easy-going charm, raspberry and liquorice hints and refreshing bitter twist to the finish. Aged in old French oak, with attractive spicy oak notes in the background.
Bordeaux, France: CHATEAU LES CRUZELLES 2015 (14.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£26 Justerini & Brooks; The Vinorium)
Fabulously smooth Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend from Lalande de Pomerol, neighbouring region of the famous Pomerol; luscious ripe red fruits, good tannin ripeness and smooth succulent finish. Made by talented Denis Durantou (who also makes the wine at L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol just a few kilometres to the south). Matured in 45% new French oak for 12 months, but the oak has integrated so well. Like a good value junior Pomerol
Cachapoal Valley, Chile: VIK MILLA CALA 2012 (14%)
(£35 Corney & Barrow; Hic-winermerchants; Slurp)
Clear favourite in our recent Chile tasting, this voluptuous plummy blackfruited roasted pepper infused blend of five grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot is like a fusion of Rhone and Bordeaux alongside Chile’s bright sweet polished fruit character. Vik is a stunning new winery (with luxury 5 star hotel attached) created by Norwegian-Uruguayan billionaire investor Alexander Vik.
Constantia, South Africa: CONSTANTIA GLEN FIVE 2014 (14.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£30 Berry Bros & Rudd; £29.95 Oxford Wine)
One of the Cape’s most elegant Bordeaux-style blends – the ‘five’ refers to its cepage of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot which are vinified separately before final blending. This is the flagship wine of the newest winery at the northern end of historic cool maritime Constantia region. Powerful intense cassis and blueberry fruits, rich dark chocolate, full complex and layered.
Burgundy, France: POMMARD LES VIGNOTS 2013 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (13%)
(£50 Lea & Sandeman)
One of the only Pommard plots not damaged by hail that year. From steep south-facing slope just below the treeline on the hill behind Pommard in Cote de Beaune, this has an elegant perfumed black cherry bouquet with fresh vibrant acidity, minerally undertones, sappy crunchy red fruit flavours, spicy hints and soft delicate finish. Not a blockbuster, but starting to drink well now – ideal for a roast turkey match.
Ribera del Duero, Spain: BOHORQUEZ RESERVA 2009 (14%)
(£20 The Wine Society)
From a young estate set up by entrepreneur Javier Bohorquez 20 years ago near the well known Pesquera estate at 900 metres altitude. Spicy peppery, richly plummy with blackcherry and licquorice notes – from a good vintage too. Unlike most other Ribera del Duero estates, they mature it in a mix of both French and American oak for 14 months. It is often hard to find mature vintages from this region in the UK, so snap this up. Very popular at a recent Spanish tasting.
Bordeaux, France: CHATEAU VILLEGEORGE 2010 (13.5%)
(£26.99 Raeburn Wines; £26.50 Great Western Wine)
Mature example from this once famous Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois chateau which is based on the border with Margaux and shares some of its attributes. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon (79%) with remainder Merlot, it has an enchaning cedary tobacco developed bouquet, soft succulent smooth tannins with toasty oak notes.
Veneto, Italy: AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2015 Brigaldara (16.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£35-£44 Valvona & Crolla; Exel Wines; St Andrews Wine)
One of the most elegant refined Amarones I have tasted recently. Brigaldara pick the ripest grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella for their Amarone. With a modern take on the ancient appassimento method, grapes are dried in crates in special temperature and humidity-controlled rooms for 120 days, followed by one year in barrique, 2 years in Slavonian oak. Lovely perfume with dark cherry fruits and violet undertones, rich glycerol palate with bright red fruits.
Join Rose’s Fine Tuscan Reds wine tasting on Wednesday 12 February at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh £55 per person (13 wines & selection of cheeses) Book online: www.rosemurraybrown.com