Christmas is the perfect time to draw out some old gems from the cellar. It’s a time when there are often enough people in the room to share a special bottle, an aged magnum or even the odd fortified. The key to the festive season is to take your time and savour the moment.
For drinking with turkey…
I think every great celebration starts with a bottle of sparkling wine. Australian winemakers are crafting some exceptional sparkling and where your preference is for white, rose or red, you will find a home-grown wine to suit your menu and your budget. I am particularly partial to the Yellowglen 2006 Perle Rose (approx $20.00 AUD), a sparkling wine that has complexity and suppleness.
A still Rose is also something I will keep in the fridge to share. I make one that blends Mourvedre, Grenache and Sangiovese, so it’s quite crunchy, and savoury. Served slightly chilled, it’s a great all-rounder to match salads and turkey with cranberry.
And now for the reds! It’s generally a good idea to decant reds, even if they’re still young. As well as looking impressive, decanting a wine both aerates and lifts the temperature a little. This can make a real difference to the aroma of the wines. Decanting is important for aged wines, as deposits can develop during the ageing process.
If it’s a lunchtime red, then a lighter style, cool climate Shiraz, or Pinot Noir will do the trick. There is a bottle of Canberra Shiraz in my cellar that is tucked away for such an occasion. If it is for dinner, then maybe a Shiraz blend from the Barossa or Clare Valley or a Cabernet blend from Coonawarra or Margaret River is appropriate. Again, a wine with age is special and interesting, as you don’t always get the opportunity to taste older wines.
For something a little different I’ll be serving a chilled bottle of Sparkling Shiraz. It’s a bit of a classic, and some of the best come from Great Western, Barossa and Clare Valley. Incidentally, Australia is the only country that produces sparking shiraz. It’s a versatile wine that can be served with turkey, lamb, or dessert. And, when the pudding comes out, either the sparkling Shiraz or a small glass of Rutherglen Muscat (around $20.00 AUD) is a great way to finish the evening.
For scoffing with seafood…
Riesling is one of my favourite wines to accompany seafood. Whether it’s fresh, fried, poached, shucked or cured, you can’t beat a Riesling. The balance of natural acidity and citrus flavours in Riesling perfectly matches the richness of seafood.
One of the great attributes of Riesling is their ability to age. The 2005 Rieslings are complex with toasty characters , while the 2009 Rieslings are just coming into themselves. The 2012 are still widely available and a great value. They have great flavour and will appeal to many white wine drinkers while the 2013s are fresher in style with plenty of citrus aromas and flavours. While Clare might rule Riesling supreme, the Rieslings from Tasmania are also very exciting and there are plenty of new producers providing interesting and complex wines. There are also plenty of producers making Riesling in a ‘euro’ way and using techniques to fill out the wine creating richer styles. These are also worth exploring.
Another wine I would keep on hold is an aged Semillon. Whether from the Hunter Valley, Barossa or Clare Valley, Semillon has a proud history in Australia and we have made some excellent wines that are aging gracefully. Perfect with yabbies or marron.
For irrigating a loooooong lazy lunch…
Australia has many new emerging regions and varieties and the long lazy lunch is the perfect opportunity to sample these wines. When not restricted by a formal menu, anything goes!
I like to choose two or three varieties that guests may not have tried before and then let the wines speak for themselves.
Fiano is a really versatile wine that goes fabulously well with seafood and Italian dishes, but can also hold its own with foods normally associated with red wine, such game birds. Likewise, Gruner Veltiner and Lagrein, make a great match for strongly flavoured meats and terrines. Gruner Veltiner and spicy food is a match made in culinary heaven. Tempranillo, Montepulciano are great options for red drinkers and work beautifully with grilled meats, anything tomato based and a broad range of cheeses.
Try the Saltram Fiano from the Barossa, and Basham Montepulciano from the Riverland. Both are great examples of emerging varieties, and a lot of fun to drink.
Merry Christmas and cheers!
Alex Mackenzie is the Chief Winemaker at Annie’s Lane in South Australia’s Clare Valley.