Christmas is upon us and if you’re stuck for a last-minute gift or a bottle to uncork as you pull your chair closer to the fire and turn the lamp down low, look no further than our round-up of 10 delicious wines and whiskies to toast the festive season.
How about the Malt Musketeers Bunnahabhain 26-year-old, with its “Christmas cake” aromas, to sip as you contemplate the flickering flames? Then we have the superb Watervale Riesling for a pre-lunch aperitif, the “unctious and indulgent” Château la Tour Blanche from Sauternes for the Christmas pudding – and then, just when you need a pick-me-up, how about the “honey and toast” of the very first Armand de Brignac Champagne?
That’s just a snippet of what we’ve found for you from our tastings this year. Happy holidays!
Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 7.212 Longmorn 1993 25 Year Old
Longmorn distillery started production at the end of 1894 and has been owned for the last forty nine years by Pernod Ricard. On first view, it is worth noting the whisky has amazing beading suggesting a viscous mouthfeel. The nose gives aromas of raw dough and traction engine oil and is dense. There are heavy dried fruit aromas and an oily sweet palate. The whisky is extremely mouth filling and satisfying.
Malt Musketeers, Bunnahabhain 1991 26 Year Old
Islay is known for it’s peaty whisky, but at Bunnahabhain their speciality is unpeated whisky. Founded In 1881 the village of Bunnahabhain was created to house the distillery workers. This is rich and full of dark toffee aromas and dark dried fruits, like a Christmas cake with caramelised burnt edges. On the finish there are camp fire embers and demerara sugar notes. With a little water it is sweeter and even more complex.
Jim Barry, The Florita Riesling 2017
A cool vintage similar to 2002; harvest was relatively late. And this is another baby, if one with a herbaceous nose, great lift and a really attractive mouthfeel. This looks like it will be a terrific wine… eventually.
La Chablisienne Chateau Grenouilles, Chablis Grand Cru 2016
The Chablis cooperative, La Chablisienne, owns the largest holding of Chablis’ smallest grand cru, which includes a building for which the description ‘château’ is something of an exaggeration.
Traces of oak on the nose and palate, with elegant fruit and acidity on the palate. Some flinty notes and an elegant finish. The cooperative of Chablis works well for its appellation; here it is at its best.
Chateau Rocheyron, St Emilion Grand Cru 2018
Barrel sample. Described by Jane Anson as one of the 20 best wines of 2018. “I don’t think she’s right but it’s very nice to hear,” Sisseck murmurs. The first sniff of the glass transports you. It’s fresh, intense, concentrated, a sense of controlled power, damson and sloe, blackberry still on the vine, mighty tannins though velvety and the whole concerto finished off with the most lovely wash of juice. This is a very smart wine, made by a craftsman working at the peak of his powers. ¡Olé!
Wakefield, The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Young and bold, with mouthcoating, textured chamois tannins. Brims with rich cassis, mulberry and plum fruit, with bay leaf, liquorice, bitter chocolate and a hint of eucalyptus. Broad-shouldered, just coming together.
Chateau la Tour Blanche, Sauternes 2017
Frost and botrytis are not mutually exclusive, or even necessarily of much bearing one upon the other. 2017 has proved a mixed bag for Sauternes and Barsac for all that, with La Tour Blanche in Bommes proving one of its most illustrious successes. The blend is 84 % Semillon, 13% Sauvignon and 5% Muscadelle; the yields 6 hl/ha; unctuous and fresh, indulgent and disciplined, tropical yet restrained… Who could wish for a more beguiling portfolio of sweet contradiction?
Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port 2017
An elegant feast of foraged fruit with delicate blackberry, black cherry and Victoria plum, a tight graphite core and an invigorating wildness.
Armand de Brignac, Brut Gold en magnum NV
The very first of the Armand de Brignacs, first released in 2006 with one-third each of the three grapes. Very fine fresh aromas of apricot and brioche with a creamy intensity. The palate is beautifully concentrated with zippy citrus flavours, honey and a smooth toastiness. It’s dry, with minimum dosage and very low alcohol, but it has such tension and intensity and a persistence that goes on for minutes on end, aided by washes of sweet juice.
Really impressive fruit concentration sets Mirabella’s saten apart. Made using Chardonnay from relatively young 18-year-old vineyards, this is one to watch for the future. Ten percent of the base wine was aged in wood barriques, adding to the texture of the finished fizz.