THREE LAST-MINUTE BOT­TLES FOR CHRIST­MAS

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

DOMAINE FONT DE MICHELLE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DUPAPE 2016

France (14.5%, Waitrose, £22.99 down from £28.99 un­til Jan 1)

A clas­sic wine from a clas­sic domaine in a clas­sic vin­tage, this has long been one of my su­per­mar­ket go-tos for a spe­cial bot­tle, and on of­fer it’s a bril­liant buy.

CODORNIU 1872 VIN­TAGE CAVA 2016

Spain (11.5%, Waitrose, £7.99 down from £11.99 un­til Jan 1) of cava’s big­gest pro­duc­ers, has a toasty flavour and the gen­tle kick of cook­ing ap­ples. live near

Shrews­bury

I rec­om­mend pop­ping in for one.)

What other grenache-heavy wines have that Christ­massy feel? In the south­ern Rhône, blended with other grapes, grenache-based wines of­ten have a rasp of pumice and a herbal scent that speaks of dried thyme and bay. You could head to Gigondas or Vac­queyras: I love the full­ness of Domaine du Grapil­lon d’Or Gigondas 2015-16 (Waitrose, £19.99, in 15 branches only and un­usu­ally not avail­able on­line). The 2016 is lush and de­clares 15% al­co­hol – which means it might be closer to 15.5% as reg­u­la­tions only re­quire ac­cu­racy to within half a

per­cent­age point.

Or go for a lighter Côtes du Rhône – try Pas des Roches Côtes du Rhône (Haynes, Han­son & Clark, £10.95).

McLaren Vale in Aus­tralia is the place to head for a full-whammy blow-the-doors-off sweetly ripe fruit ex­pe­ri­ence. Here they make some of the most lav­ish grenache I have tasted: wines that smell of squashed mul­ber­ries and make me think of great, big, pur­ple pom-poms. Some­times they also have a whiff of eu­ca­lyp­tus. The flavours swamp you, in a pleas­ant way, like be­ing caught in the warmth of a down­pour in the trop­ics. Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2016 Aus­tralia (Ocado, £12.89) is from the Barossa, to the north of McLaren Vale, and car­ries that same taste of mul­ber­ries and sense of sat­u­rat­ing warmth, but it also has a de­li­cious dry rasp, where some McLaren Vale wines taste al­most jammy.

Back in Europe, gar­nacha is grown in Pri­o­rat, but it’s else­where in north-eastern Spain that some of the best-value gar­nachas can be found. High up, on the dry hill­sides of the DO of Campo de Borja, gar­nacha ripens on old bush vines crouched un­der a scorch­ing sun and makes fleshy wines that smell of baked straw­ber­ries.

And fi­nally, if you’d like to know what grenache might taste like if it were made by an ac­claimed wine­maker but in a leaner style, try Rest­less River Wan­der­lust Grenache – if you ever see a bot­tle in this coun­try, or on your trav­els, that is. It’s an un­usual crea­ture. It’s made from grapes grown in Hemel-en-Aarde in South Africa and it is very pale in colour. At 12.2%, it is also light in al­co­hol for any red wine, let alone grenache whose sweetly ripe grapes, as I’ve said, of­ten fer­ment to a nos­trilsinge­ing 15% ABV or more.

“It’s from a grenache vine­yard down near Hamil­ton Rus­sell that I was driv­ing past for about 14 years,” says an­i­ma­tor and de­sign spe­cial­ist­turned-wine­maker Craig Wes­sels. “The vine­yard has in­cred­i­ble light. I wanted to see if I could get the light into the bot­tle.”

The re­sult is dry and savoury. It smells of the Cape’s shrub­lands, all cran­ber­ries and brush­wood; the lower al­co­hol means that it blows up less in the mouth, pass­ing through with a finer feel. It won’t blow the doors off, but that’s no bad thing – un­less that’s what you wanted for Christ­mas.

STARS OF CHRIST­MAS Be sure to in­clude the vel­vety tex­ture of grenache for a truly fes­tive feel

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