THREE LAST-MINUTE BOTTLES FOR CHRISTMAS
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
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
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