Looking for a festive white? Give chardonnay a second chance
In line with last week’s philosophy of paring down your Christmas wine options, I’m going to focus on just one white this week: chardonnay. No, don’t groan! It’s easy to forget how delicious chardonnay can be. Do you like chablis? Or chassagne-montrachet? Well, there you are. Even if you like the kind of chardonnay that puts off people who don’t like chardonnay – namely, full-bodied chardonnay with a good lick of oak – there is a place for it at Christmas.
If your tastes run to leaner whites, chablis is your best bet, and from a recent vintage, too, for maximum freshness – 2016 and 2017 were both good years. Own-label petit chablis and chablis both offer solid value, and go with anything fishy, especially oysters and other shellfish; they’re also weirdly good with ham (yes, really).
If you prefer a slightly fuller, creamier style and haven’t got a chassagne-montrachet budget (though, if you have, the Co-op has a remarkably good 13% one from Château de La Maltroye for £39.99 in its bigger branches), the best value is to be found in the Mâconnais in appellations such as Viré-Clessé and Mâcon-Vergisson.
You can also find elegant chardonnays from Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and even Australia, much vilified in the past for its over-oaked chardies. If you’re the kind who likes a Christmas Eve fish pie (me, too), you want a glass of chardonnay with it. It’s also good with the turkey, if you don’t fancy a red. And it should be chardonnay all the way with the leftovers, whether that’s turkey and tarragon pie or old-school turkey tetrazzini. You could even drink it with Anna Jones’ squash, chestnut and black garlic tart this week, although I’ve got another suggestion for that.
If you’re still a resolute chardonnay-phobe, look for ones from the Jura, because they have a savoury, almost nutty edge that makes them a good partner for cheeses such as comté, gruyère or even a vacherin mont d’or. Sainsbury’s has a decent Côtes du Jura under its Taste the Difference label for £11.
And don’t forget blanc de blancs – that is, champagne and sparkling wine made from white (usually chardonnay) grapes – though
I realise that’s cheating a bit because they’re fizz. Obviously, they’re perfect for canapés, but they’ll also go with shellfish, smoked salmon and anything deep-fried – for instance, the emergency fish and chips when you get fed up with all the Christmas cooking. Good cognac + boozy chocolate and herb liqueurs + cinnamon + fruit juice + grenadine (for colour) + lime (to balance the sweetness) = Christmas in a glass.
To make the syrup, put the water, cinnamon and clove in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for eight to 10 minutes. Remove and discard the spices, stir in the sugar until dissolved, then boil down to a thick syrup. Leave to cool, then store in a sterilised jar or bottle.
To make the drink, measure the brandy, liqueurs, syrup, pear juice, lime juice and grenadine into a blender, add crushed ice and blitz for a minute. Pour into a wine glass and garnish with a cinnamon shard. Silviu Stan, director of bars and lounge, The Rubens at The Palace Hotel, London SW1