1988 Hugel Alsace Riesling Vendange Tardive, France
This 23-year-old, late-harvest riesling was one of the joint highest scorers, with 94/100 points, in The Wine Gang’s November report http://thewinegang.com/. It’s a fascinating, food-friendly wine, not least because it doesn’t actually taste sweet. It has honey, beeswax and apricot flavours and a rich, almost oily texture, which all indicate noble rot, but the lemon and lime intensity, the petrolly mineral notes and zesty, crystalline acidity make it taste little more than off-dry (12.5% abv).
To prove the point, at The Wine Society’s annual festive dinner in London last week, at which the wines of Hugel were matched to the cooking of Emile Jung (3 Michelin stars when he was at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg), it was served with zander and mousseline of pike with crayfish tails in a riesling sauce. (I know what you’re thinking: what a tough life I do lead. Thanks, it’s nice to be appreciated.) You could also drink it as an aperitif or with a hard cheese such as Cheddar or Parmesan. Etienne Hugel said that the reason Hugel still has stock of this (The Wine Society shipped it only recently) is that the vintage was overshadowed by the more showy 1989 and 1990 vintages. The other wine served with the zander-pike-crayfish dish was Hugel’s 2005 Riesling Jubilee – a brilliant match. It's not currently on the Society’s website, but you can order it by phone (01438 741177; code AL6301, £22 a bottle).
Another useful (and delicious) discovery was pinot gris with artichoke, a veg which can be so tricky with wine. The 2005 Hugel Pinot Gris Jubilee (£11 for 37.5cl; 14% abv) was seamless with the artichoke which accompanied pressed duck, ceps and celeriac purée. The 2009 Jubilee Pinot Noir, also served, was particularly good with the bird itself (the Society has bought this wine but isn’t listing it yet – it has plenty of time to go).
A few more festive treats.
2007 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana, Italy
If you haven’t bought your red for the goose or turkey yet, this lush, velvety Tuscan would do the trick, although you could equally well serve it with beef or venison (I had it with beef cheeks braised in red wine with shallots and chestnuts). Or put it aside for Christmasses to come. It’s cabernet franc and merlot (half the blend), with cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, alicante, syrah and petit verdot from biodynamically cultivated vineyards in the hills behind Cecina. Apart from being fleshy and supple with soft tannins, it’s fragrant and spicy with fresh blueberry fruit and touches of herbs and chocolate (14.5% abv).
£39, Berry Bros & Rudd
2010 Atalayo do Mar Godello, Monterrei, Galicia, Spain
Godello is probably never going to make waves like albariño – there’s far less of it planted for a start – but it’s a dry white to look out for. This one, from old vines fermented with wild yeasts and aged on its lees for two months, has a light spritz and mouthwatering saline freshness, citrus peel, peach and apricot fruit, creamy texture fruit and lemon/lime finish (13% abv).
£10.99, Virgin Wines
2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut, Champagne, France
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at how good this vintage Veuve is, but I was. The honeyed, toasty nose leads into a palate that balances freshness with sweet, elegant fruit, rich, spicy, toasted-hazelnut flavours and fine, appley acidity. Perfect now, but with years in it (12% abv).
£45.29, selected Sainsbury’s, and Ocado; £48.88, Fortnum & Mason
2010 Blind River Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Dark, full and rounded with succulent, sweet cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, a satin-smooth texture and a more savoury, nutty, spicy character that, given some age, will probably become more gamey.£14.99 if you buy any 2 bottles of New Zealand Wine (otherwise £18.74), Majestic