What we've been drinking (17 December)
Mulled wine (Well, it is Christmas…)
A couple of years ago, we conducted our own experiment to see which is the best base wine for making mulled wine, incorporating the likes of Brane Cantenac and Sassicaia. I remember thinking that the savoury elements of such wines would work well in countering the sweetness of the fruit used, but in fact it was a California Cabernet that came out on top. So I was sure to ask the local bar I went to the other night what wine they used. It turned out to be a fairly basic Chianti, and the result was a touch sweet for my liking. Of course, the spicing, sweetening and preparation of the mulled wine is more integral to its taste than the wine itself, but it made me wonder whether any producer or region would ever set themselves up as being the perfect ingredient for mulled wine. On reflection, probably not – I don’t think Sassicaia were too thrilled by the photo we ran of a bottle being decanted into a saucepan…
Weingut Johann Donabaum Riesling Smaragd Setzberg 2007, Wachau, Austria
I took this to a dinner a couple of days ago - hosted by a classic aspirational aficionado, or however our marketing department describes those well-off urban professional types who love their wine and have their favourites (in his case, Spain, particularly aromatic whites from the northeast) but would never actually subscribe to a magazine about wine. This is a Decanter World Wine Awards trophy winner - honeysuckle, apple and lime blossom on the nose, spicy and concentrated palate, elegant and layered, perfumed, classy and utterly delicious. My friend loved it. A fantastic wine for Christmas morning, while you're peeling the sprouts and making the bread sauce while scrubbing spuds and dealing (in the case of the disaster-struck Lechmere household) with a dodgy dishwasher, malfunctioning boiler and shower leaking through the kitchen ceiling … enjoy!
Deputy Editor, decanter.com
Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, Marlborough, 2006
A friend had been asking me about the famous Cloudy Bay and its wines. He'd heard much, yet tasted nothing. So, by way of an education, I whipped out this subtly oaked number [admittedly because I didn't have any of the Sauvignon and the rare Gewurtz is too good to pour at a chance event]. He loved it - I was torn. Sure, it had butter and a nice caramel feel, but the usually high acidity seemed lacking and the fruit on the palate only fared slightly better than the excuse for fruit on the nose. The slight zip on the finish was mildly entertaining but let's be honest, it wasn't particularly fresh. For him, it was very interesting. For me, it was half-hearted.