Compliments of the season > I

In the first of a two-part series, wine merchants offer their recommendations for what to drink with Christmas lunch.

I always feel that giving advice on what to drink at Christmas is almost as presumptuous as lecturing the Queen on etiquette! People do such very different things at Christmas now, it’s no longer the stereotypical affair it once was. To those, for example, that are without ties who board a plane for exotic haunts I would advise picking up a very special bottle of bubbly from the airport as they depart, it would certainly enhance Christmas morning spent on the other side of the world.

The majority, though, seem to find themselves catering for more people with less help than any other time of the year. But what to drink? As mentioned before, I will not offer any advice, wine merchants and wine shop owners will do so instead. Therefore, whether it is an adult Christmas with a modicum of caviar or foie gras to start or the fraught kind of home where children wake up at dawn to inspect stockings and everyone drinks as if it might be their last Christmas, our experts in the field advise.

Sergios Katodritis, owner of Larnaca’s The Oak Tree Wine Cellar and now with a new shop on Metohiou street in Nicosia, will start his Christmas day with a Cavas Hill Bodega, Reserva Oro, Brut Nature, Blanc de Blancs, alcohol volume 11.5%, a sparkling Spanish wine made with traditional methods from the rich vineyards of the Penedes region. A non-vintage Blanc de Blancs made of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello grapes yielding a crisp, dry, bubbly pleasant from nose to the finish. Golden yellow colour with greenish reflections and fine bubbles. On the nose, the wine is complex with a marked note presence. Suitable for any time, including appetizers. Serve at 6 degrees C.

Sergio’s second choice comes from down under, a 2002 Peter Lehman Weighbridge Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, alcohol volume 14%. South Australia remains for many the homeland of Aussie Cabernet. A clear, deep cherry colour, the lifted nose of this wine has intense flowers (violets) and fruit (blackberry) with a hint of leafiness. Medium-bodied with the classical structure of Cabernet (78%) and the softness of Merlot (22%). Vivid, muscular tannins are subsumed into the many layers of sumptuous fruit. Perfect for a spicy meat and cheese based pasta, more importantly with roast lamb or turkey.

Finally, back to Europe and France. We always used to drink Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Christmas lunch. 2004 Domaine Grand Veneur has plenty of cassis, currant and prune flavours and spice box, nesting on a bed of firm, integrated tannins. Medium-body, well balanced with a clean and pure finish. Perfect with grilled meats and wild mushroom, strong cheese and roasted goose or duck.

Yiannakis Aristidou of Oenoforos Wine Depo in Limassol is on parallel lines. Start Christmas lunch with 2003 Brown Brothers Chardonnay, alcohol volume 14%. In the glass we have a pale straw yellow colour and on the nose we have displays of fresh, lifted stone fruit, seductive nectarine, peach and fig with a very well integrated oak. Cleansing acid finish, the stone-fruit-laden palate is bright, fresh and long. Serve at 9 degrees C with smoked salmon, baked or roast salmon fillets, pasta with fish or seafood and creamy sauce.

From Milawa in South Australia we move to Colchagua Valley and the Apalta vineyard in Chile for the 2003 Montes Alpha Merlot, alcohol volume 14%. Enticing ruby red colour, the nose a mixture of black cherry and sweet blackcurrant with hints of graphite, savoury black-pepper twist, tobacco, cocoa, sweet chocolate and grilled herbs as well. Long and structured on the palate, round and velvety in mid-palate with mineral, spice with sweet fruit, and some tannins. An excellent wine served at 18 degrees C with roast turkey, stuffing and any roast red meat.

Burgundy next. Yiannakis suggests a real treat for your Christmas lunch. The 2001 Domaine du Chateau de Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Chaumaes 1er Cru, alcohol volume 13.5%, is a class act from Burgundy, with Pinot Noir, from one of the 52 Premier Cru vineyards. Deep violet colour, the bouquet is packed with cinnamon, redcurrant jelly, crushed leaves, strawberries and almonds. The palate is structured with notes of tree bark lifting the cherry compote flavours. Marvelous depth, balance, weight and freshness best served at 18 degrees C with roast game, goose, duck or pheasant. Pricey but worth it.