Remember: the glass is important as its contents

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Mairead Robinson suggests some wines for the festive season.

Go for a red wine glass with a good wide base tapering in towards the top to accentuate the wines’ bouquet. White wine glasses should be slimmer, but also tapering in at the top.

One time of year when we all like to raise a glass or two of bubbles, is certainly around Christmas and New Year. Champagne is usually the number one choice, but increasingly good sparkling wines such as Cava and Prosecco and my current favourite, Cremant De Loire, are being enjoyed as much for taste as for cost. But whatever your preferred sparkling wine, do you pay much attention to the glass you are drinking it out of?

I was fascinated by an article I read recently which told how the first champagne glasses were produced in France in the 18th century and were modelled on Marie Antionette’s breasts! These small flat bowl-shaped glasses did little to enhance the reputation of the Queen of France’s figure, and did even less to enhance the drinking of champagne. The problem with these shallow coupes of course is that they don’t retain the bubbles or the aroma. Nowadays the tall narrow flute is favoured for this purpose, and the best flutes will taper in like a tulip towards the top of the glass to keep the sparkle and aroma right under your nose. Why pay for good sparkling wine only to see it go flat and loose those delicious “buttery notes” before you have had a chance to finish the glass? And of course you must make certain that your glasses are sparkling clean and dry because the bubbles will disappear if they are dirty or wet.

And so, what to put in your flutes this celebratory season? As I mentioned Cremant has been enjoyed in France long before the rise of Champagne, and Cremant de Loire is a fine, crisp, elegant Sparkling wine with a soft delicate mousse. It is made using the traditional method in the beautiful Loire Valley. And I found some in my local Aldi priced under €11, and picked up a number of bottles as I feared by the time Christmas arrived and word spread, this would rapidly disappear off the shelves!

So as to what wines to enjoy both with food and as an aperitif over the party season, I am sticking with the Old World this year and returning to Spain for my favourite white wine, a Verdejo from Valdimojenes. Priced at just €15.99 this wine is an excellent example of a great Verdejo from 60 year old vines planted in clay soil in the heart of Rueda.

The grapes are macerated for 5 hours in the press and aged for three months and resulted in a creamy light straw colour with tropical fruit aromas and a very pleasant aftertaste. For red wine I recommend their Tempranillo from Rubero del Duero, also priced at €15.99 which is an intense silky wine, a great foil for the traditional Christmas lunch, full bodied and powerful.

If you are a fan of good Bordeaux, you will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of Chateau Timberlay Superior Bordeaux, a soft and full-bodied wine of great structure with a complex nose of soft fruit. Oak aged with blend of Merlot(70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). This wine represents very good value at €19.99 – a real Christmas treat. For white Bordeaux lovers, the 50% Sauvignon, 50% Semillon, is an elegant, peachy floral wine of depth and character. Once again, there is great value for the quality of the wine, with the white Bordeaux priced at just €15.00

The history of Chateau Timberlay is in itself fascinating as the Origin goes back to the 14th century to the 100Years War when Aquitaine was under English domination. The Chateau was destroyed during the French Revolution, later rebuilt, and has been completely renovated since the second World War.

Returning to the subject of wine glasses, having good glasses will certainly enhance your enjoyment of your favourite wine. You could think of buying a set of good glasses as a very acceptable Christmas or birthday gift, so drop hints in plenty of time! Remember to go for a red wine glass with a good wide base tapering in towards the top to accentuate the wines’ bouquet. White wine glasses should be slimmer, but also tapering in at the top. And remember never to fill your glass past the widest part of the glass to allow the wine to open and to breath. Filling a wine glass to the brim is a real waste, no matter how thirsty you feel. You can always come back for a second glass if you feel it is not enough.

Enjoy your wines this festive season, and have a very healthy and happy New Year.

 

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