Holiday time is here! Hanukkah begins Sunday evening and lasts for eight days. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin next Wednesday. Kwanzaa runs from December 26 through January 1, and Festivus, if that’s your pleasure, brings the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength around the Festivus Pole on Monday, December 23.
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All this helps explain why it’s good to wish people an all-inclusive “Happy Holidays.”
So! What shall we eat and drink for the holiday of our choice this year?
At Christmas, a huge roast turkey is a holiday dinner tradition for many. During Hanukkah, we remember the miraculous oil that burned for eight days by serving up sizzling potato latkes fried in oil. And Festivus, according to Seinfeld orthodoxy, is properly greeted with meat loaf served on a bed of lettuce.
But what shall we drink during the two-plus weeks between the first night of Hanukkah through New Year’s Eve to Twelfth Night? It makes sense for us as wine enthusiasts to pull something special out of the cellar for these family holidays. What better time to enjoy a special treat that we’ve been saving, or absent a cellar, a special treat that we thoughtfully selected at the wine shop?
This is an excellent plan, and I’ll certainly do it too. But wait! There’s more! Most of us don’t dine on turkey or latkes and jelly donuts all year ’round, but we love these special treats at holiday time.
Shouldn’t celebratory wine be like that, too? I’m in favor of declaring this the season for wines that we don’t drink all year ’round, too. Specifically, I’m talking about two wine styles that we often reserve for special events or specific seasons: Sparkling wine – especially, but not only, on New Year’s Eve – and rich, sweet after-dinner wines like Port, Sherry, or Madeira.
In today’s tasting reports I offer one of each: Robert et Marcel De Chanceny Crémant de la Loire Brut, a crisp, delicious sparkling wine made in the Loire Valley by the traditional Champagne process using Chenin Blanc and other Loire grapes; and Broadbent Madeira Reserve 5 Years Old Fine Rich, a delicious, rich fortified dessert wine from a respected Madeira and Port producer. You’ll find my tasting notes below.
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Wine books for the holidays
If you love the land and the geography behind wine, The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, 8th Edition is a must-have, if you don’t own it already. What’s more, it’s a wonderful holiday gift for the wine lover or wine lovers in your life. It lists for $65, and it’s frankly worth it. But you can get it from Amazon.com for $34.49, just pocket change over half-price.
Also, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book for 2020 is available now from Amazon.com for $11.99 in hardcover, or put the pocket book on your pocket device with the Kindle edition for just $6.99. As always, purchases made with these links will return us a small commission at WineLoversPage.com, and I appreciate that.
Today’s Tasting Reports
Robert et Marcel De Chanceny Crémant de la Loire Brut ($15.99)
This typical Loire Valley Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine brings together a blend of Chenin Blanc (70%), Chardonnay (15%), and a splash of red Cabernet Franc (15%). It shows a clear, bright straw color in the glass, pouring with a thick, creamy white foam that falls back fast, leaving only a few bubbles but a crisp, prickly petillance from its carbonation. Pleasant citric scents focused on lemon rise up in the aroma, with more subtle touches of pears and stone fruit. Tart but balanced citrus and minerally limestone come together in a crisp, freshly acidic flavor that lingers with 12,5% alcohol in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Signature Imports, Mansfield, Mass.; A Terrisson Wine Selection. (Dec. 19 , 2019)
FOOD MATCH: As a celebratory glass, this tasty and well-balanced bubbly is fine for sipping on its own. It will go just about anywhere that a food-friendly white will go, though, from chicken, pork or veal to all manner of cheese.
WHEN TO DRINK: It’s not made for aging, but it certainly won’t die if you hang on to it over the next year or two.
The combination of Loire grapes and the traditional process makes this a remarkable value in competition with Champagne prices.
Here’s a fact sheet from primary vendor Whole Foods Market.
Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find vendor and price information for dozens of other Crémant de la Loire wines.
Broadbent Madeira Reserve 5 Years Old Fine Rich ($24.99)
This delicious sweet Madeira is a warm, dark-brown color with hints of copper-orange against the light. Freshly cracked nuts, walnuts and pecans, fill the nose with more subtle hints of lemon and orange. The appetizing tree-nut flavors carry over on the palate with grace notes of juicy citrus. It’s warm and powerful at 19% alcohol, with fruit sugars nicely balanced by a firm acidic structure and soft, palatable tannins; walnuts and a citric snap linger in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Broadbent Selections Inc., Sonoma, Calif. (Dec. 19, 2019)
FOOD MATCH: This fine dessert and after-dinner wine is made for drinking on its own too, but it matches well with snacks that match its deep flavors: Walnuts and pecans, blue or creamy cheeses, even dark chocolate. We’ve also enjoyed it with French onion soup.
WHEN TO DRINK: Madeira is essentially ageless, so you can keep it almost indefinitely, even in an opened bottle.
It’s a very good value at my local price, which matches Wine-Searcher.com’s $25 average U.S. retail.
Here’s Broadbent’s detailed Madeira page.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Broadbent Madeira Reserve on Wine-Searcher.com.
Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find many listings for Madeiras at a broad range of prices and styles.
More affordable wines
Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!
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