Christmas means many things to different people but we all have one thing in common – it is holiday time!
Of course there are those who work during this traditional holiday season to keep us safe, fed, watered and entertained but for the vast majority of us Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy the summer sun with friends and family.
It is also an excuse to indulge (or maybe over indulge) is some traditional Christmas fare; turkey, ham and a classic hot meal or maybe something special on the barbecue and of course something to wash it all down with.
For Sari and me Christmas is a time for a little decadence. We start the day with brunch and bubbles then later in the day it is crayfish, or as one chef recently described it ‘the Kiwi Turkey’, and other fine seafood on the barbecue with a nicely aged chardonnay from the cellar. And because it is a decadent day a nice red and some stinky French cheese for dessert.
It doesn’t matter what you are eating there are some fantastic local wines you can enjoy on this festive day. Let’s start with bubbles. Seifried Estate have made a couple of very popular sparkling wines for some time but in recent years they have been joined by Petros (about $22) from Golden Bay Wines and this year by Mahana from Woollaston Estates ($24) and June ($28 - $30 ) from Kaimira Estate.
They are quite different in style with Petros being classically yeasty and weighty in the palate while Mahana is bone dry, crisp and fresh. June is a single vintage wine (2007) and is dry but with a lovely citrus fruitiness and toasted nuts flavours.
If you have your main Christmas meal at lunchtime then irrespective of what the food is I recommend you reach for a gently chilled aromatic sensation and Nelson winemakers make some of the very best aromatic style wines in the country. Hot turkey or ham, reach for a riesling or fruity pinot gris; seafood? Grab a sauvignon blanc or delicate pinot gris.
In 2009 Waimea Estates picked up a bucket-load of medals and trophies for their wines and if you want a cheap but very good glass of sunshine then look no further than their Spinyback 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (less than $9 at Freshchoice supermarkets at the moment) that was awarded a gold medal at the recent Air NZ Wine Awards.
Nelson produced sauvignon blancs tend to be a little fruitier with softer acidity than those from Marlborough but still have that bright freshness we expect from the variety.
If you are not a regular wine drinker but want to enjoy a glass of something easy to drink then I think you should search out a bottle of pinot gris. Pinot Gris is made in two basic styles; big and weighty in the mouth with plenty of residual sugar and often big alcohol or more restrained and floral. Again Nelson wineries have performed very well in the show arena with this variety in 2009.
Rimu Grove has a solid reputation for producing well balanced versions – rich wines with a touch of sweetness balanced nicely with just enough juicy acidity to make it oh so easy to drink. Prefer something on the delicate side then look for a bottle from a new player on the local scene. Pied Stilt Wines have released a pinot gris with delightfully ripe and fresh citrus flavours with alcohol levels at the lower end of the scale. Another option is pinot gris from Golden Hills, it won gold at this year’s Bragato Wine Competition along with Blackenbrook Wines and Renato Estate.
And let’s not overlook another outstanding result for Waimea Estates, their Spinyback Pinot Gris 2008 was judged Champion New Zealand White Wine Under £10 and took the International Trophy for Best White Single Varietal Under £10 – not just pinot gris but all white wines – at the Decanter Wine Awards.
If Pinot Gris is your choice then look no further then Nelson wines, they are simply the best you can get.
When it comes to aromatic wines I love riesling in all its forms. This is probably the single most versatile grape variety and I think it is also the variety that truly reflects the growing environment. From rich and opulent to lean and austere, from flinty and dry to intensely sweet and luscious, there is a riesling to suit every taste.
If you like your wines dry the search out a bottle from Woollaston Estates. While they make dry style rieslings the wines also have delightfully aromatic fruit flavours making them seem sweeter than they are. Super balance and fantastic food wines, try some with your ham or if you are lucky enough to have them, some sweet Nelson scallops.
When it comes to dessert there really is only one choice. Seifried Estate Winemakers Collection Sweet Agnes Riesling Ice Wine 2008 took the International Trophy for Best Sweet Wine Over £10 at the Decanter Wine Awards. They simply don’t make dessert wines better than this and it is perfect with both strawberries and cream or traditional Christmas cake and custard.
Like a red with your Christmas cake? How about a nice savoury pinot noir. Te Mania Wines produce a rich, fruity style of pinot while Neudorf Vineyards and Greenhough Wines make classic Burgundian complex and savoury styles that will be perfect with your hot ham or Christmas cake.
Just in case you have not had enough to eat and drink at lunchtime you could always reach for a glass of nicely chilled rosé at about 4pm!
I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. However you are celebrating this year please do so safely and with a sober driver, our winemakers need you around next year to buy more of their fine products.