Ben’s wine blog: win a trip to Italy & cracking Christmas wines

Ben takes us through his top picks of wines that are just right for getting the Christmas celebrations started, plus buy a bottle of festive Pizzini fizz or our Christmas mixed wine case and you could win a trip to the Barone Pizzini vineyard near Verona in Italy to see how it’s made!

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It’s been a year since I was handed the poisoned chalice that is the Riverford corkscrew and I’d like to think that we’ve made good progress – better wines at better prices as you’ll see from the Christmas list. New wines for Autumn and Christmas, available from November, include two very different Sauvignon Blancs. Domaine de Petit Roubié from Picpoul in the Languedoc is medium bodied with typical grass and floral notes. The other, Bodegas Menade from Rueda in northern Spain is elegant, aromatic and fragrant with notes of herbs and citrus peel.

Refreshing whites

Our Christmas special white is a classy Sancerre from the Loire. Domaine Vincent Gaudry’s Le Tournebride ticks all the boxes that have made good Sancerre one of the world’s great white wines; crisp, flinty minerality with classic citrus grapefruit and lemon flavours. Class in a glass. Another highlight is Davenport Vineyards Horsmonden dry white form East Sussex. A winner in the Soil Association 2014 Organic Food Awards, it’s a joy to have a real, quality, English organic wine on the list. Chardonnay is still the most noble of white grapes and by far the best with food. Gilles Louvet ‘O’ Chardonnay is a no nonsense, great value example. Similar to Chablis in weight and character but the Languedoc sun opens it up and makes it far more accessible. Definitely a crowd pleaser, it’s the perfect white wine to pair with rich food on the Christmas table.

Rounded reds

From the same stable we have ‘O’ Pinot Noir. Winemakers try so hard to stamp their mark on Pinot Noir that often their egos and the grapes’ idiosyncrasies make for a love/hate relationship that can only end in tears. Gilles Louvet Pinot Noir is no such thing. Well made and great value, it’s perfect with the turkey. If you’re more into your Bordeaux, hopefully, Chateau Coursou will float your boat. A traditional blend of Cabernets Sauvignon, Franc and Merlot, it was head and shoulders above the other clarets we tried.

Top of the pops on the red front is Montirius, Vacqueyras ‘Le Clos’. From one of Jancis Robinson’s favourite Rhone producers it’s Syrah predominant, full bodied, big and beefy. As close to a Chateauneuf du Pape as we could find, this is definitely one for the goose and Stilton.

Warming winter tipples

Last year Pedro Ximénez sherry was touted as being the perfect match for Christmas pudding – not surprising really given that the grapes are dried to an almost raisin-like intensity. We haven’t been able to find any organic sherry but we have come up with a similarly unctuous ‘sticky’ made up the road near Cordoba. Peidra Luenga Pedro Ximémez is a classic deep mahogany colour with intense aromas and a palate of dried fruits, raisins and figs, with notes of chocolate and coffee. Smooth and velvety on the palate, with great length and balance – it’s close to being the most moreish drink I’ve ever had. There’s an equally good Fino made, as is the PX, using the traditional solera ageing system of passing from barrel to barrel leaving a small residue to help age the next batch.

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Festive fizz

Lastly, and definitely my favourite, is Barone Pizzini’s Animante Franciacorta. Franciacorta must be one of Italy’s best kept secrets, a tiny appellation north east of Milan, specialising in sparkling wines using the same grapes and method as Champagne. In a recent FT article on the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championship, Jancis Robinson put two Franciacorta fizzes in her top eight (five of the other six were Champagnes). The Animante wasn’t one those but it won gold at the prestigious Sommelier Wine Awards and at £19.99, it bridges the gap nicely between Prosecco and Champagne. It’s got everything Champagne has, including that luxurious, creamy mouthfeel, apart from the name, and it’s half the price.

Win a trip to Barone Pizzini vineyard in Italy!

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Win an Italian trip for two when you buy a bottle of Pizzini fizz or a Christmas mixed wine case. To enter, simply buy a bottle of Barone Pizzini’s Animante Franciacorta (1 bottle or a case of 6), or our Christmas mixed wine case.

Get into the festive spirit with a bottle of our Barone Pizzini animante fizz, or our Christmas mixed wine case, and we’ll enter you into a free prize draw to win a 2 night stay at the Barone Pizzini organic vineyard near Verona in Northern Italy. Franciacorta, near Lake Iseo, is the perfect place for making Italy’s best fizz. Franciacorta is the name of the area, the production method (traditional, bottle fermentation) and also the name of the wine. Barone Pizzini has recently celebrated 140 years since the company was founded. It is one of the oldest wineries in Franciacorta established in 1870. It was also the first winery in Franciacorta to adopt organic viticulture methods.

We have limited stocks, so if you fancy some festive fizz and the chance of a trip to Italy, add a bottle to your order now!

T&Cs

1. Holiday includes: 2 return flights from UK to Italy, UK departure location to suit winner, but only subject to approval by Vintage Roots (promoter).  Accommodation of a 2 night stay in a minimum 3* hotel near Barone Pizzini Vineyard, near Lake Iseo, with dinner and breakfast. ½ day tour of Barone Pizzini organic vineyard and an Italian lunch, leaving free time afterwards at your leisure.

2. Not included in prize: transport to & from airport in UK, transport from airport in Italy to accommodation. Barone Pizzini representative will collect and return you from your hotel on the day of the tour.

3. Over 18s only.

4. Entrants have to buy any bottle (single or multiple) of Barone pizzini franciacorta animante or a Riverford Christmas mixed wine case to be entered into the draw. Products have to be delivered by 31st December 2014.

5. Only one entry per person, multiple bottles do not mean multiple entries.

6. Holiday has to be taken between 1/1//15 – 1/4/15 (excluding half term dates and bank holidays). Provider reserves the right to offer flight and travel in Italy details and refuse travel on very expensive dates.

7. Competition provider is Vintage Roots and Barone Pizzini.

8. Winners will be contacted within 14 working days of closing date. If winners do not confirm prize with 7 days of notification, promoter reserves the right to pick an alternative winner.

9. Riverford is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete or damaged competition entries or data lost due to circumstances beyond their control.

10.Prizes are non-transferable and cannot be exchanged. The winner may not use the prize in conjunction with any other offer, promotion or prize draw.

11. Riverford and its partners reserve the right to substitute stated prize with a similar item should prize offered become unavailable.

12. Judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

13. Promoter is Riverford Organic Farms Ltd and Vintage Roots

14.A list of winners and their areas will be available upon written request from 2nd January 2015.

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