Inspired by the beauty of the recent snowfalls, I started thinking of a white Christmas. With all the rich heavy food around, a crisp clean white wine is a refreshing tonic. Looking at three varieties in very different styles to give a harmonious theme to a meal and enough diversity to accompany a meal.
Starting off with a Blanquette de Limoux, traditionally held to be the oldest sparkling wine, created by the 16th century monks at the Abbey of St Hilaire in the Pyrenees. This gentle fizz, such as that from Domaine de Peyret, has crisp acidity from a blend of high altitude vineyards with three varieties: Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
The crisp apple-fruit flavours of Mauzac can also be found further north in the vineyards of Gaillac. But looking for something that extra bit special, try the old vine, oak-fermented and aged Mauzac from Clos Rocailleux. Crisp, tart apple fruit with a hint of biscuit toastiness.
Chardonnay is a variety par excellence for the range of styles it can offer. To accompany any rich meat course, an oaked buttery and ripe fruit Burgundian Chardonnay has both the power and acidity to offer. The 2014 vintage has beautiful balance. Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru is rich and intense while Domaine Raveneau’s Valmur Grand Cru has elegant minerality with floral hints for a slightly less rich meal. Both with great ageing potential.
Champagne might not be everyone’s first choice to accompany the cheese course, but Stefanie Köhler of Cuvée magazine recently conducted a mammoth cheese and wine report for her latest Champagne edition (www.cuvee-magazine.com/shop). She suggested three blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay): Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs with Cantal Entre-Deux, Champagne AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1996 (recently released) Demi-Sec with an extra-old Mimolette or Champagne Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Brut with a Chaource.
To finish off with a dessert wine, a rich, botrytized wine made with Chenin Blanc has all the fresh acidity typical of the variety, much needed at the end of a rich festive meal. The Loire vineyards of Coteaux du Layon and Bonnezeaux, sloping down to the Layon river, produce high quality, elegant and luscious sweet wines. Domaine des Petits Quarts from Bonnezeaux, has rich baked quince, honey, ripe apricots and dried fruit.
This article was written for French Riviera Luxury by Elizabeth Gabay MW – A long-time lover of the wines of southern France, and based in the hills behind Nice, Elizabeth is currently immersed in all things rosé for a forthcoming book on pink wines around the world. Other passions are the wines of Hungary, the Mediterranean, unusual grape varieties and history. She writes about for various journals and websites, including her own – www.elizabethgabay.com