Christmas drinking 2020

A brief report on the wines consumed by The Editor and I over the Christmas holiday.

Christmas Eve

Chardonnay Hunting Hill 2018 Kumeu RiverHunting Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Kumeu River

Lovely restrained, nutty, savoury nose with delicious lemon fruit. It has both scale and restraint. This nose is quite, quite beautiful and winningly involute. It needed a good decant; giving it a lot of air made it change from a monosyllabically tiresome, teenage goth into a bien loché, callipygian beauty of sculpted but generous proportions.

It is mouth-filling with richness, density and weight, but the lively energy makes it fleet of foot and it positively dances over one’s palate as one gives it a good chew. It has a lovely savoury character that is something I really like in wine; this seems to be enhanced by an umami character. Very stylish, really complex.

Delicious! Maybe a bit young, but what a wine, quite stunning. In five or so years I have no doubt that this wine will move me to tears – this is why we drink wine.

Old Vine Cinsault 2015, Ian Naudé Old Vine Cinsault 2015, Ian Naudé

Delicious fruit on the nose, highly attractive, also something of the sea – an iodine/seaweed-type character; this is also highly attractive. The focus and complexity of the nose is stunning, and I like the restraint of only 12% alcohol.

Wow, what a depth of flavour! I am amazed something so low in alcohol can be so richly fruited and stentorian of delicious, fresh fruit. The fruit is very fresh and the whole palate so too as it has a really energetic and vivacious acidity that makes this a really sapid drop.

Even though this has so much fruit and a powerful stoniness to it, it never strays away from being elegantly poised and wonderfully svelte. It is quite the sculpted beauty. The finish goes on and on and the flavours that persist make you just want to drink more and more – this is also why we drink wine. More, please!

Christmas day

Old Vine Semillon 2016, Ian Naudé Old Vine Semillon 2016, Ian Naudé

Bloody corked!

Another really fine wine ruined by a sodding cork.

All cork oaks need burning to the ground. Ian Naudé says he wants to bottle with screwcap but his restaurant customers complain. How bleeding shallow are people who buy wine in restaurants?

I am livid, that was my Christmas morning drink and the only other white wine I have in the fridge is to go with lunch. I need to put a bottle of fizz in the freezer and fast!

Ridgeview English Sparkling Wine Blanc des BlancsBlanc des Blancs English Sparkling Wine 2015, Ridgeview

Attractive nose of sharp lemon fruit with hints of stoniness and some, but not much, autolytic character.

The palate is very direct and linear, with no generosity or weight to back up the screeching acidity and general hardness of its structure.

This exists pretty much on the same quality plateau as Nyetimber Blanc des Blancs. The Editor prefers this to Nyetimber (which he thinks is more made than this, a comment I agree with but), I prefer Nyetimber to this (because I think Nyetimber has better fruit and is a more appealing example of the English Sparkling Wine-genre). We both think Gusbourne Blanc des Blancs shits all over this.

Flowstone Queen of the Earth Chardonnay 2016Chardonnay ‘Queen of the Earth’ 2016, Flowstone

Taken out of the fridge, double-decanted and allowed to warm up and breathe for 45 minutes before drinking.

Extremely classy nose of nuts, play-dough and carefully-judged toasty oak. The oak does stand out a little, but that is to be expected on a wine that obviously has a long and exciting life ahead of it.

It is not excessively-scaled, weighing in at a restrained 13%, and this brings a fine harmony to all the characteristics on the nose and – my – do they shimmer with dimension. Exorbitantly-priced Chassagne Crus, hide your shrinking inferiority when in the presence of this glory.

The palate is even more of a delight. Perfectly-judged, lemony acidity brings life and vivacity to an impressively harmonious palate of ultra-stylish flavours. Diving into the layers of flavour in this wine excites, thrills, charms and, in the best possible manner, impresses with its sophistication.

Oak plays a supporting role to the delicious lemon fruity, scintillating minerality and kaleidoscope of nutty, earthy and play dough flavours that all mark this out as a top-class Chardonnay. It is not ponderous or fat, but has ample density and depth of flavour that just lasts and lasts after you swallow.

This is why one drinks wine. Thrashes the arse of the wonderfully impressive Kumeu Hunting Hill from yesterday. A supremely polished and refined Chardonnay that can hold its head proudly erect in even the smartest company. This is the best vintage I have tried of a wine that has beguiled, charmed and titillated for several years now.

Boxing Day

Ridge Geyserville 2010Geyserville 2010, Ridge Vineyards

(68% Zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah)

Delicious cake-y, bramble fruit, much more mellow and restrained than young Geyserville. Wonderfully integrated oak intertwines with fruit to give real life to the nose, even though it is relaxed and very charming. As it breathes the slightly leathery, prune-y aromas of Petite Sirah shyly reveal themselves and this shows itself as even more complex than the positively joyful first sniffs demonstrated. This smells fabulous and there is clearly no rush to drink my second bottle of this.

The palate still has power and commanding presence, but, again, it is so much more mellow and at ease with itself than a young Geyserville. It is also a lot better than young Geyserville. If you buy Ridge Vineyards wines like these you really have to accept that you need to keep them for at least a decade before you drink them.

The finish is long, svelte and really sexy. Yeah, OK, there may be some heat there, but so what? This is a wine of real personality that shows it has what it needs where it needs it to age and improve for at least twenty years. People always say that one of the hallmarks of a great wine is that it will age, this has and will continue to age and show continual improvement.

I utterly adore this wine. It has impressed, charmed, won and stolen my critical faculties with its general quality and high-grade brilliance. Truly wonderful.

Many thanks to my chum Leon for donating this to the Elitistreview pleasure pile.

Sauternes La Tour Blanche 2015Sauternes 1er Cru Classé 2015, La Tour Blanche

We all have favourites. They may not be the finest wines available to humanity, but they are one’s favourite. La Tour Blanche is my favourite Sauternes producer. They have great terroir, the winemaking has been exemplary for longer than I have been aware of wine* and they age extremely well. Those are my excuses, anyway…

Peaches and cream, apricot jam, one hell of a lot of new oak, etc., etc. What really stands out on this nose as a character of real individuality and class is a winsome grassiness that gives all those sweet, botrytic characteristics life and energy.

Hell’s bells, it is thick with sugar – did I have enough insulin this evening? Yeah, that is ‘rich’ alright! But it also has tremendous acidity and a great supporting structure from the oak. This is very young and not quiet as accessible as I had hoped, but it certainly shows my other bottle will be glorious in a decade or two.

Serious class. We will drink the rest tomorrow.


The Editor and I hope you all had happy Christmases and that the coming New Year turns out to be less of a torrent of awfulness than 2020!


*I have been aware of wine from the age of three. My mother came home from the shops and found me standing in front of the drinks cupboard, open bottle of Sherry in my hands and mouth where it was being greedily guzzled. After I had finished my healthy swig I passed the quality comment, “Yish is nish!”.