There’s something wonderful about having a special bottle to open at Christmas; to savour the flavours of an elegant drink with the people who mean the most. Here are some of the finest wines and whisky around, perfect for this time of year.
From drop to dram, when what you’re drinking is superbly crafted and lovingly-made, it feels like everything is right in the world. And that’s exactly what you want at Christmas.
And when what’s in your glass is this good, it’s so much more than just the drink.
It’s the crackle of opening the bottle and the glug of the pour. Splashes on tablecloths, slurps and sips. Pupils dilate and smiles that come after that very first taste. The light that shines through that’s golden or rouge. Swirls in the wine glass, the legs chasing after. It’s the clack of a single ice cube, slowly shrinking in its bath of fine, rare whisky.
It’s also all about choice.
Sleek wooded whites full of citrus, sweetness and stony flint, unctuous reds that stain your lips and remind you of the best meal you’ve ever had. Fervent, balanced fortifieds that are moreish and somehow savoury, and New World single malts that sing as you sip them and tell you tales by the fireside.
The discerning drinker’s Christmas list
When it comes to wine and whisky, these profound potations are the perfect offerings to bring to Christmas. And if you’re looking for a present for a loved one who knows their top-shelf drinks, putting one of these under the tree for them will make their Christmas.
Something to share
“Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that over 200 years ago and it still rings true now. And even more so at Christmas. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. The following two wines are perfect for the party.
They’re good enough to be proud to open them, but not so expensive that if your mother-in-law, who lives on goon, grabs a glass.
Hardy’s HRB (Heritage Reserve Bin) Riesling 2018
Made with fruit from South Australia’s Clare Valley and from Tasmania, this Riesling is supremely balanced. It’s pale straw colour is highlighted with a slight green that hints at a fresh kaffir lime and grapefruit nose.
The wine boasts a vibrant palate of lime, lemon, and pink grapefruit that you really want with a Riesling.
Hardy’s HRB Pinot Noir 2018
This beautifully coloured cherry red wine and its delicate aromas of mulberry, strawberries and spice belies the power of the HRB Pinot Noir’s complex palate. Subtle French oak opens to the exotic sweetness of cardamon and star anise, and the juiciness of ripe berries and the texture of fine tannins.
All combines to provide a palate of balance, texture and mineral acid drive.
Like Riesling, Pinot Noir is an underrated wine variety and often the victim of being in the wrong glass. It might sound stupid, but Pinot Noir is really sensitive and the glass shape can affect its flavour dramatically. I didn’t believe it either but it’s true.
Seeing a great bottle of wine coming out at Christmas is the adult version of waking up on Christmas Morning when you were a kid; that imminent promise of something wonderful.
These wines are the pinnacle range of one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wine estates.
Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2017
Boasting carefully selected fruit from both Tasmania and from Victoria’s Yarra Valley, this Chardonnay represents the best that Hardy’s – a winery that’s been around since 1853 – has to offer.
Aromas of white stone fruits, lemon curd and flinty mineral characters, and an intensity of sweet fruit, oak and a linear, balanced acidity on the palate make this a superior example of a wine that’s come very much back into fashion.
If you’re not keen on sharing (no judgement here), the Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2017 will improve with cellaring for between five to 15 years.
Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2016
Also in the summit range of Hardy’s wines is the exceptional Eileen Hardy Shiraz. Coming from two old vineyards in McLaren Vale, SA with vines averaging 70 years old, this wine delivers on the complexity and depth you’d expect.
Rich, deep purple and crimson colours radiate from this wine. And a quick swirl releases all the powerful aromas of dark chocolate, plum and blueberry, notes of coffee, star anise and cinnamon, and even polished leather and earth.
On the palate, savoury influences of black olive, cedar and oak balance with the sweet blackberry and fine tannins that feel wonderful on the tongue and last a lifetime on the tastebuds.
If you can hold off drinking this wine immediately, well done. It will cellar well for years to come.
Something to cellar
Perhaps not to drink this Christmas – or maybe they are – these wines make great presents for a wine cellar. So if you have someone to buy for who loves their high-end wine carefully aged, complex and fascinatingly flavoursome, keep reading.
Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2013
This is the flagship Shiraz from Grant Burge – a winery of huge renown here in Australia and across the globe. The Meshach is a true testament to the five-generation family history of this wine estate. Meshach, this Shiraz’ namesake was Grant Burge’s great-grandfather, who came to Australia wth his parents in 1855.
The carefully selected fruit from 100-year-old vines, was open-air fermented for 8-10 days, basket-pressed and settled for 24 hours, then matured in finest French and American oak for 20 months. Finally, this vintage was bottle-aged for three years before releasing it to us!
What a journey.
The result is a deep red wine with hints of purple. On the nose, it’s aroma is complex, with notes of dark chocolate, black forest cake, cherry, liquorice and ripe plum.
As you’d expect, this wine has a full-bodied, textured, rich flavoured palate, graced with dark chocolate and ripe red berries, all balanced with an earthiness and spice.
It will reward the patient wine-lover with even more complexity after cellaring – ideally ready in 2030.
The Grant Burge Meshach is the epitome of modern Shiraz from the heartland of Australian wine: the Barossa Valley.
Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Another flagship wine for Grant Burge we felt we should mention is the Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine is full of blackcurrant and berries, a touch of mint and vanilla and savoury notes of leafy woodland. Cigar box flavours and red berry characters are built on firm tannins and a lengthy finish.
The Shadrach gets its name from the Bible – not the Beastie Boys as we first thought. Shadrach was a fellow pilgrim with Meshach in the Book of Daniel.
Something to sip
When they say ‘don’t bring anything for Christmas’, there seems to be extra pressure to bring something really good. Perfect for a post-meal tipple, these two take nightcaps to the next level.
McWilliam’s Muscat Show Reserve Limited Release Aged 25 years
McWilliam’s used to be famous for its tawny port, sherry and dessert wines. These days, you’re more likely to find a McWilliam’s Shiraz or Chardonnay. But every now and again, you find something of theirs that harkens back to the good old days. McWilliam’s Muscat 25 years is just that.
After the grapes have been harvested, wine made and selections honed, the master winemakers at McWilliam’s blend these selections into French oak barrels and leave it all to mature for 25 years.
The result is not sweet. Don’t be fooled by the name. This is not Moscato.
Deep red to almost cognac-gold in colour, fruit, spicy Christmas cake aromas and intense yet balanced wood-aged features, rich, deep flavours of dried fruit and a lengthy finish. This is a work of art.
Starward Tawny-Aged Single Malt Whisky
It would be genuinely impossible for me to write a story about drinks – especially at Christmas – without including a little bit about my favourite spirit: whisky. It lends itself to Christmas so perfectly and the movement of small Australian whisky distilleries is fascinating and thrilling.
Starward is certainly one of the kingpins of Australian craft whisky, producing some of the best drams on the market. At the moment, they have a (very) limited release that’s just perfect for the time of year.
Not only would a bottle of this make my fellow whisky fans very happy at Christmas, it’s aroma and palate match superbly with all things festive.
This particular iteration – of which Starward is only producing 4000 bottles – is their single malt that’s been aged in small tawny casks from Yalumba, a winery just down the road from Starward. First the whisky was aged in fresh tawny casks then moved to charred barrels to provide a range of flavours and aromas.
On the nose, you’ll find dried fruit, toasty oak, rich fig and burnt orange. In the mouth, you’ll notice a little sweetness leading to the dried fruit you can still smell, brown sugar and a nutmeg spiciness that slowly dries on the tongue.
This Starward Tawny-Aged limited release is part of an experimental faction of the distillery that gives its clever distillers freer rein to try new things. Unusual perspectives and thinking outside the barrel is a feature that Starward prides itself on.
As well as being firmly Australian.
As founder David Vitale explained in a recent podcast interview on The Aussie Spirit that Starward whisky is made with Australian water, grain, and barrel-aged in Australian wine (or in this case tawny) barrels all found within a day’s drive of the distillery.
Scotch, however, is aged in port barrels from Portugal, bourbon barrels from America, sherry barrels from Spain. And although there’s nothing wrong with that, it means that Starward is more Australian than scotch is Scottish – a point that didn’t go down well in Glasgow when Vitale brought it up there. Once.
If you’re planning a bigger Christmas party, you should check out our wine list for summer fun here. There’s also info on a hangover cure that really works!
We hope you enjoy the festive season. Cheers!