Wine: A wine for every holiday
Celebrate the season around the world
Itís weather like this that makes me want to leave my beloved New
England and head south. No, not to Florida, although it would be much
warmer, but really south ó to Australia or Chile or Argentina or New
Zealand or South Africa. I could get a job in the vineyards, tasting
wine or pouring wine or even fertilizing the vines and removing excess
leaves and grapes if thereís a big bumper crop.
Well, I can dream canít I?
Then again thereís hundreds of stories of old-time sailors and
adventurers from New England dying a feverish, hot death in the tropics.
Did they long for a snowy New Hampshire Christmas with a warm fire and
hot punch? Itís probably human nature that whatever circumstances we
find ourselves in, we long for greener grass. How nice it would be to
get on a plane and spend Christmas in the tropics with the warm sun and
the multicolored sunsets. But this year it wonít happen. So Iíll do the
next best thing, in my mind, and explore the food and wines of those
Southern regions, who, just as we enter winter, are amidst the joys of
Christmas in Australia is a summer holiday. No Yule logs, and Santa
wears a Victorian style red-and-white striped bathing suit with snorkel
and Edwardian cravat. Presents are opened on Christmas Eve and Christmas
Day usually includes a stroll on the beach. Thereís no Christmas tree,
but there is a Christmas Bush, which is like a rhododendron but gives
off a minty aroma and has purple or mauve flowers. Some folks barbecue a
turkey or ham and others opt for a seafood meal of lobster, prawns, mahi
mahi, barramundi and something called a Balmain Bug (a really ugly
lobster). Dessert is vanilla ice cream with brandied fruit and brown
day after Christmas is a British invention called Boxing Day. Cricket
matches and surfing contests are held. The southern wine country, the
town of Loxton in the Riverlands region, is ablaze with more than 2
million Christmas lights. People come from all over to see the lights.
Wine suggestions for my Australian Christmas would be:
Leeuwin Siblings Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, $20.99 ó from the slightly
cooler west coast, this blend is citric tart with a smooth finish and
itís great with fish and Asian cuisine.
Kirralaa Shiraz, $16.99 ó Look what happens when Mondavi and Rosemount
Estate team up. I expected something akin to the Daimler-Chrysler
experiment, but found the wine nice and rich, without the in-your -face
taste of Aussie wines bent on world domination. More like a Paul Hogan
than a Steve Irwin.
Argentinean wine country the heat of the day sends up mirages that
obscure the nearby Andes. One only needs to travel up the mountain
passes to reach the snow. On the other side is Santiago, Chile. Itís
cooler there because itís higher up (2000 ft vs. Mendozaís 400 ft
altitude) and since huge mountains separate the two, theyíre worlds
Argentina, Christmas Eve begins with morning mass and a light workday.
At sundown thereís another mass and then a cold supper. Midnight Mass is
followed by fireworks, dancing and a grand feast. Nothing happens till
noon on Christmas Day, when families and friends visit and eat and
drink, but not as much as the Midnight feast the night before. Thereís
salads, fruit, steak, yams, stuffed peppers, steak stuffed with
hardboiled eggs, onions and bacon and a traditional white cake topped
with a cider reduction.
Dominio del Plata Ben Marco Malbec, $17.99 ó a hearty Malbec with a
European touch that comes from the winemakersí heritage pairs well with
meats or by itself.
Walnut Crest Merlot, $4.99 ó from Rapel Valley, Chile. One of the
Chilean wineries of the Banfi family, who also own vineyards in Long
Island, Australia, Italy and Chile. I like this wine because itís
inexpensive, fruity and unpretentious. Makes a good Sangria punch. Banfi
owns Concha Y Toro too.
South Africa Christmas is a big time for camping and cookouts. There are
three different festivities; Afrikaner, English and Indigenous. One is
Dutch in flavor, with gifts given to the kids on Dec. 5, St. Nicholas
Day. The English eat plum pudding and the Indigenous persons (Zulu,
Swazi and Xhosa) sing and make a stew of chicken, swiss chard, onions
and garlic, yams, tomatoes and peanuts. In the morning thereís church
and on Boxing Day soccer and cricket matches are held.
Wines for a Cape Town Christmas are a good Pinotage, any Chenin Blanc
like Indaba ($9.99) or Rustenberg John X Merriman, $24.99 ó From one of
the Capeís oldest vineyards in the Stellenbosch region. 52% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 46 percent Merlot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc. Itís not
Chateau Kirwan, but it has that robust, confident taste of a wine that
knows its roots.
This year Hanukkah starts at sundown on Christmas so why not try some
Recanati, Carmel, Golan Heights Winery, Tzora, Kfira, Flam, Margalit and
Yarden are just a few finer producers from Israel. Theyíre not always
available, but itís interesting to taste the style and soil of the
Middle East, because itís not quite what weíre used to.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and a pretty good
Festivus to all.