Here are three wines that I think should be on your holiday list, if not on your table. If you are looking for the old school predictable holiday wine recommendation I suggest you look elsewhere. However if discovery is more to your liking then keep reading. I have chosen these wines because they are not only under appreciated but because they are sure to awaken you from your mono-varietal zombie state, after all who wants to be a zombie during the holidays?
Wine 1: Sherry – Emilio Lustau Solera Reserva Manzanilla Papirusa $16
There is no wine region in the world, with the exception of perhaps Jura, that is less appreciated than Jerez, Spain. The traditional wine making, quality, and incredible value make this wine a must try for any adventurous palate.
The particular Sherry I am recommending here is a sub-category of the better-known Fino style. It shares with Fino the bone-dry character and pale straw color. Manznilla (the name for this particular style of Sherry) is exclusively from the port-town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, located on the coast. When compared to Finos they tend to be somewhat lighter in weight and more delicate with a distinctive hint of saltiness. Manzanilla Sherries scream to be paired with almonds, olives, seafood and just about any salty or boldly flavored appetizer you care to throw at them. My favorite pairing has them dancing on my palate with sushi or fresh raw oysters.
Wine 2: 2008 Weingut Gernot and Heike Heinrich Pannobile, Neusiedlersee, Austria $35
Excitement is what I felt when I first discovered this delicious wine, I felt like I had uncovered a secret! Austria is known for it’s white wines Grüner Velteliner and Rieslings but often overlooked when it comes to red wines. This particular wine caught my attention because of the unique way in which it is brought to life, you see once every year, nine producers who are part of the Pannobile association, heralding from the Burgenland region of Austria, select their best red wine as a potential candidate for the red Pannobile. The criteria is reported to be very strict; only the highest quality indigenous varieties; Zweigelt, Blaufräkisch and St. Laurent, that grow within the defined Pannobile vineyard sites, may be used to craft the wine. The winemaker can decide whether he or she presents a single varietal wine or a blend of these three designated Pannobile varieties. The unanimous decision to elect the Pannobile wine is made in the final, decisive group tasting. This is collaboration at it finest! While the resulting wines all share a similar style they evolve over time with each having its own special individual character.
Winemaker Gernot Heinrich has created with his Pannobile a wine with aromas of dark berries, a great fruit-spice and fine tannins. A wonderful accompaniment to meals, but also a fabulous solo adventure! Opens with an intense bouquet of dark berries, clear and elegant structure. Has great fruit flavor that combines harmoniously on the palate with firm but elegant tannins. This Pannobile is made up of the varieties 70% Blaufränkisch and 30% Zweigelt. Sure to help you kick that Cabernet habit!
Think that interesting sweet wines only come from Sauterne, Loire, Tokaj, or Duoro? Think again, this little jewel comes from a tiny island off the southern coast of Sicily. It is closer in culture and distance to northe Africa then it is to Rome of Milan. The winds whip around this island forcing the Zibibbo (aka Moscato d’Alessandria) vines to be trained closed to the ground and protected by little mounts made of the volcanic soils. Vine growing is not easy here. Harvest is early, usually starting the beginning of August when grapes are picked and left to dry in the sun for 20 to 30 days to concentrate the sugars.
This is a decadent sweet wine with wonderful aromas of apricot, peaches, honey, marzipan and nutmeg spice on the finish. The silky texture is both rich and exhilarating. Pairs wonderfully with blue cheese served over a warm apple tartlet or with foie gras.