The wine guy

It’s shaping up to be a vintage Christmas for entry-level wines, writes Guy Chatfield

THE trade at Christmas fascinates me as there always seems a modicum of surprise in some quarters that the festive period falls in December (amazingly… it’s the same every year!)
The common lament on the supply side of things is that the buying gets later and later.
Obviously many businesses want to hedge bets – who needs the stock-holding headache in the new year after an overzealous purchasing spree?
This year I feel it will be even more acute: with every pound being a prisoner, the trade will be reticent to part with any cash they don’t need to.
Speaking to a customer last night, however, I was told that, in a very flat market, there are still companies who are prepared to take their people on a night out, which is great.
I’d wager that the parties he’s catering for will not be cracking open the vintage Champagne, but the fact that they are still prepared to spend is a good thing.
With the VFM (value for money) strategy in most consumers’ minds, the trade need not lose out.
You may not be able to offer the wines you have on your list as part of the party package, but there are plenty of liquids out there that are perfectly palatable for the office shindigs.
Buying functions in the merchants and wholesalers are girding their loins with entry-level Spanish and Italian wines you will probably never have seen before.
If you need to go canny this year, I say the best thing you could do is seek out the wines of southern Italy – Calabria, Puglia and Sicily.
The climate there produces many wonderful wines, from the hearty reds to zesty whites, and it’s a region I have tried to champion for a few years now; I think this will be the time it comes into its own.
As the cold weather sets in why not tuck in to a Primitivo (a close relative of American Zinfandel) or Negroamaro – both full bodied with warm jammy fruit in spades. If this is not your thing, whites like Cattarato or Fiano can be excellent wines by the glass or with food.
The Wine Guy household will not be any different from most for the 2011 Christmas dinner drinks.
Gone are the days of vintage Claret and fine white Burgundies – this year, like a bloodhound, I’ll be sniffing out the best possible value from the independent specialist near me.
All the very best to you and yours over the festive period – cheers!

The Cork Dork fact:

The region of Champagne has six authorised grape varieties. When the vines of the three ‘minor’ varieties (Petit Meslier, Arbanne, and Pinot Blanc) die, they cannot be replanted.