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Top tipples for Christmas parties

THE other week Dominique Drouhin, winemaker and fourth-generation member of the Burgundy House of Joseph Drouhin, dropped into Dublin to give a press and trade tasting of her wines.

As expected, the red Burgundies showed superbly. However, the biggest star in the Drouhin firmament was a white, the illustrious Montrachet Grand Cru Marquis de Laguiche 2004. I was expecting this; after all Marquis de Laguiche is one of the world's truly great wines. What I wasn't prepared for was just how good this wine is. I can state unequivocally that it's simply the finest white wine I've ever drunk -- bouquet, 'shape', power, elegance and finish were all mind-blowing. Not in a blingy sort of way, I can't imagine a footballer or a supermodel preferring this to their bottle of Cristal, but it's so impressive. Price? Let's just say I'll never be able to afford it.


If you'd like to see what Drouhin can do with the Chardonnay grape at a less exalted level, I had a bottle of the 2003 Drouhin Pouilly FuissE (booze.ie) and can confirm that it's still drinking excellently. The 2008 vintage is, I think, the one currently on offer (€24-€26 at selected independents) and it would be a humdinger to have with that big white bird that's soon to make its annual appearance.

If I'm not travelling on Christmas Day I do like a glass of Champagne. It seems to make peeling spuds, cleaning sprouts, shucking chestnuts, etc so much less of a chore. This year I'll be drinking Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvée (currently €49.50, independents, below) with Santa and my nearest and dearest. D-list rellies will be served Prosecco.

Hearty quaffers to accompany the cold cuts? Try Garnacha Black Label Campo de Borja, Bodegas Borsao (independents, around €9, below); Messias Barraida DOC 2010 (€8.49, Molloys, below) a medium-bodied Portuguese red that, in monetary terms, punches well above its weight; and the smart Rioja-basher Protocolo Tinto (€7.99, O'Brien's).

Whites? I'm a massive Semillon fan, the citrus lift never seems to let it get fatiguing. Bethany Barossa Semillon 2008 (€9.95, 'Christmas Price', O'Brien's) is one of my favourites.

Jane Ferrari, is 'the face' of Yalumba, Australia's largest winery still in family ownership. The Viognier grape features heavily in Yalumba's portfolio and, thanks to an excellent young winemaker, Louisa Rose, even the entry-level 'Y' series exhibits class and refinement (€10-12, Superquinn and many independents). The other white that will feature heavily in the Whalley household this Christmas will be, as ever, Tim Adams' Clare Valley Riesling 2005-2008 -- I always buy a few whenever Tesco has it 'on special'. Currently it's around €12.99.