Countdown to 2023 Holiday Wine Pack
Case of 6 bottles.
Back by popular demand!
Inside this pack you will find six specially-selected wines to mark a few key dates in December, namely: National Soil Day (Dec 5th); National Letter Writing Day (Dec 7th); Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (Dec 16th); Winter Solstice (Dec 21st); Boxing Day (Dec 26th); and, of course New Year’s Eve, which also serves as a toast to new beginnings in 2023.
These are from independent wineries where care is taken from vineyard to grape to bottle. The wines are also available to purchase by-the-case through this Web site.
Wine #1 Bodegas Marta Maté, Vinas del Lago 2017 (Ribera del Duero Spain)
When the UN General Assembly designated December 5th as World Soil Day, it was to draw attention to the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources. You might be as surprised to learn as we were that one teaspoon of soil contains more organisms than there are people in the world, and this biological diversity is key to our very survival.
UN campaign this year is "Soil: Where Food Begins" and we can extend this to where wine begins as well. Most of the producers we work with follow organic principles with respect to their work in the fields and in the winery in order to protect the soil and encourage their vineyards to flourish. Marta Castrillo and César Maté, however, go even further by practicing sustainable, ecological viticulture which promotes the life of microorganisms that live in the soil. At Bodegas Marta Maté, they use horse-drawn implements instead of tractors to avoid soil compaction which can lead to erosion, and do not use biocides or chemical fertilizers which can alter the natural soil ecosystem.
So what better wine to celebrate the importance of soil in our lives than 2018 Viñas del Lago? A blend of 88% Tinto Fino, 7% Garnacha, and 5% Albillo, aged for 12 months in French oak barrique (90%) and American oak barrels. You’ll discover aromas and flavours of red fruits - cherry, raspberry - with notes of violets, and vanilla spice. It’s medium-bodied, with balanced acidity, and a persistent finish. While a great pairing with grilled and roasted meats, this wine also complements grilled and roasted earthier-style vegetable dishes.
Wine #2 Jokín Aranzábal, Txakoli Katalin 2020 (País Vasco, Spain)
Not sure when National Letter Writing day became recognized, but if you are like us, and are tired of only getting bills and flyers in the mail, why not sit down with a glass of wine and write someone a letter? The person you write to is probably thinking the same thing, and just imagine the feeling they’ll get when your note arrives. And the timing couldn’t be better as they’ll receive it just before the holidays.
While you're writing your letter, enjoy a refreshing glass of Txakoli. The traditions of making wine in the Basque region of Spain date back thousands of years, when writing and receiving a letter was the main, if not the only form of communication. The grapes come from a tiny 0.7 hectare plot of vines just a few kilometres from the Cantabrian Sea, planted over 100 years ago by Jokín’s grandmother, Katalin Iturzaeta, for whom the wine is an homage.
Fermentation was in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to retain the fresh aromatics of the grape, then aged in stainless steel, on the lees, for around seven months before being bottled. Katalin Txakoli is a relatively complex white wine with tropical aromas of apple, lime, red grapefruit, kiwi, and melon, with herbal/floral and stony/mineral notes. Dry and medium-bodied with great texture, fresh acidity, a slight spritz, and a long, clean finish.
Great on it’s own, with a few snacks while writing, or with a wide range of foods to enjoy after you've popped the letter in the mail.
Wine #3 Sciare dell' Alba, Etna Rosso 2018 (Sicily, Italy)
To enjoy with this official day to celebrate chocolate, we've picked a wine made from a pair of indigenous Sicilian grapes - Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio - grown on hillside - actually volcano-side - slopes of Mount Etna. This is only the second vintage of this wine, and winery.
Following traditional red-wine fermentation, the wine is aged for 24 months in French-oak barrels. Nerello Mascalese is quite similar to Pinot Noir, and so the ageing regime follows some Burgundian traditions. The resulting wine has aromas and flavours of wild berry fruit - strawberry, and raspberry - with floral/herbal notes.
Medium-bodied, dry, with evolved tannins and a persistent finish which balances nicely with milk, dark, and even white chocolate. And if chocolate isn't your thing, the Etna Rosso is a versatile and food-friendly red wine that will be a great pairing for traditional holiday meals.
Wine #4 Finca Losada, Losada 2019 (Bierzo, Spain)
Why not stay indoors on the shortest day of the year, and open a bottle of delicious Bierzo? Deep and dark - just like the 15 hours, 5 minutes, and 16 seconds we'll have without sun on the Dec 21st.
The new moon is on the 23rd, so the night skies will be particularly dark which is perfect for checking out the Ursids Meteor Shower. Okay, Ursids may not have anything on the more popular Gemind show a week or so earlier, but it’s the only astronomy event we could come up with for the 21st.
Made from 100% Mencia grapes, from 40 - 80 year old vines grown in various plots close to the winery. Alcoholic fermentation using indigenous yeast takes place in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks. Then the wine is aged 12 months in French oak barrels (second- and third-passage from Vosges and Allier, and of different sizes.) Fining is done with natural mineral- and vegetable-based agents and it’s bottled unfiltered, so is suitable for vegan-diets.
The aromas and flavours are of red fruits - plum, raspberry, and cherry - with floral notes of vanilla spice, cocoa, and anise. Full-bodied, with fine/round tannins, balanced acidity, and an elegant/silky finish.
It’ll go great with grilled, roasted and braised meat dishes (lamb) and earthier vegetarian options. All perfect winter solstice dishes.
Wine #5 Domaine Plaisance Penavayre, Negret Pounjut 2021 (Fronton, France)
Boxing Day can mean leftovers, or maybe a break from turkey and a shift to more grilled or braised foods. Preparing the meal is usually a lot more relaxing, and maybe even a good time for trying something new. Especially something that’s versatile and can work over a range of different tastes and textures.
We’ve been waiting months for this wine to arrive, and we are happy it’s finally here. It’s a ‘natural’ wine in that nothing has been added or taken away during production, and the vineyards are managed organically, without chemical interventions. And it’s really, really yummy.
Negret Pounjut is actually an ancient version of the grape Négrette, discovered by winemaker/founder Marc on his property. He’s actually the only person in the region working with Negret Pounjut, and this is his only bottling. Fermentation takes place in open-air vats, using only natural yeasts on the skin of the grapes at the time of harvest. It’s bottled unfined and unflitered, and comes in at 11.5% alc./vol. which Marc says is the highest the grape can ever produce.
Bright ruby/purple colour with fresh aromas and flavours of red fruits (raspberry and plum) with slight spicy notes. Medium-bodied, dry, fresh acidity, well balanced, with a long, clean finish.
If you just want a meal with appetizers, this wine is perfect. Same if you don’t want to cook and are ordering in pizza. But otherwise it won’t get in the way of anything else, and in fact will be a gentle reminder to slow down and enjoy the holidays.
Wine #6 Elisabetta Abrami, Franciacorta DOCG Brut (Lombardy, Italy)
When we first created the Countdown Wine Pack we remarked that 2020 had been a tough year, but that 2021 was "looking to be a lot better." I guess we didn’t get that quite right, but here we are on the eve of 2023 and we think that's still worth celebrating.
Whether you open it on New Year's Eve, or on January 1st, this organic Franciacorta is a nice alternative to champagne, and with all the benefits of champagne. It's a cuvée of 80% Chardonnay grapes and 20% Pinot Noir grapes, hand-picked from low-yielding, organic estate vineyards in Lombardy. Each variety is fermented separately in stainless-steel tanks, and the cuvée is made in the spring following harvest, with the addition of sugar and yeast for the second fermentation. It remains in the bottle for a minimum of 18 months (on the lees), then a minimum three more months post-disgorgment before release.
This is exactly how champagne is made, and also the same main grapes as used in making champagne - what's not to like? The dosage is 7 grams/litre, meaning Brut, and the alcohol is 12.5%.
In the glass, straw-yellow/gold colour, with fine and persistent bubbles. Elegant and rich, with slightly yeasty aromas and flavours of pear, warm apple, and vanilla. Balanced acidity, fine and elegant, with a long persistent finish.
A great aperitif wine, and pairs well with grilled fish, shellfish, poultry and white meat courses. Or just to toast the arrival of the New Year.