Wine lore and festive cheer

Different places have different customs but somehow there’s always a time for the enjoyment of a glass of wine during this festive season. Wine itself is also the subject of Christmas lore and myths.

In some countries like Germany and Russia, folklore has it that on Christmas Eve supernatural things happen such as water in rivers and wells turning to wine. Of course, the legend goes that only the pure in heart can witness this magic. All other souls must content themselves with traditional Germanic celebrations which usually involves copious cups of glühwein or mulled wine.

I’m not aware of Maltese Christmas wine traditions but the next overseas custom doesn’t seem too odd. On the continent, traditionally priests have blessed wine for churchgoing families on the second day of Christmas, December 27 being the feast day of St John. The apostle is believed to have been forced to drink a poisoned cup of wine by his enemies but no harm came to him – after he said a blessing over the wine.

Sometimes wine vocabulary sprouts from literature connected to the Twelvetide. It’s common knowledge that Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol. However, it’s not well known that he was apparently the first English novelist to write down the word ‘tawny’ to describe the colour of older port, Portugal’s fortified wine made by houses many of which were originally, or still are, British owned.

But not to put too fine a point upon it, port is mainly a seasonal sipper. Sales peak this time of year and then gradually fall away as for years has been the case for sherry, a Spanish fortified wine from near the town of Jerez de la Frontera. It also has its place in Christmas celebrations since the good boys and girls in the UK and Australia sticking to tradition leave out a glass for Santa.

While winemakers in frigid climates hope they don’t have to make excuses for Father Christmas arriving a day late – as the 2015 ice wine grape harvest has first to be brought into the winery should the first frost hit – few wineries located in warm regions are already occupied with the release of their new wines of the same vintage.

What we call the festive season (though I must say that with so many affordable locally-made quality labels, there’s reason to call most of the year pretty festive) is a specially busy period at the Delicata winery. Malta’s most-awarded winemaker has just bottled, packaged and distributed three different rosé wines as well as one crisp dry white from the Sauvignon Blanc variety, all from quality grapes which were 16 weeks ago still hanging on the Maltese vines.

The 2015 fresh rosés that come on the heels of last year’s sold-out vintage are Medina Grenache Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc), Victoria Heights Syrah (in Delicata’s Gozo-grown range) and the Classic Collection Rossini Syrah (in its third release year).

Having tasted all wines, it’s hard to pick just one favourite. All three pink wines brim over with vibrant, zingy and ripe raspberry or strawberry fruity goodness which in the case of the Rossini is topped with less of a peppery dusting but a lovely candyfloss-like finish instead. And Delicata’s popular Medina Sauvignon Blanc 2015 entices with a typical herbaceous nose of nettles and elderflower, an appropriate tangy attack and delightful flavours of Granny Smith apples and kiwi fruit.

Their timely arrival this side of Christmas is particularly cheerful news for wineenthusiasts who love their wines as fresh as possible and many catering establishments who have been patiently waiting to replenish much-asked-for stock.

I wish everyone a wonderful, wine-filled Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Enjoy in moderation and never drink and drive.

This article first appeared in The Times of Malta, Friday  18 December 2015

 

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