The Noffla show last autumn was even more strongly focused than usual on the run up to Christmas and several treats had been singled out. One special one was Brix Chocolate, being offered by Ampersand, and this consists of a brick of fine chocolate which you bring to the table and hack at (like a Stilton cheese), consuming the chunks with your wine. It was great chocolate but the wine recommendations that came with it were generally for dry wine. If you fancy that combination, I won’t stop you, but it seemed to me that it would all go better with a ruby port, an Italian red dessert wine, or some sparkling Shiraz. A very nice gift though, to yourself or someone else, and it retails at around €10 a block.
Moving on to bottled goodies, Noffla had also singled out a range of wines they thought would go especially well with Christmas dinner. Of the entry point buys (moreorless) I quite liked Grand Arte Alicante Buschet 2009 from Portugal (Richmond Marketing €10.99). I suppose it would have to be hand sold, given that this traditional grape variety would be largely unknown to customers, but the juicy red fruits were enjoyable with a nice bit of character. Another unusual offering was the Californian Concannon Petit Syrah 2007 (Barry& Fitzwilliam €14); the nose was a bit funky, at least on this bottle, but the palate was much more elegant with smooth black fruit and berry flavours. Drouhin Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru 2004 (Gleeson/Gilbey €41) was the top Burgundian treat and it has to be said that it was a triumph: classy yet with exuberant fruit, well defined berry flavours and decent length. Expensive but delicious – ideal with turkey. Marques de Riscal 2005 Reserva Rioja (Findlater €21) had soft strawberry, summer fruit and light, sweet spices- very appealing and would be good with duck, pates and terrines.
Almost all importers are offering special Christmas wine packs and several told me on the day of the show that they will be more than happy to listen to individual ideas and requirements from independents. The simple placing of gift packs around the store can stimulate customer interest in gift wines, as can scattering some glittery carrying bags through the display.