Try some sake for Christmas dinner

  • Wine country: the vineyards of Mt Difficulty in the Central Otago region of New Zealand

    Wine country: the vineyards of Mt Difficulty in the Central Otago region of New Zealand

You wish to take a wine gift with you for Christmas dinner and you cannot decide on red, white or rosé — so don’t.

Pay $26.10 and hand them a bottle of Momokawa g 50 Genshu sake. They will try not to look at you as if you are loco; enlighten them with a few facts.

There are no short cuts in brewing g 50. The rice used comes from one of the finest rice-growing regions in the world, the Sacramento Valley.

The climate, soil and water resources are ideal for growing rice and the trek north to the winery (sakery?) in Oregon is relatively short. Koji-kin and yeast strains used in g sake are both from Japan and, combined, provide the diversity of flavours layered in each bottle.

The purest water from Oregon is perfect for sake. Silky texture and subtle notes of nectarine, grapes and pear will show off the turkey.

Water is often added to the brewed sake, but “Genshu” means undiluted and the flavours will be more appreciated if served in a regular red wine glass and, of course, chilled.

You can suggest to your host that this rice wine will also be most appropriate with cheese, as they both contain lactic acid. I have heard of very successful “tease your cheese with sake” parties.

Pinot noir and turkey are perfect for so many reasons. Other reds can easily overpower this meal.

The acidity of pinot noir brings out the flavours of the meat, stuffing, cranberries and even sweet potatoes. Green veggies, like Brussels sprouts, are enhanced by the soft tannins of the wine.

The 2016 Mt Difficulty Bannockburn pinot noir, from the Central Otago region of South Island in New Zealand, has notes of earthy savouriness, mocha, and sweet brown spice elements overlaid with earthy dark cherry.

The wine displays length and structural integrity. Savoury dark cherry notes alongside violet florals introduce the wine. This moves into a linear mid-palate out of which rises fine, elegant textural tannins. Cherry notes frame the finish. A publication called The Wine Front rates it an impressive 94/100.

The following winery information demonstrates just how difficult this vine is to cultivate, due partly to the many clones one has to choose from to properly match the terroir of the vineyard: “Mt Difficulty Bannockburn pinot noir is blended from a range of Bannockburn vineyards, with the majority of grapes coming from earlier plantings, which are predominantly clones 5, 6 and 10/5. More recent plantings are a mix of Dijon clones: 113, 115, 667&777.”

Although it would be far too presumptuous to think that I understand all these clones (about a thousand overall of which seventy or so are suitable for fine wine), I must confess that 777 is my favourite so far. This wine is drinking so well at this time and it costs $39.90 per bottle.

Interestingly, if one travels from 45 degrees latitude south to 47 degrees north, they will travel from Central Otago to Beaune in Burgundy. Also, the pinot noir-famous Williamette Valley in Oregon is 45 degrees north. Two narrow bands around our planet.

Incidentally, if you mispronounce Williamette in Oregon they will remind you “Will-am-it damn it”.

The one that I may just take home is our Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2016.

Today the word mouches means flies but, historically, in the local dialect, “mouches a miel” meant “honey flies” or bees. There used to be hives in this enclosed (clos) vineyard. Drouhin farm all their vineyards biodynamically and use a horse rather than a tractor to till the land.

A French website comments: “Clos de la Mouche red 2016 is an exceptional wine. The colour is deep ruby red. The nose is intense and fresh in youth. In the early years, it will express notes of red fruits (blackberry, morello cherry and raspberry), with an aromatic complexity with nuances of smoke and liquorice.

Over time, the wine will express notes of pepper, tobacco and undergrowth; the attack on the palate is frank and fleshy. Over time, this pinot noir will be rounder, with a silky texture. A noble wine with a balanced and seductive texture.” Very limited supply at $120.65.

Still want to be on the road less travelled? Now we are finished with the bird and it is time for Stilton cheese. You are probably thinking port — which would be wonderful — but, again, let’s get away from the obvious and give your friend a half-litre bottle of Royal Tokaji Kek 5 Puttonyos Aszu Blue Label 2013 that goes for $43.35.

You can explain that the Tokaji wine region has the distinction of being the first in Europe to be classified and that this is the world’s very first sweet white wine, going back to the 17th century.

This perfectly balanced 5 puttonyos is now widely available throughout the world. Royal Tokaji’s 1st growth Nyulászó vineyard is the benchmark for quality.

As in all aszu wines, the three grape varieties are furmint, hárslevel and muscat de lunel. The characteristics are a vivid gold colour with honeyed apricot and orange peel flavours which are uplifted with dramatic acidity.

If you are feeling even more generous, you could step up to Royal Tokaji Stz Tamas 6 Puttonyos 2013 for $88.30, which is a treat of voluptuous apricot and plum jam intermingled with tobacco and a touch of chocolate leading to a long and delicate finish. Its 12 hectares are one of the core wine vineyards in the Mád commune of Hungary.

Szt Tamás 1993 enjoyed the dubious distinction of being one of the top 100 wines in the world that “you should drink before you die”.

By the way, 5 puttonyos denotes at least a sugar level of 120 grams per litre and 6 puttonyos has to be a minimum of 150 grams.

I must mention that Christmas pudding and Tokaji are also a marvellous match. Have a sweet Christmas!

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit

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Published Dec 20, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 19, 2019 at 10:16 pm)

Try some sake for Christmas dinner

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