Many will agree that since the arrival of the pandemic there has been precious little to celebrate during the last 12 months. However, life moves on around us, and this month saw the Chinese New Year ushering in the year of the Ox. As the second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox is said to represent hard work, diligence and honesty.
As New Year is the major holiday event in the Chinese calendar, and an important time for gift giving, companies with an eye to a ready-made marketing opportunity have always been keen to capitalise on this, releasing special Chinese zodiac collections.
Certainly, when it come to wine and other alcoholic beverages there are endless options available, even if for us it means simply enjoying a tipple or two with a take-away.
This year, wines that celebrate and pay tribute to the bull or the ox have been in demand.
For anyone wanting to push the boat out, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, £210 (40%abv.) has produced a limited-edition bottling to celebrate the Year of the Ox, featuring artwork from award-winning artist Shirley Gong, with the ox symbolising prosperity, growth and good fortune. Given the Chinese penchant for premium whisky the price tag is hardly surprising.
The famous Italian red wine, Desiderio from produced Avignonesi, 2016, £42.57 (14%abv.), will fit the bill for anyone keen to make the link when tucking into their chow mein, fried rice and spring rolls. This vegan wine, made from a blend of 92% merlot, 8% cabernet sauvignon, is from Italy’s biggest biodynamic winery in Tuscany’s Montepulciano, and honours the region’s majestic white bull of the same name, which means ‘desire’ in Italian. The bull, the largest in Tuscany at the time, and one of the oldest breeds of cattle in existence, reportedly lived on Avignonesi’s Capezzine farm more than one hundred years ago and helped to define the cattle specific to the famed Bistecca Fiorentina.
The wine is a pale ruby red, with delicate berry aromas on the nose, and a subtle hint of coffee beans. The flavour is well-rounded, smooth and fruit-driven, with a delicious savoury finish.
I have always been a Champagne fan and was delighted to discover that to celebrate the 2021 Chinese New Year, Champagne Billecart-Salmon, £70, (12.5%abv.) has created an exclusive Limited Edition design for its Brut Rosé, its iconic house cuvée, with a Chinese Gongbi painting ‘Rui Niu Wang Chun’ which means ‘an auspicious ox looking forward to spring’ in Chinese., by Chinese artist Lin Ke.
At the other end of the price scale, and first produced in 1954, Sangre de Toro, £7.50 (13.5%abv.) was the first bottled release from Spanish wine giant Torres. The wine, which is vegan, was created by Miguel Torres Carbó who searched Catalonia to find the best grapes for this popular everyday wine. This Garnacha/Carignan blend creates a fruit forward and very approachable red. Each bottle design features a red bull or ‘Toro’ in Spanish, which honours its home country, Spain, known for its bull fighting, and is of course topical for Chinese Year of Ox.
Those of us of a certain age will well remember Hungarian Bull’s Blood. Bolyki Egri Bikavér 'Bull's Blood' 2016 £14.49 (13%abv.) This unfiltered vegan wine made from a blend of native grapes, is an attractive, deep ruby colour with a spicy black pepper nose of dark stewed fruit with a hint of chocolate and vanilla. Its bright acidity, tight tannic structure, and long finish makes this wine one that is worth ageing.
Lastly, Asda Extra Special Selection Toro Tempranillo, £8, (14.5%abv.), is a splendid easy drinking Spanish red with loads of rich cherry, black raspberry and spice flavours, with a silky warm, lingering finish.
I have recently become rather keen on Haiku poems, so here is my offering, its composition aided by this super little site – https://www.poem-generator.org.uk/haiku/
A meal, thirsty wine drinking
Saved by the ox