Sparkling wines for Christmas and New Year
Ferrari Perle Rose Riserva 2011, Great Western Wine, £42.50
This is beautiful, complex and delicious with ripe red fruit and a hint of cumin spice. One for just close friends and family as it’s very special, but so memorable.
Larmendier-Bernier 'Latitude' Extra Brut 1er Cru, Lea & Sandeman £36.95
One for the champagne purists who are looking to treat themselves at Christmas. This 100% chardonnay is a champagne to make you swoon. Precision, aroma, delicacy and linear focus all with a fine bead of bubbles. I love to share wine, but I’ll only share this with those I know will love it. It’s “extra brut” so a little austere for some. Heaven for others.
La Cave de Hautes Cotes Crémant de Bourgogne, Marks & Spencer, £10
Proper, classy sparkling wine at the price of prosecco. Lovely with starters, delicious on its own, and at a price you can serve generously.
Cremant D’Alsace 2017, Aldi, £8.29
Wonderful value and brilliantly made. The perfect apéritif style of sparkling wine, you’ll find it can be a bit overwhelmed by food. But I’ve served this with canapés and it’s gone down brilliantly –
one person said it was their favourite sparkler.
Best reds for Christmas
Garnacha Bodegas y Viñedos Monfil 2018, Lea & Sandeman, £8.50
There really needs to be an International Year of Garnacha – a.k.a. Grenache. “The Pinot Noir of the South”, a perfumed, mid-weight, fruity grape with cherries and damson a-go-go. They’re delicious with sausages and pizza and pasta and hearty paella – especially a delicious Spanish wine like this. Although it’s young, this is raring to go.
Cune Imperial Rioja Reserva 2015, Morrisons, Waitrose Cellar, independents, £20
A Christmas dinner contender. 2015 was a classic year in Rioja Alta, and this is dense with flavour, with layers of currants, berries and the softer spice of oak barrel ageing. It’s a young wine, so decant it a bit before (always a nice touch anyway) to let it stretch its legs. Perfect with Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
Kendal Lodge Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc 2017, Marks & Spencer, £6
An extraordinarily good value red from the Gabb Family (I confess we’re chums) in South Africa. It’s made in the style of red Bordeaux, here with more sun-kissed fruit from the Cape. Lovely and smooth with a savoury finish. A great match with grilled vegetables, beef and especially lamb.
Carnivor Zinfandel 2017, Tesco, £10
And now for something completely different. This is (as the name implies) a bit of a beast. A big, juicy, fleshy wine to go with food that’s big, juicy and fleshy. It’s a full-on style with plums and boysenberries and a sort of damson-skin tanginess to the fruit. It’s for steak night, ideally flame-grilled and with all the trimmings.
Foresco Umbria, Barberani 2017, The Wine Society £10.50
What a wine! It’s the perfect red to turn to the fireside and warm up with. It’s made mostly with Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti and Brunello, here blended with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. There are wines made like this in Tuscany for multiples of the price, but this Umbrian discovery would embarrass more than a few for quality.
Domaine De Cassagnau Rouge 2016, Booths £8
People of the north are blessed with Booths supermarkets, with their wonderful wine range. This is a personal favourite. It’s not from a fancy appellation or grand producer, but it’s a delicious, ripe and balanced red that you can serve liberally. At home as much in front of the TV as it is over the dinner table.
Prophet’s Rock Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, The Wine Society, £26
When you open something special, you understandably want it to be special, and this really is. I’ve followed Prophet’s Rock for many years and I know the winemaker Paul Pujol, who learned his Pinot Noir craft at one of Burgundy’s grandest domaines. Complex, lingering and with a sweet aroma that soon evolves into layers of savoury fruit. Stunning.
Momo Vendimia Seleccionada, Ribera del Duero 2015, The Wine Society, £12.95
A great rule is to buy the lesser wines of great producers. This is a step down from Bohórquez Ribera, that is itself next door to the region’s greats. So you still get stunning fruit and refined flavours in a wine you can happily serve to the most demanding palates on Christmas Day, but also pour a little more liberally.
Great whites for salmon, seafood, turkey and more
Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Riesling 2012, Oddbins, theaustraliancellar.co.uk, £14.50
To stand in this vineyard is wonderful – an almost perfect Roman amphitheatre of vines in steps looking out over the Eden Valley north of Adelaide. And it makes a consistently brilliant dry Riesling, packed with limes and a toasty richness. Goes perfectly with smoked salmon.
Koyle Costa Cuarzo Rapel Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2018, The Wine Society, £8.50
For those of you who’ve been itching for a Sauvignon Blanc recommendation, here it is. If it’s Sauvignon Blanc under £10 it has to be really good, and this is. From a perfect spot by the coast in Chile, the cool waters flowing up from the Antarctic give this wine freshness and life. Look for captivating passionfruit aromas.
‘En la Parra’ Blanco Bodegas Nodus 2017, Lea & Sandeman £8.50
There’s a Spanish joke in the name of this aromatic white – a blend of Chardonnay (structure, fruit) and Moscatel (fragrance, perfumed sweetness). 'En la Parra' means ‘on the vine but also ‘daydreaming’. And that’s what it’s perfect for. Boxing Day lunch, gently daydreaming about the year that’s been and the year that’s still to come.
Bin #003 Ribolla Gialla 2018, The Wine Society £9.50
Snap this up while you can, as it’s an experimental wine. It’s a parcel from The Wine Society made with top winemaker Andrea Leonardi, who wanted to showcase the apricot fruit and chamomile floral notes of Ribolla Gialla. And he’s succeeded in spades, making a wine with generous flavours that’ll match richer winter foods.
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2017, Corking Wines and independents £16
Was there ever a better winter white than Viognier? The ginger spice, the warm apricot fruit, the white flowers that remind us of summer while complementing heartier winter food. This is the wine that led the renaissance (at least in Australia) and remains the benchmark. Intense, complex and delicious. Serve liberally.
Adnam’s Picpoul de Pinet 2018, £7.49
Picpoul has been a victim of its own success. Fresher than Pinot Grigio, more food-friendly than Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a gorgeous, ripe wine from the southern French coast. But with popularity, quality has struggled. So it’s great to find wines like this from Adnam’s that capture the sea-breeze freshness and sunny fruit that makes Picpoul so wonderful.
Atlantis Santorini 2017, M&S, £12
Do not – I repeat NOT – serve seafood without pairing it with this delicious white. It’s made from the Assyrtiko grape on the volcanic island of Santorini. And that combination gives it a Chablis-on-steroids quality. Pungent, zesty, refreshing, zippy and fresh – the perfect seafood wine. Forget desert island wine, this is my volcanic island wine.
Autocton Blanc, Autòcton Celler, 2016, Lea & Sandeman £15.95
One of the joys of wine in the past few years has been people finding parcels of ancient vines and nurturing them into new and innovative wines. Don’t expect to remember Xarel lo, Xarel lo Vermell, Macabeu and Malvasia de Sitges or the curious way this is made, but do enjoy the layers of white and yellow fruit flavours, the straw ripeness and pithy finish.
Rosés and a sweet wine
Rosado Cillar de Silos Ribera del Duero 2018, Berry Bros & Rudd, £14.95
Some rosés are not so much pink wines as very light-bodied red ones. This is almost in that bracket – a generous, flavoursome rose that enjoys partnering with chorizo as much as prawns and salmon. I’m lucky enough to live near the one of the winery’s owners and she’s a wonderful and generous host. I’ll be hoping for a glass of this over the holidays.
French Organic Rosé, Aldi, £6.99
We used to cast rosé aside once the nights drew in, but no longer. Our palates love that fresh fruit year-round and pink wines are becoming so much more versatile. This is a perfect winter rosé to go with grills. It’s great value too.
Campbells Rutherglen Muscat Australia, Lea & Sandeman £12.50, half bottle
Have a (half) bottle of this on hand for anyone who isn’t a fan of Christmas pudding. It’s Christmas pudding in a glass. Unctuous and viscous, it’s filled with heady raisin and fig flavours and the sweetness of caramel. Rutherglen Muscats are a peculiarly Australian wine and quite distinctive. They really come into their own at Christmas.
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