Christmas time, mistletoe and wine. This is what we might call The Cliff Richard Minimum. If you have these, it’s Christmas. Mistletoe is something that I can’t provide, although hawthorn, lime trees and apple orchards would be good places to look. But for wine, here are my 25 bottles to suit every occasion over the festive period…
White wine recommendations for Christmas
1 Eekhoring Wit 2018 (£16, redsquirrelwine.Com and independent merchants)
This is a Christmas squirrel (eekhoring is Afrikaans for squirrel) made mostly with the crisp apple fruit and honeyed ripeness of chenin blanc and perfume from a splash of marsanne and grenache blanc. One of my white wines of the year.
2 Pierre Jaurant Viognier 2019 vin de france (£4.49, Aldi)
Every year you wonder what will be the best pound-for-pound white and red. And Pierre Jaurant Viognier 2019 Vin de France is 2020’s white. Clearly deﬁned aromas of peach and apricot, and a ripe, sunny warmth. Serve well chilled as an aperitif, and let the temperature lift a bit for food.
3 Awatere Valley Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (£6.99, Lidl)
It’s almost 30 years since the vibrant zest of New Zealand sauvignon blanc arrived in the UK. And it’s gone from mouthwatering surprise to wine rack staple. Keep a bottle of this extraordinarily good value, single-vineyard wine in your fridge for spicier dishes.
4 Kaapzicht Estate Bush Vine Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch (£13.99, Waitrose)
Another wine of the year. This has the elegance to take on smart chardonnay, with a delicious fruity intensity that comes from old bush vines, with roots burrowing deep into granite, overlooking the Cape (kaapzicht means ‘cape view’). Worth buying a couple of bottles.
5 The society’s white burgundy 2019 (£9.95, thewinesociety.com)
Some wines are the gift that keep on giving. This is The Wine Society’s most popular wine, and it’s easy to see why. A beautiful balance of fruit and freshness with clearly deﬁned aromas and ﬂavour. A lingering ﬁnish works with all sorts of food. This is a bit of a wine-world legend.
6 Vin de Corse Porto Vecchio: Domaine de Torraccia blanc 2019 (yapp.co.uk, £15.95)
This is the ‘house white’ of actor James Purefoy (Fisherman’s Friends, Churchill) after I sent him a bottle this summer. Made high in the Corsican scrubland, it is dry and minerally, with the sort of herbal aromas that match ﬁ sh and seafood perfectly. James drinks it in his shed.
7 Esk Valley Pinot Gris 2019 (£12, specialistcellars.co.uk)
In winter the thinking drinker’s thoughts turn to pinot gris, the atelier to diffusion-line pinot grigio. Sweet-scented but dry on the palate; more pear than apple, with a richer, spicier feel in the mouth. This is cashmere, not wool. Match with spicy foods.
8 Simpsons Gravel Castle Chardonnay 2019 (£17, robersonwine.com)
Around an hour from St Pancras and Charing Cross is one of the world’s greatest wine regions, Kent. This is Churchillian chablis. Chaucerian chardonnay. Precise, crisp apple that evolves into more tropical fruit. Great with ﬁshcakes, and crab.
9 Flint Bacchus 2018 (£16.50, cork.co.uk)
It’s hard to believe that this lime and ﬂ oral beauty came just two years after Ben and Hannah Witchell established Flint Vineyard in Norfolk. A true (young) family business, Flint is already one of the stars in the English wine ﬁrmament.
Sparkling and rosé wine recommendations for Christmas
10 Berry Bros. & Rudd Crémant de Limoux by Antech, Brut, Languedoc (£13.95, bbr.com)
This year I was with a young Frenchman on a study trip who declared, ‘This is my mother’s wine!’ His mother is a brilliant winemaker. The apple and pear fruit comes from chardonnay and the ripe, honeyed ﬁnish is from mauzac. I’ll be toasting Christmas with this.
11 Tanners Cava Brut, traditional method (£10.70, tanners-wines.co.uk)
The phrase ‘reassuringly expensive’ can make us wary of bargains. It really shouldn’t. Here you have all the fruit complexity and biscuit aromas of a wine at at least twice the price, as well as the ‘mouth-ﬁ lling perfume’ of ﬁ ne ﬁ zz for just over a tenner. A must-buy.
12 Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£12.99, Aldi)
Here’s my take on champagne. Either buy this or go north of £50. You’ll not ﬁnd much better in between and certainly not better value for money. This is a consistently good biscuity wine that has champagne’s elegance and fragrance. A stunner.
13 La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2019 (£6.50, waitrose, majestic, tesco, co-op)
Britain’s best-selling French rosé and deservedly so. Rosé is not just for summer, it’s also for Christmas. Lovely summer fruits and a touch of spice. They also make Brad and Angelina’s Miraval that’s three times the price.
Red wines and port recommendations for Christmas
14 Craggy Range Te Kahu Red Blend 2015 (£22.50, specialistcellars.co.uk)
The ﬁve years under its belt have given this Bordeaux blend some serious class and integration. There are few wines offering this much style for the money. It will delight traditional palates as well as people looking for more exuberance.
15 Dourosa Tinto 2016, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro, Portugal (£13.95, bbr.com)
I’ve gone a bit bonkers for Portugal this year. I was there a lot, and the wines are extraordinary. Sophia Bergqvist makes this delicious damson and currant-scented wine from her vineyard that climbs 450 metres from the Douro river.
16 The Society’s Sicilian Reserve Red 2016 (£8.50, thewinesociety.com)
Here’s the wine equivalent of the homely recipe you can rustle up in half an hour. A sun-kissed red with spicy fruit; a friendly wine that travels comfortably to the sofa once the plates are cleared away.
17 Tanners Douro Red 2017 (£8.70, tanners-wines.co.uk)
I make no apology for having a couple of Douro reds in here. The world’s most beautiful wine region makes some of the world’s most uncelebrated reds and whites. And that makes them a steal.
18 Spätburgunder, markgräflerland, martin wassmer 2017 (£14.50, thewinesociety.com)
Fragrant and ethereal, this is my pick for a Christmas table wine. German pinot noir (spätburgunder) ﬂ ies under too many radars, but it does give you a wine that would cost twice the price elsewhere.
19 Balfour Luke’s Pinot Noir, 2018 (£25, laithwaites.co.uk)
This multi-award-winning pinot noir is served at The Savoy and made less than an hour away. Cherries, raspberries and a savoury ﬁnish; it’s simply fabulous.
20 Boulevard Napoléon, Cinsault, Languedoc, 2016 (£15.55, stjohnrestaurant.com)
An offbeat treat with hedgerow fruit and herbal aromas, this is made in partnership with London’s famous St John Restaurant, so it’s hardly surprising this is a great food wine. A left-ﬁeld choice for Christmas Day. But it’s a left-ﬁeld Christmas.
21 New Press Pinot Noir 2019 (£14.50, specialist cellars.co.uk)
This festive season, make sure you have room for an extra bottle in the fridge. Just 15 to 20 minutes for fragrant reds like this juicy, fruity pinot noir made for Melanie Brown at Specialist Cellars. A tasty, no-nonsense red that takes a lift from being a touch cooler.
22 Puerto del Monte, Mencia (£12.90, honestgrapes.co.uk)
Anyone who has not discovered mencia has a treat in store. A grape that balances inky density (like this) with fragrance, focus and balance. This Spanish wine is brilliant with Christmas dinner.
23 Farvie Frankland River Grenache, Swinney Vineyards (£88.50, greatwine.co.uk)
The best wine I have tasted this year. A few lines can’t do justice to this new star in the global wine ﬁrmament. It’s seamless, pure, orchestral, serene. Aristotle said perfection meant ‘nothing to add or subtract’. Today, he’d just hand you a glass of Farvie Grenache.
24 Quinta Do Noval Late Bottled Vintage 2012 (£23.99, cambridgewine.com)
It’s not the job of a wine writer to give instructions, but this is as close as it gets. Port is one of the world’s greatest wines and layered with as much history as ﬂavour. Here is the sumptuous and excellent value LBV from my favourite port house.
25 Château des Moriers ‘Fleurs des Champs’ Fleurie 2018 (£36.50 for 2.25l box, The Bib Wine co)
2020 is the year the box broke through – fabulous wines made by small producers in convenient and environmentally friendly boxes. This is a glorious, fruity, delicate all-rounder red at the equivalent of £12.17 a bottle made by brilliant French wine blogger Anne-Victoire Monrozier, aka ‘Miss Vicky Wine.’
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