I don’t need an excuse to get excited by wine but as Christmas approaches it gives me an opportunity to shout about it! There are plenty of great drops out there, it’s just a case of knowing which gems to look out for. After all, the festive period is too short to drink rubbish wine!
Here’s my first of a few drink fuelled posts for Christmas and New Year 2019 (and going into 2020)!
It’s no secret that I love a bit of fizz. I don’t partake in any Christmas prep without a glass in my hand. Whether it’s making the Christmas cake, decorating the house, or wrapping gifts, there’s always a glass of sparkling wine within arms-reach. I love a bargain and I’m always keen to find alternatives to bland, under-par Prosecco (sorry Prosecco lovers).
Tesco stocks one of my faves, a French fizz called Finest Blanquette de Limoux (Tesco £8.00) which is currently on their 25% off when you buy 6 or more deal until 18thDec. This crisp, fruity, easy drinking sparkler is from Languedoc-Roussillon and is a great alternative to lacklustre low-priced fizzy wines with no flavour. It’s thought to be the world’s first sparkling wine (made by Benedictine Monks earlier than Champagne!) And at the price, it’s my guilt-free go-to bottle for a party.
Speaking of Bargains, if it’s Champagne you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Co-Op’s Les Pioneers Brut Non-Vintage Champagne (Co-Op £26.99). It has an exquisite nose, like tearing open freshly baked Brioche and on the palate, it’s got buttery hints that are complemented by a gentle hint of lemon zest. It also has a long, luxurious finish too. This good-looking, and fine tasting bottle is an absolute steal! Hunti it out for your festive celebrations.
If you’d like to push the boat out, what could be better than a ten-year old vintage Champagne? One of the most interesting Champagnes I’ve had all year is Champagne Bruno Paillard 2009 (£68.80 from Hedonism Wines). It is exceptional. If you like something special that combines elegance and expert winemaking, this is your special bottle. It has an unusually herbaceous nose for a Champagne which follows through on the palate. It’s not toasty like some vintage Champagne but it’s more menthol, spicey and intriguing. There’s a fantastic note of melting butter on the finish and a white pepper finish which is truly unique. You can get yours at hedonism.co.uk.
And while we’re on the subject of stunning sparklers, I have to tell you about a few of the incredible English wines out there at there at the moment. The ever-expanding collection of stunning English offerings is so exciting.
Black Chalk Classic 2015 (£35.00) is an elegant example of how well English wine production is going. It’s delicate fruit and light fizz are coupled with a slightly saline hint which makes it ideal with Christmas Day nibbles.Their Wild Rosé 2016 (£40.00) is also delicious and has an exciting ripe raspberry direction when sipped. Both available in independent wine merchants and at blackchalkwine.co.uk.
But probably my favourite English sparkling pink at the moment is the newly released Hattingley Valley Rose 2015 (£36.00) from Hampshire. There are English summer fruits on the nose and ripe redcurrant brightness in the mouth, with a mellow and creamy textured finish. Such a fantastic sip for Christmas morning. This is available in independent wine merchants and at hattingleyvalley.com.
I’m always keen to get people shopping their local Co-Op as the wines there are consistently good. You can’t ignore their ‘Irresistible’ range. Irresistible Chablis (Co-Op @12.50) is a great example of a wine that you’ll want in your fridge. Made by respected family firm JM Brocard, It has a slightly savoury brown butter nose and a lovely toasty palate. It’s richer than a lot of the more delicate, crisp examples out there. It has a buttery texture with a lovely mineral finish. It’s a little nutty which makes it a perfect partner to turkey or a festive buffet.
Berry Brothers & Rudd have been in the wine game for over 400 years and their wine shop on St James’s Street in London is a beauty! They also have a store in Basingstoke and you can order online too at bbr.com. The have some seriously special sips on their shelves but I’m really impressed by some of their more reasonably priced bottles too. Old-Blocks Chenin Blanc 2018 (£14.50) is a real treat if you want something a bit different. When it’s chilled right down it gives you a limey sherbet hit, but it comes into its own when it gains a little warmth. Not only is there an intriguing minerality here, but there’s an earthiness to the taste too followed by a lengthy finish of ripe orchard fruit. Delicious!
I’ve always loved the experience of buying wines at Majestic Wine Warehouse. It’s fun, their stores are easy to navigate and they have staff who want to make your wine buying pleasurable! Their new tasting points that are dotted around the store give inspiration to shoppers too. It was at one of these tasting points that I discovered Main Divide Riesling 2015 (£11.99 on the mix 6 deal) from Pegasus Bay, Waipara in New Zealand. It’s a sublime example of New World Riesling. It’s off dry charm is laced with peachy goodness and lychee undertones. If you are cooking a Boxing Day curry, this is the wine for you.It’s perfect balance of sweetness and acidity is fantastic.
And another stunner from Majestic Wine is Pecorino Terre di Chieti (£7.99 on the mix 6 deal). I love the ripeness and food-friendly nature of Italian whites like this. It’s the hints of peach and pear on the nose that I find incredibly inviting. There’s a burst of lemon and pineapple freshness in the mouth but with good weight on the finish. It’s got great texture and it’s fun too. Good for a drinks party on its own or with food.
Tis the season to drink pink! Yes – You heard right. Rosé is not just for summer with all the smoked salmon and shellfish offerings at this time of year. My favourite still rosé of the year is undoubtedly L’Escarpe Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2018 (Morrisons £8.95). It’s a classic Provençale pale pink offering with herbaceous South-of-France aromas. Its delicate, yet mouth-watering flavour expresses strawberries and cream and is always in my fridge – Year round! Honestly, this wine is as good as pinks that are twice the price.
Co-Op’s nod to Fairtrade wines is commendable with their Irresistable Fairtrade Malbec (Co-Op £7.50) being a great example. Its classic New World boldness has a fun ‘in your face’ warmth. Peppery on the nose and spicy palate, this warms you and would not be out of place with a festive roast.
Back to Berry Brothers… They have a wonderful example of Burgundy that will be amazing with your Christmas dinner. Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir 2017 ( Berry Brothers & Rudd £23.50) is a stunner. It has a bright, fruity nose and is full of gently blackcurrant in the mouth. There are some soft tannins in the middle of your sip, then it mellows out. It’s delicious.Some of their other red wines are incredible too, and hard to believe they are as low priced as they are. TheirCôtes du Rhône 2018 at £11.95 and their Argentinian Malbec which is under a tenner are two very good examples.
Once again heading to Majestic, Orinoco Pinot Noir (Majestic £13.99 on the mix six deal) is on the shelves and you shouldn’t ignore it!It’sfrom Nelson in New Zealand and is deliciously bright with redcurrants with a hint of cherry too. It’s going to be great with cold cuts on the buffet (and a turkey and sausage meat sarnie too!)
Waitrose 10 at £10!
I also want to give a special mention to Waitrose & Partners festive nod to bargain-buying ahead of Christmas. They are offering 10 wines at a special price of £10 until 17th December. They’re a collection of customer favourites from all over the globe that are normally pricier than £10. Here are my picks…
Hauts de Perrière Pouilly-Fumé 2018 is delightful. It’s fresh and mineral – Great to have as a treat before food. It’s elegant and sophisticated and I’d drink it every day! It might get lost with rich festive food, so drink before in order to enjy this classic. Save something richer like Frei Brothers Chardonnay from California 2017 for your meal. It’s from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County and is great example of fresh zesty flavours balanced with oak-ageing. It’s divine and perfect for this time of year.
On the rosé front, Mirabeau Pure 2018 offers a Southern French class to proceedings. This cheerful pink gives not only strawberry but a range of incredible bright fruit flavours with a hint of cherry and rhubarb too. I love it! Your prawn cocktail will LOVE this one!
One of my favourite reds on offer here has to be Toscana Villa Antinori 2016. One of the most well-balanced red wines out there. Dark and fruity, it’s restrained with gentle tannins. There are no harsh edges here and it exudes beautiful soft red fruit. It’s such a good buy! And one more thing, it tastes stunning from the moment you open the bottle. If you’re in a rush, don’t worry – This wine doesn’t need to breathe.
If you’re looking for something a little bolder, Colomé Malbec 2016 from Argentina is great if roast beef is on the cards. It has a freshly ground black peppery nose. It’s juicy with hedgerow fruit and an underlying hint of tobacco and a twist of black pepper on the finish. A few squeaky tannins for balance, this wine is good all-rounder.
And a fab wine that completely over-delivers at this price is Beronia Rioja Reserva 2014 from Spain. I was lucky enough to have visited this vineyard earlier in the year, and I’m so glad that this particular wine is getting the attention it deserves. It’s incredibly smooth and has a silky texture. The oak ageing has done great things to this wine and the leathery and slightly smoky taste is a delight. It’s a great one to sip in front of the fire this Christmas.
Happy Shopping everyone. Enjoy it! And keep your eyes out for some more recommendations from me soon.