Lights in the darkness

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Now that the countdown has started to that big festive celebration in December, thoughts turn to the special bottles to buy for The Big Lunch. But what of the weeks in between? With dark nights, cold winds and the tendency of my central heating to pack up at the first sign of a challenge, I shall be stocking up with good value drinking to add warmth and flavour to mid-week meals.

With £8 as an absolute maximum and a fiver as an average, here are my top 20 best buys for this week.

Crisp and zesty Whites

Majestic Esprit Soleil Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Vin de France, down from £6.49 to £4.99. With crisp, green-edged flavours of nettles and tropical fruit, this thirst-quenching white is perfect to 
welcome you home at the end of 
the day.

Tesco Simply Chenin Blanc, NV, Western Cape, South Africa, £3.99.

An astonishing price for a decent bottle of crisp, lemon-zesty, melon and apple style wine. Fine for drinking on its own, but it will also go with a winter salad, fish and chips or a mixed veg stir-fry.

Sainsbury House Muscadet NV, Loire, France, £4.79.

With all the right, yeasty, almost 
salty notes of good Muscadet, this is a 
real bargain. Perfect with all kinds of fish, from grilled plaice to a fish pie.

Asda The Wine Selection Semillon Sauvignon 2012, Margaret River, Western Australia, £5.98.

With ripe melon and pear notes 
and clean, precise freshness, this is 
good enough to move up to weekend drinking. Pair with spiced prawn 
starters or that sweet salty combination of melon and parma ham.

Round and smooth Whites

Tesco Macon Villages 2011, Burgundy, France, £4.99. Load up with this delicious wine, priced at less than many Vins de Pays. The style is soft, almost elegant with lemon and apple fruit and a hint of limestone crunch. Informal dinner party drinking.

Waitrose Moncaro 2011, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Marche, Italy, £5.29. This style of Verdicchio is riper than those of years gone by. It has touches of peach, quince and baked apples among the lime-edged fruit. And the texture is good too with a smooth silky style. Totally dry, good with fish and white sauce dishes.

Sainsbury House Chardonnay NV, South East Australia, £4.29.

Given up Chardonnay because it isn’t fashionable? In that case you are missing out. This is packed with light, juicy melon fruit with a crisp finish. Team it with suppers from grilled chicken to roast pork.

Mildly aromatic

Majestic Gavi Montero 2011, down from £8.99 to £6.99 on multibuy.

White blossom notes and hints of fennel lift this Gavi from the ordinary to the excellent to pour alongside pan fried fish, veal escalope or creamy pasta dishes.

Tesco Finest Albariño 2011, Galicia, Spain, £7.99. Just limboing under the price bar, this is still a great value wine with wafts of apricots, ripe pears and citrus backed by hints of salty minerality.

Waitrose Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand, down from £9.49 to £6.99 until December 4.

Made in collaboration with Villa Maria, a terrific Kiwi Sauvignon with tropical fruit amongst the gooseberry freshness.

Light and fruity Reds

Tesco Simply Garnacha 2011, Campo de Borja, Spain, £4.49. A bargain of a wine, full of juicy bramble fruit and a touch of spice. It comes from low-yielding, old bush vines in North East Spain and it will accompany anything meaty, from pasta to grilled lamb.

Waitrose Classic Côtes du Rhône 2011, France, £4.99. The name says it all; this is a classically simple CDR with bramble fruit, a dusting of spice and a hint of Southern French sunshine.

Soft and supple Reds

Marks and Spencer Domaine de Clariège 2011, Pays de l’Herault, France £4.99. A Merlot and Cabernet blend from the sunshine of the Mediterranean, giving ripe cassis flavours with supple tannins. Perfect for anything beefy.

Majestic Real Compañia de Vinos Tempranillo 2011, Castilla, Spain, down from 6.24 to £4.99. Full of youthful cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of liquorice spice. Good with tomato-based dishes, pasta and lamb.

Tesco Simply Chianti 2011, Tuscany, Italy, £4.79. Made by Cecchi, this has bags of quality and style and is a real bargain. Bags of cherry fruit, misty autumn notes.

Asda The Wine Selection Corbières 2011, France, £4.98. Part of the new range at Asda with good regional styles and flavours, this is chock full of bramble fruit with herbal notes and soft tannins.

Rich and chunky

Marks and Spencer Negroamaro 2011, Puglia, Italy, £6.49. The name means “black bitter”, but that was before they learnt to ripen those grapes properly, now it is still deep coloured but there’s no bitterness, just chunky plummy fruit, substantial enough to cope with steak, game and roasts.

Waitrose Smooth and Spicy Australian Red NV, £4.99. A new addition to the Waitrose range, offering simple straightforward flavours at great value prices. Ripe blackcurrant flavours, a hint of spice and a toe-warming style.

Asda The Wine Selection Sicilian Red 2011, Italy, £3.98. Packed with ripe damson fruit and robust, chewy tannins. Team with pasta, pizza and red meat.

Majestic L’Instant Truffier Malbec 2011, Rigal, PGI Côtes du Lot, France, down from £8.99 to £6.99. More structured and chewy than many Argentinian Malbecs, dark, inky fruit packed with plum and bramble flavours.