Wine Club: Corkers for Christmas

Harvest at Contino - a terrific wine for Christmas
Harvest at Contino - a terrific wine for Christmas
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Christine Austin recommends 10 whites and 10 reds that will go down a treat over the festive season.

If, like some of my friends, you have presents wrapped, food on order and the tree already twinkling with lights in the hall then it is likely that you have already planned your Christmas drinking. But if, like me, it is a last-minute rush to the big day then I hope that this list of my top 20 wines for Christmas will help you select what you need to see you through the lunches, dinners and small neighbourly get-togethers of the festive season. As well as great flavours I have looked out for great value for money, at all price points.


• Silver Ghost Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Chile, Majestic, £4.99: A real bargain of a wine with plenty of bright lime and gooseberry flavours and a crisp, refreshing finish. This is good enough to pour when the neighbours drop round, but cheap enough for returning students.

• Finest Picpoul de Pinet, 2013, France, Tesco, down from £7.99 to £5.99 until December 31: There is another offer starting on Monday which will take this price down further on multi-buy, so hold off buying until then. But look forward to the refreshing, salty, tangy, citrus and white floral flavours.

• Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013, New Zealand, Sainsbury’s, £9.50 down to £7 on multi-buy until January 1: Bursting with fresh-cut grass aromas and gooseberry zest, 
this makes a great aperitif wine or to liven up the taste buds during the festive overload.

• Feudo Arancio, Dalila Bianco, 2013, Sicily, Italy, the Wine Society, £7.25: A mix of clean, lemony Sicilian Grillo with apricot-scented Viognier which together make a wine with weight, structure and the ability to go with foods – from a spiced prawn starter to a cold turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich.

• Curator’s Choice White 2014, South Africa, Booths, £8.99: Adi Badenhorst has been setting the pace in South Africa for well-made, stylish blends, usually made from dry-farmed fruit with bags of flavour. This is a terrific blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon, each grape adding to the honeyed lime and savoury peach flavours. This is another foodie wine, perhaps with a late-night fish pie supper on Christmas Eve.

• Les Armes de Chablis 2013, Petit Chablis, France, Waitrose, £9.99: Despite the lowly appellations, this wine is stacked with the classic crisp citrus and crunchy gravel path flavours of a good Chablis. Trade up to the deeper flavours of Les Armes de Chablis (£15.99, Waitrose) for Christmas Day.

• McHenry Hohnen 3 Amigos 2010, Margaret River, Western Australia, Bon Coeur (01765 688200) £12.99: What do you do when you have sold your successful wine company to a big multinational? You start all over again, and David Hohnen, founder of Cloudy Bay, is now making this nutty, silky blend of Marsanne, Chardonnay and Roussanne.

• Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Chile, Hoults, £13.99: Costa means coast and these vineyards are within striking distance of the biting cool winds that blow in from the Pacific. I visited them just a few weeks ago and was almost blown off the hillside. The grapes ripen slowly, gathering flavour and a distinct crunchy, minerally style. Think herbs, citrus, passion fruit and pebbles rather than straightforward gooseberries. Good with canapés on Christmas morning.

• Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2013, Elgin, South Africa, Tesco, £13.99: From one of South Africa’s leading quality producers, this could easily masquerade as a quality Burgundy. With clear, elegant, melon, citrus, almond and vanilla notes it has weight, balance and persistence. Pour this with turkey if you prefer a white wine.

• Stepp Riesling *S* Kallstadter Saumagen 2013, Pfalz, Germany, Marks & Spencer, £15: Formerly a winemaker employed by Marks & Spencer, now Gerd Stepp has returned home to manage his family’s estate in Germany. Because he knows the UK palate, his wines seem to hit notes that other German wines just can’t. This is lean and dry with knife-edge acidity and a positive streak of citrus-peel freshness. Try it with a fish starter or grilled turbot.


• Cono Sur Bicicleta Merlot 2013, Chile, Tesco, £6.99: Every household needs a great value, easy drinking, warm-hearted, fruit-filled red and this is it.

• Monterebro Joven 2013, Jumilla, Spain, Bon Coeur, £7.99: Made from mainly Monastrell with a splash of Syrah, this is a chunky, flavourful wine with bags of bramble fruit and ripe tannins.

• Ch. Pey la Tour 2011, Bordeaux, Waitrose, £10.99 down to £8.24 until December 30: If you like claret with your Christmas dinner then this is the one to head for. Elegant, rounded, smooth and ready. And great value too.

• Taste the Difference Douro 2012, Quinta do Crasto, Sainsbury’s, £8.25: Made at one of the most beautiful estates in the Douro, this is full of deep damson, liquorice and chocolate notes. Team it with a roast.

• Henry Fessy Coteaux Bourguignons 2012, Burgundy, France, Marks & Spencer, £9: A lively, juicy, cherry and raspberry-filled wine, with gentle silky tannins and bags of exuberance.

• Juliénas Esprit de Marius Sangouard 2013, France, Wine Society, £9.95: Full of lively, juicy, cherry and raspberry fruit with soft tannins, snappy acidity and enough structure to cope with a Boxing Day lunch.

• Skillogalee Basket Pressed Shiraz 2010, Australia, Roberts and Speight, £16.10: Packed with black plums, cherries and spice with a lick of vanilla. There are so many flavours on a Christmas plate and this will go with them all.

• Contino Rioja Reserva 2008, Spain, Field & Fawcett, £19.90: There are all types of Rioja but this is a seriously good one. It comes from a single estate and is made by Jesús Madrazo who keeps the velvety fruit to the fore and the oak in a supporting role, adding texture and complexity, not heavy vanilla. I would be happy if this is poured on Christmas Day.

• Balestard La Tonnelle 2005, St Emilion Grand Cru, Majestic, £30 down to £19.99 on multi-buy until February 2: An exceptional wine, just approaching its drinking window and oozing with charm, power and silky, cassis fruit.

• Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Santa Maria Valley, California, Halifax Wine Co, £21.95: With lifted cherry and strawberry aromas and a silky, spiced palate this is the best, most balanced, Californian Pinot Noir I have tasted.