by Tim Atkin

Christmas reds and whites



2008 Errazuriz Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley (£4.99 each for two, 13.5%, Majestic). Reduced from £7.99, which makes it a stunning deal, this is an easy drinking, peach and citrus fruit Chilean Chardonnay with a touch of oak for added complexity.

2008 Vouvray La Couronne des Plantagenets (£5.79, 12%, Sainsbury’s). Chenin Blanc is responsible for some of the best value whites in the world. This pineappley, tart, yet medium sweet example is a case in point.

2008 Riff Pinot Grigio, Venezie, Alois Lageder (£5.97, 12%, Asda). I am no great fan of Pinot Grigio, except when it tastes as good as this. Pears and apples jostle for supremacy on the palate of this soft, flavoursome white.

2008 Château de la Grave, Grains Fins, Côtes de Bourg Blanc (£6.25, 13%, The Wine Society). This Right Bank Bordeaux appellation makes some of the region’s most interesting whites. Waxy, herbal and almost oily with nicely integrated oak.

2008 La Basca Uvas Blancas, Telmo Rodriguez (£6.49, 12.5%, Marks & Spencer). Classic, grapefruity, smoky, unoaked Verdejo from Castilla-León, blened with 40% Viura to add a hint of pepper spice. Good richness from old bush vines.

2009 Costero Riesling, Viña Leyda (£6.95 each for two, 13.5%, Majestic). Riesling is a comparatively rare grape in Chile, let along the Leyda Valley, but this makes you wonder why: minerally, dry and zingy with flavours of fresh limes.

2008 Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine du Pré Baron (£6.49 each for two, 13%, Majestic). Given the price of bog-standard Sancerre these days, why not buy this crisp, faintly smoky, elderfloral Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc instead?

2009 Tesco Finest Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch (£6.98, 13.5%, Tesco). Ken Forrester is the king of Cape Chenin Blanc. This lightly-oaked example, sourced from unirrigated bush vines, is honeyed and concentrated, yet remarkably fresh.

2002 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett, Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier (£7.49 each for two, 7.5%, Majestic). Majestic are particularly good at sniffing out mature parcels of German Riesling. This is light, elegant and nicely developed with sweetness balanced by cool climate acidity.

2008 Giardini Falanghina, Puglia (£7.99, 12.5%, Sainsbury’s). Falanghina is one of southern Italy’s most characterful white grapes. This one is typically exotic, with flavours of liquorice, vanilla and angelica spice.

2008 Domäne Wachau The Terraces Grüner Veltliner, Wachau (£7.99, 12%, Waitrose). Could this wine be the breakthrough for Austria’s signature white grape? Let’s hope so, as it’s spicy, peppery and crisp, with good weight for a 12% alcohol wine.

2008 Yalumba Viognier, Eden Valley (£9.99, 14%, Waitrose). Viognier can be something of an acquired taste — real one glass wine territory — but not when it’s as good as this ripe, creamy, apricot-scented example from Down Under.


Asda Tempranillo NV, Valencia (£3.08, 12.5%, Asda). Not all of Asda’s cheap offerings are worth buying by any means. But this is an exception: soft, raspberryish and unoaked, it’s ideal for a festive party.

2008 Yali Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet/Carmenère, Rapel Valley (£4.49 each for two, 13.5%, Majestic). Reduced from £6.49 to a palate-watering price, this quintessentially Chilean red blend is soft and vibrant with nicely intermingled flavours of mint, chocolate and cassis.

2008 Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz, South Australia (£5.95, 14.5%, The Wine Society). Bags of colour and bags of flavour. You’d be hard pushed to find a better Aussie quaffer under £6 than this silky, supple, brambly Shiraz.

200 Fontaine du Roy, Costières de Nîmes (£5.99, 14%, Waitrose). A blend of five grapes (including Marselan, no less) that’s far more than the sum of its parts, showing savoury, smoky, blackberry fruit and fine-grained tannins.

2008 Bouchard Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays de l’Aude (£5.99, 13%, Sainsbury’s). There aren’t many contenders to be honest, but this is the best cheap Pinot Noir on the market: lightly oaked, cherry fruity, yet with a touch of autumnal funkiness, too.

2007 Château La Dournie, Saint Chinian (£6.99 each for two, 13.5%, Majestic). Saint Chinian is one of my favourite Languedoc appellations. This balanced, aromatic, savoury blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan is fresher than you’d imagine.

2008 Palatia Pinot Noir, Pfalz (£7.99. 13.5%, Marks & Spencer). Pinot Noir from Germany ? You bet. This oak-aged example is juicy and fresh with svelte tannins, refreshing acidity and sweet raspberry and strawberry fruit.

2007 Ascención Malbec, Salta (£7.99, 14.5%, Laithwaite’s). Produced at Bodegas Colomé in the cactus-dotted, far north of Argentina, this is a big wine, but it has the freshness and violet perfume of high altitude Malbec.

2007 Sacravite Aglianico, D’Angelo (£7.99 each for two, 13%, Majestic). Who says southern Italy can’t make great red wines? This sturdy, flavoursome Aglianico from Basilicata is serious stuff that needs food to soften its tannins.

2006 Cosme Palacio Rioja (£8.99, 13.5%, Tesco). Very much a modern Rioja, made entirely from Tempranillo and aged in French oak barrels, this is stylish, ripe and polished, with lovely balance between fruit and acidity.

2005 d’Arry’s Original Grenache/Shiraz (£8.99, 14.5%, The Co-op, Oddbins). You might not look to McLaren Vale for subtlety, but what you do get is plenty of flavour. This is a fruity, smooth, full-blooded Aussie take on a Rhône blend.

2007 Silex Rouge, Côtes du Rhône (£9.95, 13.5%, Berry Brothers & Rudd). This might sound expensive for a humble Côtes du Rhône, but it’s a stellar, Grenache-based liquid with texture, spice and notes of raisins and red fruits.



2008 Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley (£12.99, 13.5%, Sainsbury’s). Awatere Valley Sauvignons are noticeably more restrained that those from elsewhere in Marlborough. This one is deliciously tart, with mange tout and green bean notes.

2007 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese, Von Hövel (£11.80, Tanners). A great Saar Riesling from a brilliant recent vintage, with austere, peach and crisp apple notes balanced by a touch of sweetness. Freshness in liquid form.

2008 Sancerre, Domaine Naudet (£11.99, 13%, Waitrose). If you’re a Sancerre addict who needs a fix, even at the current high prices, this is the one to go for: fresh and stylish with smoky minerality and a tangy, dry finish.

2008 Tenuta Luisa, Friulano del Friuil (£11.99, 14.3%, Waitrose). Sourced from a small family domaine in north-east Italy, this rich, nutty, spicy white has a fresh straw-like aroma to it and a pleasantly bitter apple skin note.

2008 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Hefeabzug, Wachau (£13.99, 12%, Majestic). Sourced from an ancient, bio-dynamic estate in the Wachau, this is a Grüner with great finesse and complexity: white pepper, minerality and a hint of rose petal.

2003 Lehmann Margaret Semillon, Barossa Valley (£14.99, 11.5%, Laithwaite’s). Semillon is capable of making delicate white wines that age for a decade or more in Australia. Waxy, toasty and bone dry, this is perfection in a bottle.

2007 Sequillo White, The Sadie Family (£15.50, 14%, The Wine Society). Eben Sadie is a Cape superstar, making reds and whites of extraordinary complexity. This Chenin meets the Rhône style white is exotic, harmonious and subtly oaked.

2008 Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Domaine Gérard Thomas (£16.99, 13%, Majestic). Saint Aubin is a great source of well-priced white Burgundies such as this taut, youthful, lees-influenced, vanilla spicy Chardonnay. One to lay down, too.

2008 Château Doisy-Daëne Sec, Bordeaux (£16.99, 12.2%, Waitrose Wine Direct). You’ll have to go on line to order this, but it’s worth the hassle because it’s an amazing white Bordeaux with bright, focused, grapefruit and vanilla complexity.

2007 Loimer Riesling Langenlois Terrassen (£17.49, 12.5%, Waitrose Wine Direct). Dry Austrian Rieslings are some of Europe’s most under-rated white wines. This has bracing acidity, but it’s balanced by floral, stone fruit flavours.

2007 Condrieu, Domaine Michel Ogier (£35.95, 13.5%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Is it worth paying for Condrieu when there is so much good (and cheaper) Viognier available from elsewhere. When it’s as good as this elegant white, it most certainly is.

2004 Chassagne-Montrachet, Premier Cru Chaumés, Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (£39, 13.5%, The Wine Society). White Burgundy at its complex best. This is still young, even for a 2004, with fresh minerally flavours, subtle oak and a creamy mid-palate from lees contact in barrel.


2007 Pietracupa Bolgheri, Tenuta Moraia (£11.99, 13.5%, Sainsbury’s). Italy isn’t the first place you’d go in search of a great value Bordeaux-style blend, but this polished, fruit cake-like Cabernet Sauvignon-based Supertuscan is a steal.

2007 Fabre et Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza (£11.99, 14.5%, Laithwaites). You might need to give this dense, purple-coloured Argentinean Malbec some time, but it will be worth the wait. Ripe, concentrated and profound.

2007 Craggy Range Bannockburn Sluicings Vineyard Pinot Noir Central Otago (£12.79 each for two, 14%, Majestic). If anyone needs convincing that New Zealand outperforms red Burgundy under £15, give them a bottle of this plush, harmonious, sweet-cored Pinot Noir.

2001 Rioja Reserva Imperial, CVNE (£13.99 each for two, 13.5%, Majestic). A Tempranillo-based Rioja that neatly straddles the boundary between modern and traditional styles, this is mature, complex and sweetly oaked.

2008 Matetic EQ Syrah, San Antonio Valley (£15.99 each for two, 14.5%, Majestic). I wouldn’t advise you to drink this right now, but if you’re looking for a wine for Christmas 2010, this spicy, fleshy, chocolatey Chilean red is delicious.

2006 Cantina di Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella (£16.99, 15%, Waitrose). Christmas is a great time to drink Amarone, Italy’s biggest and most concentrated red. This is complex stuff: tobacco, raisins, lots of red fruit and powerful tannins.

2000 Château Tour du Haut Moulin, Haut-Médoc (£19, 12.5%, The Wine Society). A 2000 claret that’s drinking beautifully. With its fine tannins, fresh acidity and developed, slightly gamey flavours it would be perfect for Christmas lunch.

2007 Cornas, Granit 30, Vincent Paris (£23.99, 13%, Waitrose Wine Direct). Partial ageing in stainless steel has given this Cornas a freshness and perfume that some examples lack. Peppery, spicy, complex and appealingly elegant.

2006 De Toren Fusion V, Stellenbosch (£24, 14.5%, Swig, V is a reference to the five Bordeaux red grapes. This is one of the Cape’s best Bordeaux blends with exciting flavours of mint, blackcurrant and wood smoke.

2006 Passopisciaro, IGT, Sicily (£26.79, 14.5%, Corney & Barrow). Made from the rare Sicilian Nerello Mascalese grape, this is like a turbo-charged red Burgundy. Pale, complex, raspberry-scented yet with lots of body.

2007 Te Mata Coleraine Cabernet/Merlot, Hawke’s Bay (£31, 14%, Laithwaite’s, An elegant, silky Bordeaux-style blend from Hawke’s Bay that ages quite brilliantly. The most recent release could be the best yet from this established winery.

1996 Volnay Premier Cru Caillerets, Clos des 60 Ouvrées, Pousse d’Or (£33, 13%, The Wine Society). This is the last vintage the brilliant Gérard Potel made before he died. But what a memorial: savoury, mature, multi-faceted red Burgundy that’s at its peak right now.

Originally published In Observer Food Monthly

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