FOOD & DRINK: Bordeaux and burgundy for a traditional Christmas

On Wine: Start planning your festive drinking with our three-part guide to great-value wines

FOR MANY wine-lovers, Christmas means back to basics, a chance to dust off a classy bordeaux or luxurious red burgundy squirrelled away for the occasion. For younger wine- drinkers who've been weaned on the New World wines, tradition can be a dirty word. But it needn't be. Nor do traditionalists need to limit their horizons. Compared to a decade ago, we're spoilt for choice. So let's turn l'embarras du choix to our advantage and enjoy the quality, whether of Chilean cabernet or bordeaux, New Zealand pinot noir or burgundy.

Looking at the diversity of wine styles gives me the chance to take several bites at the festive cherry. This week I'm putting the emphasis on traditional values, selecting from the rounds of autumn tastings a variety of classic bordeaux and juicy red burgundy. Next week, I'll pick out a handful of mouth-watering sweet wines, both white and red. The week after, I'll be recommending some of the exciting and innovative New World answers to the French classics.

Will we all be trading up? Perhaps, but value remains as important a consideration as quality. Did I say value? So often claret, or red bordeaux as it now likes to call itself, doesn't stack up against its New World counterparts based on the cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. The secret is to avoid cheap own-labels and brand names and be prepared to pay a little more.

Right-bank bordeaux

First up are a handful of luscious, full-bodied, St Emilion and Pomerol look-alikes based on the merlot grape of the right bank of the Dordogne river. In a minor key, 1996 Chateau Lauduc (pounds 6.99, Waitrose) is a voluptuously fruity example of the type with a light cedary touch to it, while the 1996 Chateau d'Auigulhe, Comtes de Neipperg, Cotes de Castillon (pounds 7.99, Waitrose) is closer to St Emilion, with the soft and juicy merlot grape creating a succulently fruity, bright claret with a well-proportioned touch of vanilla-tinged oak and voluptuous fruit flavours.

In similar style, the 1996 Chateau Hostens Picant Sainte Foy Bordeaux (pounds 7.99, Fuller's) is a stylish young chateau red, while from the same fine vintage, the 1996 Chateau Sergant Lalande de Pomerol (pounds 8.99, Fuller's) is a shade richer, a distinctive mini-Pomerol with rich merlot-based fruitiness. From Castillon again, the 1997 Vieux Chateau Champs de Mars, Cotes de Castillon (pounds 8.99, Majestic - pounds 8.09 if you buy six bottles) is a spicily oaked, juicily ripe right-bank red.

Left-bank bordeaux

Switching to the classic, cabernet-based left bank, this time of the Garonne, bargain-hunters will want to snap up the richly concentrated, oak-spicy 1997 Chateau Haut Canteloup Cru Bourgeois Haut-Medoc (pounds 7.99, Asda - normally pounds 9.99).

The 1997 Chateau Ludon Pomies Agassac (pounds 9.89 - pounds 8.99 buy six bottles) is the value-for- money Haut-Medoc at Majestic, while the rich, chocolatey and nicely maturing 1995 Chateau Le Crock, St Estephe, (pounds 16.49 - pounds 14.84 buy six bottles) promises satisfying drinking. Unwins too has a beauty from this nicely evolving vintage in the elegant, full-flavoured 1995 Chateau La Tour de By (pounds 11.90).

At Oddbins, the sumptuously fruity and intense 1996 Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Medoc, (pounds 17.49) is still youthful but just starting to drink beautifully.

Red burgundy

The pinot noir grape of red burgundy is always more elusive, wonderful when it works but infuriatingly unreliable, and often a better proposition at a specialist wine merchant. Asda has decently slashed the price of its light, attractively strawberryish 1997 Hautes Cotes de Beaune, Antoine de Peyrache (pounds 4.99), and Safeway has a respectable, more animal specimen in its 1996 Bourgogne Pinot Noir Reserve de la Famille (pounds 6.99). A fine example of succulent, cherryish pinot noir with a gamey edge, the 1992 Chateau de Rully, Cote Chalonnaise (pounds 12.99, Unwins) also demands to be drunk now.

On a more seriously hedonistic note, the 1996 Chassagne-Montrachet, Henri Germain (pounds 13.90, Tanners of Shrewsbury, 01743 234500) is a youthful pinot noir with fragrant raspberry and violet scents and intensely flavoured with raspberry and mulberry. Oddbins is offering Vincent Girardin's pure, concentrated, loganberry-like 1997 Santenay 1er cru Baron de la Charriere (pounds 15.99) in its Fine Wine stores, while Unwins has also unearthed a superb Girardin with wonderful fruit clarity: the delicious strawberry and raspberry-flavoured 1997 Volnay 1er cru Clos des Chenes (pounds 29.49). Superb too, the 1996 Chateau de Monthelie, Monthelie 1er cru Sur la Velle, Eric de Suremain (pounds 23, Justerini & Brooks, London SW1, 0171-493 8721), a modern red burgundy with undertones of new oak spice and wild red-berry fruitiness.

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital