Richard Ehrlich's beverage report: Spend! Spend! Sip! Sip! Glug!

High spirits prevail as the festive drinks round-up continues - from cut-price to fantasy land
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The Independent Culture
"Twelve days to Christmas/Twelve days to Christmas/Plenty of time to do our Christmas shopping." So goes the song in Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's great musical She Loves Me, and today it's a case of life imitating art. To help with sourcing festive drink, here are the final entries in Drinking By Numbers, a complete set of wines for the Christmas meal in three price categories (up to pounds 20, pounds 20-30, fantasy land). Warm up those credit cards, folks!

Roberson Wine Merchant (0171 371 2121). Several of the wines are on special offer over the holiday season: those in the Top-End list may represent reductions of around 20 per cent in their extensive Fine Wine offerings. The Defaix Chablis is fabulous. Budget: Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Chile, pounds 4.95; Chateau Recougne 1995, Bordeaux Superieur, pounds 6.95; Domaine de Coyeux Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 1997, pounds 7.75/37.5cl. Mid-Price: Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla, pounds 6.95 OR Blanquette de Limoux Cuvee Princesse de Aimery Brut NV, pounds 7.50; Marques de Murrieta Ygay Reserva 1993, Rioja, pounds 9.95 OR Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Defaix 1995, pounds 9.95 (from pounds 12.95); Louis Roederer Rich Cham-pagne, pounds 12.95/37.5cl. Top-End: Veuve Clicquot Brut NV, pounds 18.95 OR Gosset Grande Reserve NV, pounds 29.95; Chateau Calon Segur, 3eme Cru Classe, St Estephe, 1988, pounds 39.95 OR Chateau Haut Bages Averous 1983, Pauillac, pounds 26.95; Chateau Filhot 2eme Cru Classe, Sauternes 1990, pounds 22.95.

Lay & Wheeler (01206 764446). The choice of white Burgundy as aperitif (budget menu) is unusual, but Hugo Rose MW, who made the selection, insists that it's "fresh and zesty" enough to serve both before and during the meal. All the sweet wines here are wonderful, and Les Hauts-Pontet is the second wine of Chateau Pontet-Canet. Budget: Macon-Villages Blanc 1997, Olivier Leflaive, pounds 6.99; Simsberg Pinot Noir 1997, Paarl, South Africa, pounds 6.40; Mavrodaphne of Patras, Cambas, Greece, pounds 5.75. Mid-Price: Le Grys Sauvignon Blanc 1997, Marlborough, New Zealand, pounds 7.99; Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Sonoma, pounds 8.83; Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 1997, Domaine des Coyeux, pounds 11.77 (or pounds 6.45/37.5cl, marginally cheaper than from Roberson Wine Merchant, above). Top-End: Michel Guilleminot Brut, Blanc de Noirs, pounds 13.87; Monticello Vineyards Chardonnay 1994, Napa, pounds 13.87; Les Hauts-Pontet 1995, Pauillac, pounds 13.87; Tokaji Blue Label 1995, 5 Puttonyos, Royal Tokaji Company, pounds 18.95/50cl.

Tanner's (01743 234500). James Tanner, who compiled the list, opines that the Muscat de Rivesaltes "would stand up to Christmas pudding but would go equally well with nuts or blue cheese." NB: the Chassagne-Montrachet is a red. The Champagne in the Top-End list is one of several growers' that Tanner's has been buying over the past year or so; worth exploring in detail. Budget: Tanner's Cava Brut, pounds 6.60; Chateau du Grand Moulas, Cotes du Rhone Villages 1997, pounds 7.10; Castillo de Liria Moscatel, Valencia, pounds 4.25. Mid-Price: Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett 1997, Heinz Wagner, pounds 7.30; Chassagne-Montrachet 1995, Henri Germain, pounds 12.90; Chateau Cap de Fouste Muscat de Rivesaltes, pounds 8.80. Top-End: Guy Larmandier Champagne Cramant Grand Cru, pounds 15.60; Pinot Gris d'Alsace, Bruno Sorg, pounds 7.95; Gevrey-Chambertin, En Motrot 1994, Denis Mortet, pounds 23.80; Churchill's Douro Bake Tawny Port, pounds 11.60/37.5cl.

Adnams (01502 727222). Simon Loftus of Adnams responded to my brief in a thoughtful and interesting manner: "Christmas is a time for cheerful celebration, not an occasion for drinking your very finest wine with cranberry sauce, crackers, paper hats and silly jokes." He presented a single list of delicious, affordable, not too heavy wines. If you economise with a half bottle of the sherry, the three wines cost pounds 19.35. If you go for a full bottle, the price is pounds 22.20. Delivery would be pounds 5, unless you ordered a total of 12 bottles, in which case carriage is free. I have tasted the first two wines - the sherry many times - and heartily concur with Mr Loftus on their merits. He describes the Moscato as "wonderful because low in alcohol (5.5 per cent) and stimulating to a jaded palate - beautifully scented, gently sweet, and lightly fizzy. Lovely with Christmas pud, even better with hazelnuts." His list: Manzanilla la Gitana, Hidalgo pounds 6.30 or pounds 3.45/37.5cl; 1997 "M" Pinot-Shiraz, Montara, Victoria, pounds 7.95; 1996 Moscato d'Asti, La Spinetta, Rivetti, pounds 7.95.

And finally, my favourite alternative to port is Botrytised Chenin Blanc which can reach astonishing heights of complexity, with mineral and citrus- fruit freshness positively soaring through the sweetness on the back of ample acidity. Vouvray "La Coulee d'Or" 1995, Domaine Bourillon Dorleans (Majestic, pounds 11.49/50cl) has it all. The long period it spends on your palate will convince you that the price is justified. Fine for drinking now, but it's got years of life in it. I'd skip Christmas pud and have an extra glass of this lovely nectar, one of the most delicious things I've tasted in months.