Toast of the town: The best Christmas wines - Features - Food + Drink - The Independent

Toast of the town: The best Christmas wines

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SPARKLING

Taittinger Prelude Grand Crus NV

A real special-occasion champagne is essential in any Christmas case of wine. From one of the few remaining major houses still in the hands of the family which founded it in the early 18th century, the Prelude is a Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend aged for at least four years, so that initial citrus tastes develop into something richer and creamier, with a long, lingering finish. Savour on its own or with smoked-fish canapés. £35.99 (normally £37.99), winerack.co.uk; £39.95, champagnedirect.co.uk; £37 (each, when buying six bottles or more; normally £43), majestic.co.uk

Coates & Seely Rosé NV

There are now domestic alternatives to traditional champagnes. This critically acclaimed English sparkling rosé, the first vintage from a revived vineyard in Hampshire, is a perfect demonstration of how we can now beat the French at their own game – a lovely pale-salmon-pink in colour, flavours of strawberries and raspberries and a stunning crispness. Supremely refined and a simply gorgeous celebration drink. £27.95, coatesandseely.com; £29.99, thewinecompany.co.uk; £31.99, winepantry.co.uk

Mount Bluff Brut NV

Some simple bottles of fizz liven any festive occasions and this very dependable Kiwi sparkler does the job brilliantly. Made in traditional bottle-fermented style from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is enlivening, balanced, surprisingly sophisticated and would be perfect as an aperitif with canapés and nibbles as well as for party drinking. £10.99, Marks & Spencer

WHITE

1er Cru Raclot Jean-Marc Boillot Rully

If you are having, say, turbot or sea bass as your main course this Christmas, or need an alternative to sparkling to accompany crustacea, here is a classic white Burgundy from the Côte Chalonnaise, where great-value wines can be found. This is great Chardonnay the European way – precisely made, freshly mineral and full of subtle citrus flavours. £17.17 (each, when buying 12 bottles or more), goedhuis.com

Piccini Memoro Bianco

Following last year's Memoro red and adopting a similar mode, Piccini has drawn together Viognier grapes from Sicily, Chardonnay from Trentino, Vermentino from Maremma and Pecorino from the Marche, to create something very different, each grape adding its own qualities and complementing each other. The result is surprisingly full-bodied, creamy, smoky and spicy and needs pairing with rich fish dishes or roast poultry. £9.49, Tesco

Lefkes Moschofilero 2011

One of the highlights of the wine year was the Eastern Mediterranean range from M&S, showcasing some undiscovered gems from the region. This very dry, fabulously crisp, lemon- and-herb-flavoured white from Greece should be drunk over the festive season to remind us of summer holidays, help a fellow country in need, and because it's great to wash down a mezze-style buffet or oily fish dishes. £8.49, Marks & Spencer

RED

Valserrano Finca Monteviejo Rioja 2006

A single-vineyard Rioja from the Bodegas de la Marquesa, which may have been founded in the late 19th century, but now produces very modern wines. Spending only 18 months in new oak, the fresh and full red and dark-fruit flavours dominate and leave a rich, satisfying and long finish. The bottle to open for roast beef or goose or to accompany some strong cheeses. £22, jascots.co.uk

Montes Alpha Pinot Noir 2010

Who needs overpriced California Pinot (or Burgundy for that matter) when you can find unbelievably good-value Chilean wines that do the same job for your turkey or venison? Initially thrillingly vibrant on the palate, this stunning wine then reveals complex flavours of cherries, red fruits, chocolate and vanilla on the palate and finally a velvety textured finish. £11.90, slurp.co.uk; £11.95, winedirect.co.uk

Domaine les Yeuses 'Les Epices' 2010

Fantastic value and highly versatile, this Syrah vin de pays from the Languedoc is capable of being both a party bottle and also great to accompany robust foods or those turkey sandwiches. Lovely, perfumed aromas, with characteristic spices and sun-baked black fruits on the palate, but all held together in an appealingly soft, rounded fashion. £7.49 (each, when buying six bottles or more; normally £8.99), majestic.co.uk

DESSERT

Sandeman 20-year-old Tawny Port

Opening a once-a-year, by-the-fireside bottle of barrel-aged tawny, where the wine has turned golden and mellow, taking on complex flavours from the wood, is one of the great joys of the festive season. The perfect accompaniment to the Christmas pudding, blue cheeses or bowls of nuts and fruits, particularly dates. But, alas, once opened, port does not keep for long, so you just have to drink it all up. £29.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk; £36, selected Waitrose stores

Seifried Nelson Sweet Agnes Riesling 2010

In parts of Europe, Eiswein dessert wines are made by allowing grapes to freeze on the vine and so concentrate flavours, but in New Zealand, the Austrian-born wine-maker here freezes the Riesling grapes after late harvesting. But it works: the result is really pure apricot, mandarin and honey flavours with a light citrus undertone and a clean acidity to keep it from being too cloying. Serve very cold with properly sweet puddings. £13.05, farehamwinecellar.co.uk; £13.99, laithwaites.co.uk; £13.99, waitrosedirect.com

Mas de Madame Pays D'Oc IGP 2010

Muscat from the Languedoc is a perfect bottle for those who think pudding wines too sweet but find a white wine or sparkling overwhelmed by rich desserts. This is highly aromatic, packed with rich tastes of almonds, peaches and stone fruits but is light and fresh on the finish and is just deliciously different with fruit-based puddings or just a plate of cheeses and grapes – Muscat, if you can find them… £9.35, jascots.co.uk

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