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Wine: Crowd pleasers for Christmas


A taste of wine is worth 100 ads. So it proved with the wine walks which are consistently one of the most popular features of the Wine Gang's Christmas tastings in London, Edinburgh and Bath. Groups of 10 wine consumers go walkabout with a member of the Wine Gang, stopping at different exhibitors to taste and talk about a wine. The interaction gives everyone the chance to taste wines normally outside their comfort or shopping zones and it gives the five members of the Wine Gang invaluable feedback as to consumer preferences.

Australia's new wave whites included a satisfyingly restrained 2011 Tempus Two Copper Plate Wilde Chardonnay, £8.39, drinkfinder.co.uk, and Shaw and Smith's subtly oaked, complex, Burgundy premier cru level 2010 M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, around £24.99, Majestic, and independents. There was exceptional riesling, too, in Pike's 2011 Clare Valley Riesling, £14.99, Red & White (01548 854473), Great Grog (0131 555 0222), all lemon and lime-like minerality, with a superb Austrian counterpart in a zingy dry 2009 Riesling Steinhaus, Hiedler, £18.95, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 240 2440).

Among many other excellent whites, there was the best of modern Spain in the deliciously floral and peachy 2011 Ailala Ribeiero Treixadura, £9.95, Great Western Wines (01225 322810), from northern Italy an opulent, nutty Italian dry white, the 2010 Biscardo Lugana, Veneto, £11.92, Exel Wines (01738 493535) and from Provence, a succulently sweet and sour apple and pear-like 2011 Côtes du Lubéron Château la Canorgue, £13.50, Yapp Bros (01747 860423).

From a plethora of magnificent reds, the 2011 Bodegas y Viñedos Monfil, Cariñena, £7.50, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522), was a model of strawberryish spiciness, and the 2010 Route du Van Dolcetto Shiraz, £10.99, Strictly Wine (0845 1283 838), a spicy and mulberryish blend from Australia's Victoria. Big red wine guns included Finca Allende's modern, lightly smoky 2006 Rioja Tinto, £17.95, Berry Bros, Trizanne Barnard's sleek and opulently dark berryish 2009 Trizanne Signature Wines Swartland Syrah, £17.59, Newark Wines (01556 690544) and the spicy, peppery Rhône classic: 2011 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage, £19.25, Yapp Bros.

The best way to finish a wine walk is on a sweet note and among those singled out by the wine walkers, the peachy ripe 2010 Jurançon Cuvée Julie Domaine Clos Thou, 50cl, £12.50, Tasting Room (01225 483070) stood out, along with the luscious 2008 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon, half-bottle, around £15, Hailsham Cellars (01323 441212), Four Walls Wine (01243 535353) and the Domaine des Demoiselles Rivesaltes Ambré, Solera, £17, Aubert & Mascoli (020-7252 3460), whose liquid toffee-apple richness was one of the greatest pudding wines any of us, wine walkers and I, had experienced.