Wishful drinking: Top wines for the festive season

From winning whites to racy reds, Anthony Rose picks two top cases for the festive season. First up, 12 bottles for the budget-conscious - and then - 12 more wines worth splashing out on
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Whites: On a budget

Party pleaser: 2005 Porta Chardonnay Rapel Valley, Chile

Chile is a candidate for some of the best-value, chablis-like dry whites made from chardonnay. Like this little number from Porta, which is just the ticket for parties if you're looking for a crisp, dry, full-flavoured white for finger food or drinking on its own, thanks to liberal proportions of juicy, ripe, tropical pineapple fruitiness.

£5.99, or £3.99, buy two get one free, Thresher, Wine Rack

Get juicy: 2006 Marlborough Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

St. Clair's range of Marlborough sauvignon blancs is second to none in New Zealand, from the extraordinarily intense Pioneer Block single vineyard bottlings to wines such as this refreshingly tangy passion fruit and guava number made by the experienced Matt Thomson. Catch it while you can because it's a steal at this one-off price.

£5.99, reduced from £9.99 list price until 3 December, Co-op

Spice it up: 2005 Taste the Difference Grüner Veltliner

Suddenly, it's almost impossible to browse a wine merchant's shelf or restaurant list without tripping up over an Austrian grüner veltliner. What took it so long to arrive, you might ask? This dry white's distinctive white peppery aroma, allied to a refreshing, spicy greengage plum fruitiness, makes it a versatile partner for a variety of foods, especially marinated fish and mild south-east Asian curries.

£6.99, Sainsbury's

Pearl of a wine: 2005 Chablis La Maladière, William Fèvre

From luxurious grand cru to more affordable chablis, William Fèvre is producing an increasingly stylish range of northern burgundian chardonnay. This bone-dry white is richly textured with its savoury undertones derived from the region's fossil-bearing, chalky soils (hence the affinity of chablis with oysters).

£9.99, or £8.99 when you buy two, Majestic Wine Warehouses

Bargain fizz: Bredon Brut NV Champagne

This is the Christmas cracker of a bargain fizz you've been waiting for - a champagne blend from Piper and Charles Heidsieck of mainly pinot noir and pinot meunier with a soupçon of chardonnay; the aromatic undertones of yeasty sourdough on the nose lead to a surprisingly full-flavoured, creamy mousse of serious quality.

£14.99, reduced to £10.99, until 3 December, Waitrose

Totally tropical: 2005 Framingham Marlborough Classic Riesling, New Zealand

From the free-draining, river-bed soils of Marlborough, Framingham Classic Riesling made by Englishman Andrew Headley is off-dry and refreshing with aromas of honeysuckle, lime zest and a hint of riesling "petrol", and tropical citrus flavours.

Around £9.99, Ex Cellar (020- 7736 2038), Caves de Pyrène (01483 538880), Carrington, Manchester (0161-881 0099/ 0161-446 2546)


On a budget

Bangs for bucks: 2005 Vineyard X Garnacha

From nowhere, garnacha, Spain's version of Grenache, seems to be taking over from beaujolais and shiraz as the bang-for-buck red wine of choice. This juicy strawberryish tinto from Campo de Borja punches way above its weight for the fresh, vibrant, gluggy fruit quality on display. It's a great little numero tinto for parties on a budget.

£4.49, or £2.99, buy two get three, Thresher, Wine Rack

Time is ripe: 2005 St Hallett Gamekeeper's Reserve, Barossa Valley

Since making its name with Old Block, a classic Barossa blend of old vine shiraz, St Hallett has ventured into more commercial but still good-value reds such as this powerful blend of shiraz, grenache and touriga, whose smoky aroma and exuberant raspberry and cherry spice give it the feel of a ripe beaujolais-in-Oz.

£5.99, Co-op, Sainsbury's, Waitrose; £7.49, or £4.99 buy two get one free, Thresher

Young at heart: 2003 Vega del Rio Tinto Crianza Bodegas Navajas Rioja Crianza

A well-deserved winner of the Best Value Red in the Spanish New Wave wines awards in the autumn, this is a youthful, modern rioja, blending mainly tempranillo with garnacha for juicy strawberry and cherry flavours in a crowd-pleasing combination of approachable fruit and traditional riojan oakiness.

£5.99, Morrisons

Winter warmer: 2004 Gigondas, La Roche Percée, Gabriel Meffre

This is a young, southern Rhône blend of grenache with an extra helping of syrah and mourvèdre for good spicy measure. A wine of accessible purity and concentration, it's immediately vivid and cherry-fruity on the nose with red fruit flavours, light pepperiness and supple-textured tannins. A great autumn-into-winter warmer.

£9.99, reduced to £7.99, until 3 December, Waitrose

Good scents: 2004 Côtes du Rhône Villages, Cairanne 'Hermas', Domaine de l'Ameillaud

From the village of Cairanne, this classic southern Rhône blend from the warm 2003 vintage contains powerful blackberry flavours tinged with spice and pepper. Its vibrant character makes it a perfect autumnal partner for grills and casseroles, but it would happily double as a superior party red.

£7.99, Oddbins; £6.50 bottle/ case, Berry Bros & Rudd (0870 900 4300)

Seductively silky: 2004 Nos Riqueza Ribera del Duero

This northern Spanish red is an exciting, pure tempranillo that comes from vineyards on the banks of the Duero river (the same as Portugal's Douro), showing seductively silky, pure black cherry fruitiness, whose smooth texture and intensity is barely troubled by the artfully applied combination of French and American oak that rounds out the tannins. One for roasts and game.

£9.99, Marks & Spencer


Splash out

Exotic fruits: 2004 Schäfer Fröhlich Riesling Trocken Vom Porphyr

Tim Fröhlich's riesling from the Nahe has been gaining increasing recognition for its invigorating freshness and expressive mineral characters. The exotic, fresh grapefruity nose on this spritz-fresh dry white leads to zesty grapefruity flavours. A youthful riesling that goes well with spicy Thai or Indian curry.

£11.25, The Wine Keller (01628 620 143)

Peachy number: 2003 Finca Allende

This would be pricey for a humble white rioja, but there's nothing humble about what's arguably the best modern white rioja on the market from the brilliant winemaker Miguel Angel de Gregorio: a new-wave blend of viura and malvasia, whose subtle vanilla aromas are complemented by a peachy richness of fruit flavour and polished oak that make this weighty modern style quite captivating.

£16.99, Oddbins

Classic white: 2004 Saint Aubin 1er cru, Domaine du Pimont Les Charmois

From the borders of Chassage Montrachet, this is a mini-chassagne in style, chardonnay fermented and aged in French oak for a beguiling aromatic quality and full-flavoured fruit, tempered by a touch of nutty oak, with the freshness of the lees stirred in-barrel and the minerality of the vineyard all contributing to a white burgundy of style and character.

£14.99, Mark & Spencer

Pedigree choice: 2004 Bourgogne Blanc, Le Clos du Château de Puligny

This full-flavoured chardonnay has to have a serious pedigree behind it, with the arrival of Etienne de Montille at this illustrious Côte de Beaune estate. The result is declassified puligny montrachet with intense flavours and nutty oak to round out the full burgundian cask fermentation treatment.

£14.95, £13.45 bottle/case, Berry Bros & Rudd (0870 900 4300)

Power option: 2004 Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot, Domaine Lamy-Pillot

From the Domaine Lamy-Pillot in the Côte de Beaune appellation of Chassagne-Montrachet, this is a powerfully constructed white burgundy whose chardonnay-based opulence is balanced by oak fermentation and the nutty, savoury characters derived from the lees and minerality of the terroir. A special occasion, full-bodied wine for fish and white meats.

£27.50, Waitrose

Fizz factor: 1996 Orpale Champagne

The 1996 vintage in Champagne was remarkable for a vivacious acidity that's kept most fizz from the vintage sprightly and long-lived. This pure chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs region shows how a decade of evolution has created toasty, evolved characters in the bouquet and the flavour, while the lemony streak that cuts through the savoury brioche fruit like a Sabatier gives it its perky freshness and vivacity. As a bonus, it comes in it own gift box.

£34.99, Marks & Spencer


Splash out

Heartwarmer: 2004 Pertaringa Two Gentlemens McLaren Vale Grenache

The old grenache and shiraz vines have finally been recognised as a valuable part of South Australia's vinous heritage, making deep, strong, rich wines like this heartwarming, spicy, power-packed McLaren Vale answer to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Around £10, Handford, London (020-7221 9614), Nidderdale Wines, Harrogate (01423 711703), Woods Wines, Henley (01491 642269)

Sleek and stylish: 2003 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge Pessac-Léognan

A classic Graves blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this classy red's smoky cabernet aromas combine with a trace of vanilla oak in a sleek, modern style, with opulent cassis that's halfway to New World, while the fruit quality points firmly to Bordeaux. It's a medium-bodied style that's drinkable now but it will continue to improve over the next 10 years.

Half-bottle, special price £10.46 half-bottle/case, Berry Bros & Rudd (0870 900 4300)

Get fruity: 2005 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir

Signs that Chile is starting to compete with New Zealand on top-end pinot noir are clear from this seductively spicy, raspberry and cherry-imbued red. The berry-fruit perfume and sumptuous strawberry fruit quality of this classic pinot noir are rounded out by spicy oak that doesn't grate on the purity and concentration of sweet fruit flavours - a compelling and concentrated red. £14.99, Morrisons

Cape crusader: 2005 TMV Swartland Syrah

TMV stands for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, which, way out of the main Stellenbosch drag, up in the warm Swartland region, is making some of the Cape's best syrah, notably in this case an opulent, blackberryish syrah whose pepper-infused purity and intensity of flavour is matched by a finesse that's not normally seen in Cape reds.

£15, selected Waitrose stores

Liquorice allsort: 1999 Château Cantemerle, 5ème cru classe

Although classified in the fifth rank, Château Cantemerle is still one of only 61 Médoc châteaux out of 8,000-odd in Bordeaux whose classification dates way back to 1855, and this wine shows its class, a classically proportioned Médoc claret with liquorice and vanilla oak spice and juicy, supple-textured cassis fruit that's just about ready to drink, although it's still full of running.

£22.49, Oddbins

Trophy wine: 2004 Matetic EQ Syrah

The panel got this one right when they awarded it Best Red of Show earlier in the year as this is Chile's best syrah: as full of character and flavour as Hermitage, this is quintessence of syrah with meaty, tarry, spicy qualities in a rich framework of black fruit flavours. Oddbins and The Wine Society are probably out of stock now but Majestic took a small parcel and is offering this wine at £13.59 as long as you buy any two Chilean wines.

Majestic, £16.99, or £13.59 if you buy two Chilean wines

For more Christmas treats, see Anthony Rose's wine column over the next two Saturdays in The Magazine and his 50 Best Wines in The Information on 16 December