These are wines you can unblushingly serve at parties on their own or with food.
Asda Sicilian Bianco, pounds 2.69, Asda. This affordable blend of Italian native grapes is fresh and zippy and tinged with banana-like fruitiness.
1992 Chapel Hill Rhine Riesling, pounds 2.99, Victoria Wine. Fragrant, modern, off-dry Hungarian white made by Australian winemaker Kim Mylne.
1993 Sainsbury's Argentinian Torrontes, pounds 2.99. Good grapey, spicy, perfumed party quaffer made from a native Argentinian grape that closely resembles the muscat.
Sainsbury's Hungarian Country White, pounds 2.69. Good value, pleasantly perfumed and fruity off-dry white.
1992 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvee VE, pounds 2.67, Kwik Save. VE is for Vite Epargne, an apt name for this grassy bordeaux sauvignon blanc.
1992 Asda Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 3.29. Perfumed sauvignon with crisply refreshing gooseberry fruit flavour and a touch of semillon to round it out.
Tesco Chilean White, pounds 3.29. Zingy, grassy and sauvignon-like, its crisp fruitiness makes it great for parties.
Vin de Pays d'Oc sur Lie, Mme C Parmentier, pounds 3.69 (pounds 3.49, from Thursday), Victoria Wine. Good fresh, fruity dry white with a touch of sweetness.
Co-op Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, pounds 2.69. Lively cherry and plum-skin fruit with a slightly astringent twist.
Nivola, Lambrusco Montovano Secco, pounds 2.99, Sainsbury's. This authentic lambrusco is light and dry and bubbles merrily away in the glass.
1989 Jumilla Altos de Pio, pounds 2.99, Sainsbury's. Easy drinking soft and juicy Spanish red.
1992 Alentejo, pounds 2.99, Safeway. Mulberry-scented, robust, lively Portuguese red for equally robust parties.
1992 Angoves Nanya Estate Grenache Pinot Noir, pounds 2.99, Oddbins. An unholy alliance of southern French and burgundy grapes produces a drinkable young red.
Cave do Duque, pounds 2.99, Augustus Barnett (from Thursday). Robust Portuguese red with ripe, chewy fruitiness in a festive litre bottle.
Ramada, Vinho de Mesa, pounds 2.39, Waitrose. Soft strawberry fruitiness without too much oak or rusticity.
1992 Young Vatted Tempranillo, La Mancha, pounds 3.19, Safeway. Clean, tart, thirst-quenching beaujolais-style red with redcurrant flavour and acidity.
1992 Domaine Paillet Rouge, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 3.39, Fullers. Typical banana-like beaujolais aromas and soft and juicy fruit on the palate.
1992 Asda Chilean Cabernet Merlot, pounds 3.49. Outstanding butterfly label apart, this Chilean bordeaux blend stands out in its own right for its pure, herbaceous cabernet flavours.
1990 Jumilla, Carchelo, pounds 3.59, Victoria Wine Shops. Soft strawberry and subdued vanilla oak make a good, modern sub-rioja-style Spanish red.
WINES UNDER pounds 5
This is a group of value-for-money reds and whites. They are versatile enough to double as house or party wines, if your budget allows something special.
1993 Montenuevo Sauvignon Blanc, Maipo, Chile, pounds 3.95, Waitrose selected branches. Refreshing aromatic power and vibrant lime zest.
1992 Slovenia Chardonnay, Vinakoper, Labor Koprski region, pounds 3.95, Sainsbury's. No ordinary Eastern European chardonnay this, it has a rare softness and concentration of apple fruit flavour for the price.
1993 Penfolds Bin 202 Riesling, South Australia, pounds 3.95, Oddbins; pounds 3.99, E H Booth stores. A riesling with a fine aromatic character, plenty of ripe, off-dry fruitiness and a refreshingly clean citrus twist.
International Winemaker Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 4.99, Tesco. Superbly executed Australian graves-style blend made by the French winemaker Jacques Lurton.
1993 Danie de Wet Chardonnay Sur Lie, pounds 4.39, Oddbins, Safeway. Tantalisingly tangy, fresh chardonnay with no oak to obscure the vibrant, delicious fruit flavours.
Chais Baumiere Chardonnay, pounds 3.59 Sainsbury's. Good value, oaky, Australian-influenced southern French white with sunny, ripe, buttered oak.
1992 Rowanbrook Chardonnay Reserve, pounds 4.49, Asda. Bracingly fresh Chilean wine, exotic with grapefruity flavour and elegance.
1992 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Boisset, Charles de France, pounds 4.99 (pounds 4.69 from Thursday), Victoria Wine. Subtly oaked, nutty aromas with pleasant, ripe, buttery fruit and a clean crisp aftertaste.
1992 Moondah Brook Chenin Blanc, pounds 4.95, Sainsbury's; pounds 4.99, Co-op, Tesco (as 'Tesco Western Australia' white). White wine of the year, a touch of smoky oak on the nose and delicate, lime-zesty fruit give this dry wine a gloriously exotic flavour.
1993 Las Alturas Red, J Lurton, pounds 3.69, Victoria Wine. Made mainly from the (Italian) Bonarda grape, a lusciously juicy, almost sweet, beaujolais-like red with strong strawberryish aromas and flavour.
1992 Tempranillo oak-aged, Rioja, Berberana, pounds 4.29, Safeway. This is a smooth, modern style of rioja whose clean lines are nicely tempered by the vanilla character of American oak.
1990 Cecchi Chianti Classico, pounds 4.45, Sainsbury's. A fine savoury expression of the sangiovese grape of Tuscany, this is rich in modern, cherried fruit flavours, leaving a dry but not astringent aftertaste.
1992 Brouilly Domaine de la Croix, Brac de La Perriere, pounds 4.99, Waitrose. A juicy-fruity, almost pinot noir-like red from one of Beaujolais' top 10 crus.
1990 Rowanbrook Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, pounds 4.99, Asda. Fine minty aromas and intense, well-made, fine-boned cabernet sauvignon with touches of mint and blackcurrant.
1991 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 4.99, Oddbins. Succulent minty, soft cabernet sauvignon.
1989 Domaine de Lanestousse, Madiran, pounds 4.99, Tesco. More robust than a claret, this south-western French red is a fine winter warmer.
1990 Tollana Black Label Shiraz, pounds 4.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Lovely seductive ripe blackcurrant fruitiness with a layer of flavour not unlike toasted coconut icing: a typically Australian confection.
1991 Hardy's Barossa Valley Shiraz, pounds 4.99, Safeway. Rich, oaky, Barossa shiraz with smoky, rioja-like American oak, a moreishly minty character with tasty blackberry fruit.
WINES FROM pounds 5 TO pounds 8
Moving up a gear in quality and individuality, these are wines to accompany first and main courses. Claret is a Christmas tradition, so I have included two of the best at under pounds 8.
1992 Rowan Victoria Chardonnay, pounds 5.19, Victoria Wine. Appropriately from Victoria, Australia, this is a cool-climate wine with smoked oak aromas, ripe tropical fruit and a clarity of flavour.
1992 Tokay Pinot Gris d'Alsace, Blanck Freres, pounds 5.25, Waitrose. This rich and spicy Alsace white with nuances of toast and honey cries out for pate or honey-roast ham.
1993 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, pounds 5.49, Waitrose, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Pungent grassy, green-bean aromas and mouthwatering grapefruity acidity, make this a crisp and snappy white that will double nicely as an aperitif.
1993 Mount Langhi Ghiran Riesling, pounds 5.99, Oddbins. From cool-climate Victoria, this is a full-bodied, flavour-packed riesling with lime-like aromas, a prickle on the palate and a sophisticated dry finish.
1993 Penfolds Organic Chardonnay/Sauvignon, Clare Valley, pounds 5.99, Safeway. Very aromatic and faintly petillant, this is a ripe, peachy, unusual blend and extremely elegant with it as well.
1992 Riesling Schoffit, pounds 7.99, Oddbins. A find from Alsace, this is a rich wine with delicate citrus fruit flavours. The rich Pinot Blanc, pounds 6.99, and spicy Gewurztraminer, pounds 8.99, are hot stuff too.
1992 Bourgogne Blanc Henry de Vezelay, pounds 5.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. More than a cut above basic white burgundy, this is a full-bodied, weighty dry white with a rounded texture and nutty flavour.
1991 Macon Chardonnay, Domaine les Ecuyers, pounds 6.69, Sainsbury's. A well made, modern Macon villages with oak and pineapple fruit richness in fine balance.
1992 Arrowfield Show Reserve Chardonnay, pounds 7.95, Waitrose. Golden rich with layers of spicy oak and fruit intensity make this a big, bold, full-flavoured Australian chardonnay.
1990 Safeway Nuits Saint Georges, pounds 5.99, Safeway. With pounds 3 lopped off for Christmas, there is enough supple, strawberry fruit and a smidgeon of oak to justify laying in a few bottles.
1989 Yalumba Pewsey Vale Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 6.99, Tesco. Rich and rounded with vanilla oak and concentrated cabernet fruitiness, this pure Australian claret buster has flavour and richness to spare.
1988 Goundrey Windy Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, pounds 6.99, Asda. Fine mature, herbaceous cabernet nose with the elegant balance and voluptuous bell- pepper flavour of cabernet from Mount Barker in Western Australia.
1990 Ch Carignan, Bordeaux, pounds 6.79 (pounds 5.99 from Thursday), Victoria Wine. No, not bordeaux converting to the much-despised grape of the Midi, but a fine classic claret in the modern style with succulent juicy merlot flavour and integrated new oak for added spice and bite.
1989 Chateau de Francs, Cotes de Francs, pounds 7.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Superbly well made, classic mini-St Emilion style, merlot-dominated claret.
1987 Senorio de Nava, Crianza, pounds 5.49, Co-op; pounds 5.59, Safeway; pounds 5.69, Asda; pounds 5.99, Spar. Coconut aromas of charred American oak barrels enveloping a solid core of sweet, concentrated fruit: a good value, traditionally Spanish alternative to rioja.
1989 Cartuxa, pounds 5.49, Co-op; pounds 5.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. A traditional, robust red with tea-like aromas and an almost malty-sweet concentration of fruit richness and length of flavour, suggesting something far more expensive.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, pounds 7.45, Sainsbury's; around pounds 7.49 at Oddbins, Thresher, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack, Gateway, Cellar 5, Fullers and Davisons. Benchmark Australian cabernet/shiraz, this Penfolds classic is a big wine with spicy aromas of vanilla and masses of sweetly ripe, blackcurrant fruit on the palate. Not oversubtle, perhaps, but undeniably succulent and fruity.
1990 Chorey-les-Beaune, Maillard, pounds 7.95, Waitrose. Surely the best value red burgundy on the market, this is a voluptuously spicy, honest pinot noir showing well-handled oak and supple strawberry fruit flavours.
1990 Chateauneuf du Pape, Delas Freres, pounds 7.95, Waitrose. Nothing wimpish about this hefty, spicy-rich, almost port-like monster of a southern Rhone red. This is a Chateauneuf du Pape with the power to blow your socks off.
WINES OVER pounds 8
The sky's the limit. Here is a selection of special occasion wines to whet your appetite for Christmas and/or Boxing Day meals. For great whites, I concentrate on white burgundy and its New World pretenders. My reds offer a broader range of styles.
1991 Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy, pounds 8.95, Waitrose. Classic chablis aromas complemented by an elegant richness of fruit and a typically minerally note.
1991 Macon-Vire, Domaine de Roally, pounds 8.99, Fullers. No ordinary macon this, Henri Goyard's consistently fine white burgundy is well-oaked and richly flavoured.
1991 Chablis 1er cru Fourchaume, pounds 9.99, Guy Mothe, Asda. Estate chablis with a typically mineral nose and layers of richness and complexity. 1990 Franciscan Oakville Estate Cuvee Sauvage, Napa Valley, pounds 9.99, Oddbins. Cinnamon-tinged oak aromas and a deliciously rich, butterscotch fruitiness: one of the most seductive under- pounds 10 white burgundy lookalikes around.
1988 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay, pounds 14.99, Oddbins. For many the benchmark Australian chardonnay, this creamily rich concoction has the hallmarks of fine white burgundy with immense richness and lashings of nutty oak. Expensive but fabulous.
1990 Meursault 1er Cru, Blagny, Gerard Thomas, pounds 17.95, Sainsbury's. A wicked price for a suitably wicked rich and complex white burgundy.
1990 Toar, Vino da Tavola, Masi, pounds 8.99, Augustus Barnett (limited stocks). You have heard of superchianti: here comes supervalpolicella. Deliciously concentrated cherry-fruity red made from grapes normally destined for the Veneto's top red wine, amarone.
1986 Contino Rioja Reserva, pounds 9.49, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Succumb now to this great rioja's seven-year itch to be uncorked. Youthfully deep-hued and brimful with liquid strawberries and oak-aged vanilla spiciness.
1990 Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet, Lindemans, pounds 9.99, Oddbins (from early December). With its preponderance of shiraz, Limestone Ridge is my favourite of Lindemans' three classy red styles from Coonawarra. Sweetly scented and silky-textured, the 1990 is all sugar and spice and tangy blackberry fruit. A hedonist's delight.
1990 Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz, pounds 12.49, Oddbins (early December). Sumptuous, elegant, Victorian shiraz made by perfectionist winemaker Dr Bailey Carrodus, producing one of Australia's most peppery and elegant northern Rhone Cote Rotie styles.
1992 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir Reserve, pounds 11.99, Oddbins (early December). About the closest Australia gets to premier cru red burgundy, James Halliday's showy, raspberryish Reserve pinot noir is exceptionally fine and totally seductive.
1989 Musigny, G Roumier, pounds 16.99, Fullers. Good traditional, rooty pinot noir aromas with succulent spice and strawberry fruit flavours from a lush vintage.
1990 Nuits Saint Georges, 1er Cru Clos des Forets St Georges, Domaine de l'Arlot, pounds 27.50, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Thresher. Highly complex, liquid strawberry and vanilla pinot noir, from a great vintage.
1983 Chateau Palmer, pounds 50, Fortnum & Mason. An indulgence, but it was one of the great wines of the vintage. Ten years old and still almost too young to drink, with its superb aromatic power this wine has richly textured fruit in cedary majesty.
1992 Westhofener Bergkloster Auslese, pounds 3.99, Waitrose. Surely some mistake over the price, I thought. But no, this exotically scented, zip-fresh, honeyed German white really is going for a song.
1992 Moscato d'Asti La Serra, Marchese di Gresy, pounds 3.99, Oddbins. An aromatic bunch of muscat grapes in a glass with added gentle sparkle and mouthwatering acidity.
1991 Neetlingshofer Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest, pounds 8.49 (half-bottle), Augustus Barnett. Luscious sweet white with exotically rich crystallised fruit flavours and the requisite acidity to balance the exotica.
1992 Mussbacher Eselshaut Riesling Auslese, Muller-Catoir, pounds 14.99, Oddbins. Extraordinarily intense orange and grapefruit zest character in a rich, intensely luscious wine.
1990 Clos St Georges Graves Superieures, pounds 7.25, Sainsbury's. Possibly the best vintage yet of this lusciously honeyed mini-sauternes style.
1983 Tokaji Aszu 4 Puttonyos, pounds 7.95 (50cl), Waitrose. One of the world's great traditional sweet whites, this extraordinary wine has an intense, near-burnt marmalade character with a characteristic sherry-like edge.
1990 Chateau Bastor Lamontagne, pounds 7.75 (half-bottle), Waitrose. Lusciously exotic, marzipan and lemon-curd sauternes with honey and beeswax as well.
Sainsbury's Palo Cortado, pounds 3.49 (half-bottle). A characterful sherry, mixing flor (the yeast that gives sherry its salty, tangy overtones) and a toffee-like, savoury sweetness.
Lustau Manzanilla, pounds 3.35 (half-bottle), Safeway. Savoury, fresh fino sherry with typical flor yeast character.
Stanton & Killeen Liqueur Muscat, pounds 5.49 (half-bottle), Asda. Only a puritan or teetotaller could resist the blandishments of this gloriously rich burnt toffee and treacle confection, rescued from potential mawkishness by incisive acidity.
Seppelt & Sons Old Trafford Tawny DP30, pounds 7.49, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. A mature blend of the Rhone varieties, syrah, grenache and mourvedre, this is a classic Australian 'tawny port', viscous in texture and sweet with intense flavours of vanilla, caramel and raisins.
Smith Woodhouse 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, pounds 8.95, Co-op. An appealing tawny port with raisiny, rich fruit.
Asda 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, pounds 9.99. Nose of marzipan and raisins, rich on palate.
1986 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port, pounds 9.99, Safeway. One of the best LBVs around, this aromatic red is rich in liquid currants and raisins.
1983 Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port, pounds 13.49, Oddbins. Sumptuously rich, youthful vintage port from the Symington family stable.
1976 Fonseca Guimaraens, pounds 19.99, Safeway. One of the great, mature, single quinta ports from Fonseca, with hauntingly rich, raisiny fruit.
1970 Dow's Vintage Port, pounds 37.50, Fortnum & Mason. This perfectly mature vintage port is still rich and powerful, with haunting flavours and a long, satisfyingly spicy aftertaste of mint, eucalyptus and liquorice.
Seppelt Great Western Brut, pounds 4.99, Thresher Group, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack, Oddbins. This popular Australian sparkler with its frothy ice-cream-soda-like fruitiness is the ideal fizz for parties. Also at Sainsbury's as Sainsbury's Australian Sparkling Wine and at Tesco as Tesco Australian Sparkling Wine, both pounds 4.99.
Krone Borealis, pounds 7.95, Waitrose. Yeasty aromas and soft, rich champagne-like fruit make it hard to tell this South African sparkler from the genuine article.
Scharffenberger Brut, pounds 8.99, Asda. This California fizz from Mendocino is rich, malty and chocolatey.
Sainsbury's Extra Dry Champagne, pounds 9.95. Sainsbury's is reducing its own-label champagne from pounds 11.95 to pounds 9.95, a good price for this youthfully yeasty, well-balanced wine.
Champagne Jean de Praisac, pounds 11.99, Thresher, Bottoms Up, Wine Rack. Good value fruity, yeasty aperitif champagne from Piper Heidsieck: a discovery from Thresher whose Wine Rack stores are offering seven for the price of six on all sparkling wines and champagnes until the new year.
Waitrose Champagne Brut, Blanc de Noirs, A. Bonnet, pounds 10.95 for Christmas. Unbeatable value pinot-noir-dominated champagne that sparkles with strawberryish flavours and creamy fruit. The best own-label champagne on the market at this price.Reuse content