Advent calendars aren’t just for children any more. From posh chocs to expensive candles, even adults can get ready for the big day in style, opening a door to a little (well deserved) treat each day throughout December.
Virgin Wines were the first company to launch a wine advent calendar in 2016. Unlike some alcohol-based offerings, these calendars focus on top-quality wine and include smaller versions (18.7cl to 20cl) of some of the company’s most popular bottles. All come from excellent vineyards and renowned winemakers across the world and many have limited-edition festival labels, to amp up the festive feel-good factor.
If you’re a dedicated white or red drinker, you won’t be stuck with a load of vino you’ll never drink either. There is a calendar containing only red wine and only white wine available, as well as the usual mixed wine calendar. Better still – spoiler alert – each one comes with a full-size bottle of gold medal-winning Prosecco behind door number 25 to open on Christmas Day itself.
But whether you’re buying as a gift or you’re on the nice list and want to treat yourself, do it quickly. Though calendars are on sale from 1 November, they tend to sell out quickly, but they are available to pre-order now for a holding deposit of £10 so you don’t have to miss out.
How we tested
We didn’t wait until the decorations were up to start our Christmas countdown, and ripped into these calendars early to see if they featured a wide selection of wines we’d actually want to drink come December. We considered the variety in each calendar, whether they introduced us to new styles or winemakers and if the bottles worked out as good value overall. Finally, we sampled the wine in each to be sure each calendar was worth the splurge – well it’d be rude not to.
The best Virgin Wines advent calendars for 2021 are:
Virgin Wines mixed wine advent calendar: £89,99, Virginwines.co.uk
All three of these calendars come in the same red box decorated with festive details including corks dressed as Santa, Rudolph and an elf. As each contains a full-size bottle of prosecco, it’s quite large and heavy so you’ll need to work out where you plan to store it through December, but it certainly won’t look out of place under the tree.
If you like a range of wine, you can’t go far wrong with this mixed calendar as you’re never quite sure what to expect each day, and can enjoy an added element of surprise. We were really pleased with the range of wine we discovered hiding behind our dinky doors too, which went way beyond the expected reds and whites. We also received a 20cl bottle of prosecco and one of prosecco rosé, a mini rosé wine and even an unexpected bottle of the world’s best-selling port, Fonseca Bin 27.
There are three different offerings from Virgin Wine’s hugely popular Black Pig label but also some less well-known treats including a silky smooth carmenere/malbec blend and a stonking example of bonarda, Argentina’s second most planted grape variety after the more famous malbec. We loved never quite knowing what we would discover behind each door and felt this calendar offered a great variety of wine to intrigue even the fussiest drinker, without repeating any bottles.
With this to look forward to every day, you won’t want December to end.
Virgin Wines red wine advent calendar: £89,99, Virginwines.co.uk
Best: For red wine drinkers
If you’d always choose a shiraz over a chablis, this is the perfect way to count down to Christmas. There’s no lurking pinot grigios to dampen your festive spirit but a huge collection of mini-bottles of excellent red wine, plus a full-size bottle of prosecco for the big day itself.
The calendar includes a wide range of reds, mainly from Chile, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. We were thrilled with the variety of wine on offer, which went far beyond the average bottle of supermarket vino and featured some of the world’s most esteemed red producers. Stand-out bottles included a plummy Les Trois Calices French malbec, a rich, fruity zinfandel from California’s The Intrepid Bear and an intriguing spicy cinsault from South Africa’s Billy Bosch.
We particularly liked the cute festive bottle of La Jamais Contente, a juicy French red that would make steak sing and comes with a special-edition Santa label. There’s even a 20cl bottle of port hiding within to devour with a hunk of stilton in front of a Christmas film.
Our one complaint? We were a little disappointed to receive two identical bottles of Three Gables shiraz behind our doors and would have preferred every single bottle to have been different. But otherwise, this is a great value fast-track to a suitably decadent December.
Virgin Wines white wine advent calendar: £89.99, Virginwines.co.uk
Best: For white wine lovers
White wine drinkers will be thrilled by the selection in this all-white calendar. There are wines from France, Australia, Italy and Chile amongst others tucked behind the cardboard doors, but the bottles from New Zealand were the real highlight for us. A zesty, lip-smacking Anaru Marlborough sauvignon blanc was one of our favourite finds, chock-full of green pepper and lime flavours that would work perfectly alongside fish or chicken dishes. We were also intrigued to discover Zeferino’s Falanghina, a fragrant, tropical white from coastal Puglia that we’d never tried before.
Two bottles were repeated in this calendar – a punchy apple and pear packed chardonnay from Australia’s The Anvil and Astro Costera’s freshly acidic sauvignon gris. Both are wonderful wines you won’t be sorry to sip, but we would have loved the chance to try something new rather than repeat a wine we’d already tried.
However, we still felt this calendar nudged slightly ahead of the all-red offering, as we liked the fact it also included a mini-bottle of bright, elegant Les Arbousiers syrah grenace rosé, plus two 20cl bottles of prosecco (one white, one rosé) to add an extra dose of Christmas sparkle.
The verdict: Virgin Wines advent calendars for 2021
No wine lover will be disappointed by any of these as all three feature a great mix of top-notch wines, an excellent full-size prosecco and unexpected bottles that really make these advent calendars feel like an indulgent treat. We think they work out as fantastic value too.
If you love all types of wine, the mixed wine advent calendar is a no-brainer to enjoy a full selection, but choose your favourite if you’re more partial to red or white. Any will guarantee a very merry Christmas.
For the latest discounts on wine and other alcohol offers, try the links below:
After more festive indulgence? Read our review of the The White Company’s advent calendar for 2021
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