The Most Wine-derful Time of the Year 2017

 

For most, choices fall into two categories; splurge big money on (frequently disappointing) grande marque Champagne, Bordeaux or Burgundy, or cruise the supermarket aisles for mass-produced Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc - easy on the pocket but unlikely to delight and inspire.

It’s not hard to do better, even this close to the wire. Small, independent wine merchants have a hard time doing business against the supermarkets and ‘shed’ retailers, with their vast volumes and squeezed margins. With very little effort, however, you can find wines, often from extremely small producers – not even remotely interesting to the Big Boys - handmade with care, love and passion. These wines are frequently organic, biodynamic or sustainably produced and often vegetarian (or even vegan) friendly. You’ll find unusual, sometimes ‘difficult’ grapes, which provide too much of a challenge for the mass-producers. With luck, you’ll be tempted to try other wines from these brave winemakers, and open the door to a new world of vinous pleasure and adventure.

Having tasted my way around some of the most interesting independent offerings, here are my last-minute recommendations for festive white and red table wines. With one exception, all the wines listed are pitched below the £20.00 mark (the exception being a magnum, in itself offering excellent value for money), which is a very fair price to pay for something delicious and special to accompany the year’s most important feast. (Many merchants also offer discounts on sixes and twelves, which makes for an even better bargain.)

Do please think about supporting the independents. In general, they do not have an agenda to push, other than to seek out the most exciting finds and share the joy with their customers. You’ll receive expert advice and guidance, invitations to tastings and have your horizons broadened by some of the nicest obsessives you’ll have the good fortune to encounter. Just drop in or give them call.

So, joyeux noël, frohe Weihnacten, buon natale, boldog karácsonyt and feliz navidad to you all. Have a wonderful holiday season and some truly delicious drinking. Cheers!


Here are my top independent picks for Christmas 2017:


riesling-trockenHochheim Königin Victoriaberg Riesling trocken 2016 £18.99

This wonderful dry Rheingau Riesling (made by the historic Weingut Flick, Queen Victoria’s favourite winemaker) provides so much more than lime zest notes and mouth-puckering acidity. Yes, citrus sprightliness is present, but made complex by an array of floral aromas (I swear there are rose petals in the mix), but also appley flavours and a pleasing minerality. It makes a sensationally appealing aperitif, but will happily see you through a seafood starter of prawns, crab or smoked fish.

The Winery, 4 Clifton Road, London W9 1SS
020 7286 6475 www.thewineryuk.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SpätburgunderWeingut Becker-Landgraf Gau-Odernheimer Spätburgunder 2015 £17.99

A top-class, cool-climate, old-vine Pinot Noir from the Rheinessen, an area which supports, due to its favourable climate and varied terroir, the growing of a wide variety of grape varieties. This silky, fragrant Pinot is a winner with the festive bird: turkey will love its abundant fruit and soft tannins and – at the other end - goose will appreciate its balanced acidity, cutting through the richness of the meat.

 The Winery, 4 Clifton Road, London W9 1SS
020 7286 6475 www.thewineryuk.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MosaïkAnjou Blanc ‘Mozaïk’ Chenin Blanc Domaine Pithon-Paillé 2015, £17.28

The delightful, elegant, easy-drinking qualities of Chenin Blanc are to the fore here, with a refinement you just won’t find in most New World Chenin iterations. Fresh and food-friendly, with abundant white fruit flavours and honeyed, floral aromas, this is a top pick for canapé and cheeseboard-based gatherings.

Bottle Apostle (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.bottleapostle.com










 

noaillacChâteau Noaillac 2009 Medoc £14.85

Soft, juicy and appealing, this crowd-pleasing claret is just the ticket with Boxing Day leftovers. This predominantly Cabernet/Merlot blend (with just a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot to lend interest) is a mouth-filling symphony of red fruit and pepper which will happily partner cold cuts, bubble and squeak and all those well-meaning gifts of pickles.

Bottle Apostle (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.bottleapostle.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Alsace-Gewurztraminer-2007-Charles-Schleret-bottle zoomCharles Schleret Alsace Gewürztraminer 2007 £15.95

Turkey curry - or better yet, a winter salad of poultry leftovers and a dressing bright with lime, fragrant with sesame oil and fish sauce and shot through with red chillies and ginger - meets its match. Gewürtztraminer was born to partner spicy food and this dry Alsace Gewürtz is no exception, with white pepper spice and tropical fruit fragrance more than capable of holding its own against a fiery spice onslaught. Also try it with chicken liver pâté. You won’t be disappointed.

Yapp Brothers, The Old Brewery, Water Street, Mere, Wiltshire BA12 6DY
01749 860423 www.yapp.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Côtes du RhôneCôtes du Rhône Rouge ‘Mont Coeur’ Jean-Louis Chave Selection 2015 £14.50

This blend of Syrah and Grenache provides dark berry and plum fruit, classic Rhône black pepper, anise and bay overtones, ripe tannins and perfectly balanced acidity. If your choice for this year’s festive is beef, especially a rib joint, this is exactly what you need.

Yapp Brothers, The Old Brewery, Water Street, Mere, Wiltshire BA12 6DY
01749 860423 www.yapp.co.uk










 

Dereszla TokajiChâteau Dereszla Dry Tokaji 2015 £13.95

Hungary’s lusciously sweet Tokajis need no introduction, but in recent years there has been a move towards the production of drier, more versatile table wines. Château Derezla amply demonstrates just how good these modern wines can be with this mineral-rich blend of Furmint, Sárgamuskotály and Kabar. With palate-tingling acidity, citrussy freshness and a rich, creamy finish, this is a wonderful alternative to Chablis or Sancerre for a Christmas Eve seafood feast, especially if oysters are making an appearance.

Park & Bridge, 73 Churchfield Road, London W3 6AX
020 8993 0261 www.parkandbridge.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EnerizBodegas Manzanos Castillo De Enériz Reserva 2012 £10.95

A bird-friendly red at a wallet-pleasing price, this Spanish red from Bodegas Manzanos in Navarra is just the ticket with turkey, guinea fowl or any of the less gamey Christmas poultry. With ripe, red berry fruits and notes of cocoa and spice, bottle-age provides velvety tannins and a wonderful smoothness.

Park & Bridge, 73 Churchfield Road, London W3 6AX
020 8993 0261 www.parkandbridge.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


vermentinoPoggio Al Tesoro ‘Solosole’ Vermentino 2016 £19.95

A white with the heft required to stand up to Christmas luncheon, this 100% Vermentino from Bolgheri in Tuscany is this year’s go-to for guests who prefer to drink white. With juicy greengage fruit, grapefruit overtones and a hint of acacia blossom, it’s a happy match with any poultry, but will also work brilliantly with a salmon main course for the pescatarian in your life.

Wine Utopia, 4 St Thomas Street, Winchester SO23 9HE
01962 706 666 www.wineutopia.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boutinot-La-Cote-Sauvage-Cairanne-Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages 1024x1024_1024x1024_c65e99b5-7c12-461d-99e8-548d370a657d_1024x1024Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne 2014 (magnum) £32.95

A magnum never fails to impress and this Rhône blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Carignan is as impressive in the glass as it looks in the bottle. A meat-lover’s dream, La Côte Sauvage delivers powerful cherry and blackberry fruit with spicy cinnamon and chocolate notes. Supple tannins and a rich, savoury finish make it a wine to savour with a winter feast.

Wine Utopia, 4 St Thomas Street, Winchester SO23 9HE
01962 706 666 www.wineutopia.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Petit ClosClos Henri ‘Petit Clos’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc £16.50

It would be impossible to compile a selection of seasonal wines without including Britain’s current favourite white, Sauvignon Blanc. This one delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Marlborough Sauv Blanc, slapping you in the face with a tropical fruit salad of mango, passionfruit and pineapple, but brought into check with crisp acidity and a touch of clove and pepper spice. A cut above the High Street SBs, and a very useful wine to have tucked away this December for when the doorbell rings unexpectedly.

The Good Wine Shop (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Ogereau AnjouDomaine Ogereau Anjou Rouge 2014 £14.50

Cabernet Franc isn’t as widely known (or drunk) as it should be, which is a terrible shame. Anjou, located in the Loire, is generally synonymous with fragrant, aromatic and racy white wine. Knowing this, an Anjou red is something of a curiosity - and a treat. Made from 100% Cabernet franc, this light, refreshing and lovely wine with its red berry fruit, soft tannins and balanced acidity is a natural partner to lighter festive repasts (yes, they do exist). Perhaps, though, it’s at its nicest drunk very lightly chilled, all by itself.

The Good Wine Shop (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Guiraud GLe G de Guiraud’ Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2015 £16.95

Mention Sauternes and, naturally, the immediate response is to think of luscious, honeyed, Botrytis-rich dessert wines such as the legendary Château d’Yquem. ‘Le G’ is technically a Sauternes, as the domaine is located in the village, but this dry white Bordeaux offers crisp, dry, fresh citrus and apple fruit, with just a hint of honeyed peachiness on the nose to balance the refreshing acidity. This very tasty wine would go down a treat with guinea fowl or pheasant or (dare I suggest it) Boxing Day pork pie or cold ham and salad.

Lea & Sandeman (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-BOURGOGNE-Pinot-Noir-Domaine-Francois-Raquillet.240x700.18210François Raquillet Bourgogne Rouge 2014 £17.95

Another Pinot Noir, this time from the Côte Chalonnaise in Burgundy. Displaying all the qualities expected from a Pinot, this pure, vibrant red is fresh, fruity and finessed, all mulberry, cherry and raspberry on the nose and a touch of peppery spice on the finish. An absolute winner with a classic turkey-based Christmas lunch.

Lea & Sandeman (see website for branches and telephone numbers)
www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grüner VeltlinerIllahe Estate Grüner Veltliner 2015 £15.95

Austria’s signature white grape, Grüner Veltliner, has crossed the pond. The Ford family, who own the Illahe estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, have produced a Grüner which equals – and frequently surpasses – the finest examples made on its home turf. A veritable fruitbowl of aromas here, with melon, apricot and apple to the fore, and deeply appealing fresh citrussy flavours, balanced by its crisp and dry finish. Judicious use of oak adds complexity and length. Of course it will work with fish and seafood, but what about trying it as an aperitif? Better by far a glass of this than an anonymous NV fizz.

Wine Sensations (website under construction)
020 7060 5097 > This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grenache noirDomaine Vaquer ‘L’Exigence’ Grenache Noir 2012 £13.95

Frederique Vaquer is a Burgundian, making wine in southern France’s Roussillon. She brings delicacy and finesse to a region better known for overproduction of undistinguished table wine and sweet port-like wines such as Rivesaltes. This 100% Grenache Noir blows away all preconceptions of the region, offering juicy, liquorice spice-infused black fruit flavours, plus herbal juniper, thyme and rosemary overtones from the garrigue-strewn soil of the surrounding hills. This beautiful wine would be glorious with a festive charcuterie platter, but it was truly made to accompany roast goose, where its richness and finely-tuned acidity will really make it shine.

Wine Sensations (website under construction)
020 7060 5097 > This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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