Fine wines to splash out on for Christmas

Four top notch tipples that are worth spending big on

From 2011 until 2015, I wrote a wine column for The Lady magazine. Probably the best thing about this job was being treated like a character from a PG Wodehouse novel when I told people what I did for a living. The next best thing was how my wife used to snigger when I said I was “working on my Lady column.” The highlight of my year would be a special long column outlining all the lavish wines I would be enjoying on Christmas day starting with say a light German riesling just after breakfast and working through the champagne, burgundy, and port, finishing up with a chilled beaujolais with leftovers at 9pm.

It was all fantasy of course, I couldn’t afford most of the wines I was recommending, and I usually spent Christmas with my parents where I’d drink whatever I was given. But for all those who like to dream or for wealthier readers, here are some my ultimate wines for Christmas day (my selection of bargains for those on a tighter budget can be found here). I haven’t thought about trying to match them with certain foods, you are not going to find a wine that melds seamlessly with turkey, cranberry sauce, ham and overcooked brussels sprouts so I wouldn’t even try. Anyway, with wines this good, who needs food?

Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs (Selfridges, £74.99)
This is tremendously sophisticated champagne made entirely from Chardonnay. My tip would be to treat it like a very good bottle of white burgundy so serve in wine glasses and not too cold. Then you will be able to appreciate its full texture and wondrous complexity with notes of baked apples, brioche and cinnamon all bound together with an electric acidity.

Nuits St Georges, Clos St Marc, 1er Cru, Michèle et Patrice Rion, 2011 (Berry Bros & Rudd, £69)
Burgundy or claret at Christmas? For me it has to be Burgundy especially this one. It is at a lovely stage in its development with plenty of youthful fruit and elegant tannins combined with some mature earthy notes. It’s sweet and supple but robust enough to stand up to a heavy stuffing.

Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2013 (£34, Wine Society)
If the last time you tried Australian chardonnay was 1994 you will be in for a shock. Australia and especially Tasmania, where this wine is from, makes some of the leanest most elegant Chardonnays on the the planet. This wine is steely and lemony with a discrete toastiness, serve it blind to your crustiest uncle and he will swear it’s from the Cote D’Or.

Taylor’s 1966 Single Harvest Port (Distillers Direct, £140)
Not a vintage port as it has spent most of its life in wood rather than bottle, but this is from a single year. It is a sensational wine. When you pour a glass the whole room fills with the scent of oranges and apricots, with butterscotch, walnuts and vanilla. It manages to be very rich and sweet but not in any way cloying. Just the thing with a nice bit of Stilton or a mature Comte.

Empire of Booze: British History Through the Bottom of a Glass by Henry Jeffreys is published by Unbound £13.99


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