Life
    Wine & Food

    Six of the best Christmas wines

    17 December 2020

    Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV, 12%vol, (£41.95; Whisky Exchange)

    A stunning champagne this, recently named their Champagne of the Year by the Whisky Exchange (which, yes, sells titanic amounts of champagne as well as whisky). From the house of the great ‘Champagne Charlie’ himself, it always astounds me how few folk seem to have heard of it. But once tasted, never forgotten, thanks to its glorious toasty, creamy, nutty brioche and preserved fruit flavours and sheer weight and complexity due, no doubt, to the high preponderance of reserve wines in the blend. If you drink one champagne this Christmas, please drink this.

    2017 Tesco Finest* Chablis Premier Cru, 13%vol, (£15; Tesco)

    Chablis is a banker at Christmas and matches all manner of dishes from oysters, smoked salmon and smoked eel to the dread festive turkey itself. Well, anything to give the dried up old cardboard some taste. Chablis can be pricey though and this, from Tesco’s Finest* range, seems something of a bargain. Produced by the exemplary La Chablisienne co-operative from premier cru vineyard fruit only, it’s full of subtle citrus notes with a typically firm mineral backbone and a surprisingly full and rounded finish thanks to a touch of oak-ageing to the blend.

    2010 Ch. Les Moines, 14%vol, (£15; Co-op)

    A cracking price, this, for a cracking, fully mature Cru Bourgeois claret from the heart of the Médoc. I don’t know how the Co-op does it, since other outlets are selling this very wine – a stellar, 10/10 vintage – for almost £20. But, goodness, even at twenty quid it’s a bargain. A delectable 70 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 per cent Merlot blend, it’s richly inviting on the nose with plenty of ripe plums, blackcurrants and spice to the fore whilst on the palate it’s soft and mellow with hints of truffles, damsons, cherries and cedar, an initial sweetness giving way to a long savoury finish.

    2018 Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 14.5%vol, (£34.95; Tanners)

    Ooh I do love a fine Châteauneuf and this is very fine indeed and the perfect partner if you’ve roast lamb, beef or pork this Christmas. Famously, the CN du P appellation permits more grapes than any other French region does in its blends (long story: it’s either 13 or 18 depending on how you count them) but this is comprised of just three: Grenache (mainly), Syrah and Mourvèdre. Part tank- part oak-aged, it’s fresh, juicy and lively but wonderfully weighty too with rich, dark, spicy jammy fruit. Only 1250 cases were made and although very welcoming now, it’ll age for yonks.

    Yalumba Vintage Muscat NV, 17.5%vol, (£14.99 per 37.5cl; Virgin Wines)

    This is lusciously, gorgeously tasty and even the mere memory of my last sip has me grinning from ear to ear. Produced by the family-owned Yalumba – makers of fine wine in Australia’s Barossa Valley since 1849 – it’s exactly what I would drink alongside Christmas pudding if I liked Christmas pudding. But since I don’t, I will be drinking it on its own and happily so, as it’s a pudding in itself. Aged for ten years in barrel and fortified with brandy, it’s crammed with raisins, toffee, ginger, citrus peel and goodness knows what else besides and you will love it.

    2013 Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port, 19.5%vol, (£21.50; Ocado)

    Port is a Christmas essential, of course, but sometimes a full-blown vintage port can be too much of a palaver and too darn pricey. This is where a so-called Late Bottled Vintage comes in, aged for much longer in wood than vintage port before bottling and thus much more accessible in its youth. There are no finer LBVs than this from mighty Quinta do Noval, made from estate fruit only – trodden by foot – and bottled unfiltered. Decant – it’s not essential – and enjoy its concentrated, rich, dark, sweet fruit and delight in its modest price tag compared to vintage port.