I am always thrilled to find less expensive wines that I love to drink and which I’m proud to serve to friends. Buiten Blanc (£9.95) is absolutely amazing- with gentle gooseberry and nettle aromas. What a nose for this price. Di Meno Cattaratto (£11.95) is so delicious to my taste, with Amalfi lemons and muscat grapes combined. Wowzers! I’m also amazed by the quality of our Picpoul de Pinet this year (£12.95). The white St Romain burgundies from Domaine Buisson are spectacular. They’re in the £30 range, and the equivalent of wines much more expensive producers. Their reds are very good, too. The Sous Roche now, and Combe Bazin for the next year or two. When producers become famous, the prices will go up, so you have to keep moving, and finding wines like Buisson is our raison d’etre.
For the reds Le Temps est Venu, Cotes du Rhone, Stephane Ogier 2019 (£15.55) from between Chateauneuf and Gigondas is amazing value – a large glass allows the sweet aromas to come out on the nose and it hits the palate better. And a couple of value Italians that I like a lot (with homemade pizza) are Rosso Piceno Carassanese (£12.50), generous and warm, and Tommolo Montepulciano Chiuse Grande (£13.95), a lovely lifted style with cherry notes and herbs. St Joseph Aymeric Paillard 2017 (£35) is a gem. I adore this wine, made in the tiniest quantities, from Tournon. This is serious wine with excellent Syrah complexity and substance.
Mondeuse by Berthollier 2019 (£24) is incredible. It’s a bit like Pinot Noir, from the mountains. It’s nice and light with gorgeous, generous fruit. Pinot Noir Heritage Edoardo Miroglio 2017 (£16.95) is a step up from the incredibly well priced Soli Pinot (£12.95) (which I still love) from the same producer. It has a bit more elegance, and a floats a bit more on the palate. It’s a bit more sensual and complex. Worth discovering. It’s lovely. Cabal Pinot Noir 2019 (£25) from New Zealand offers so much Pinot flavour and fun for the money. Wines of this quality from NZ are usually more like £35. Barbaresco 'Teorema' Molino, Piemonte 2017 (£34) is one of my favourites this year. Super elegant, earthy Nebbiolo. Such lovely, interesting flavours.
I’ve stopped drinking Gin and strong spirits before dinner (I have to save my quota for all the wine!), so Caperitif (£20) at only 16.5% alcohol, is our go to. Like a vermouth, from South Africa, made from a base of Chenin Blanc and 43 botanicals, is just amazing. This is much more expensive to make than most gins, yet it’s only £20. Pour on ice or mix with some tonic to taste. We love this at home. For sweet wine, I love the Cadillac Chateau La Bertrande 2011 (£24) which is fully mature and absolutely delicious. It comes from across the river from Sauternes, and is a beautiful mouthful of apricot, caramel, vanilla and oak to either finish a meal, or start one, with some pâté.
Champagne Brocard Pierre Tradition Brut NV – £34. If I receive a bottle of fizz from one of the leading Champagne houses in my stocking, I will smile, and then probably drink it, but a little part of me will die inside. Instead this Christmas, why not support a truly artisan and grower Champagne producer, such as Brocard Pierre. From the Cote de Bar in the South of Champagne, the Tradition Brut NV is handpicked and made with minimal intervention. It is bursting with bright red apples, baked lemon soufflé, a touch of pastry, and then slighter riper stonefruit peach character on the palate. I find many Champagnes from big names have bubbles that feel like they are going to jump out of the glass, the Brocard instead has a much softer and delicate mousse. Pouring this for friends and family over Christmas will make them feel so much more special!
Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – £17.95. My perfect Christmas eve involves lots of fresh seafood, monster king prawns in masses of butter and an unearthly amount of garlic, then plaice or skate pan fried and with lemon. This year I will be drinking the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc during this. It has an amazing tanginess combined with grapefruit, and a super mineral core making it truly awesome with seafood… but it also appeals to many a Sauvignon lovers as well as those who hate the grape. Drinking more like a Pouilly Fume than a Marlborough Sauvignon, the Salt River comfortably sits somewhere in between. Perfect for all the family over Christmas (minus the children) wahey!
Ar Guentota Malbec, Belasco de Baquedano, Mendoza 2018 –£19.95. Over 24 hours ago you started finely chopping your mushrooms for the duxelles, to then finely layer on your pâté, before delicately wrapping in parma ham and pastry to chill. Everything has boiled down to this moment. The knife goes in. Perfectly pink!! Oh yes. One of my favourite reds I always come back to for a special festive meal like this is the Ar Guentota Malbec. It has a super classy blackberry, violet, grated chocolate and spice core, but despite being an Argentinian Malbec, it isn’t overpowering and it is actually really classy. It’s lifted and delicate, making it a joy to drink with a special piece of red meat or Beef Wellington. Compared to £20 to £30 bottles Bordeaux, this is so much more enjoyable.
Wiston Estate Blanc de Noirs 2014 – £56. My sparkling wine of the year without a doubt, made by the enigmatic Dermot Sugrue. Suitably opulent and luxurious for Christmas celebrations with its gorgeous notes of almond slivers, macadamia nuts and tangerine fruit and marmalade-smeared-on-buttered-toast finish.
Saint Romain ‘Sous La Velle’ Domaine Buisson 2019 – £39. My favourite meal of all festive eating is our family tradition Christmas eve fish feast. Opened early and swirled in a big decanter, I can’t wait to be enjoying this with our feast of hand-dived scallops courtesy of Pesky Fish, potted shrimp and whole roast turbot.
Cabernet Franc Pierre, Carcasonne 2019 – £12.95. As I discovered recently, there are few better wines to go with pork, and few more I’d want more with boxing day ham studded with cloves and with an orange and ham glaze àla Mary Berry than this one. Slips down oh-so-nicely, highly palatable, and served cool from the cellar (c 18 degrees), a brilliant bargain.
St Joseph 'Petit Pere' Aymeric Paillard 2017 – £35. This is classified as a St Joseph but is just a hop across the river from the hill of Hermitage. This oozes class, packed full of black fruits with an interesting, herbal, savoury edge that keeps pulling you back to the glass just for a sniff. Pair with a rib of beef with all the trimmings and you’ll be in heaven.
La Calcinara Clochard 2019 – £17.95. This Italian Verdicchio is a mineral masterpiece. Elegant and crisp with notes of lemon blossom and fennel with a deliciously bitter finish. This is the perfect drop to go with smoked salmon blinis or salmon en croute on Christmas Eve.
Mullineux Straw Wine 2020 37.5cl – £26. Who needs pudding when you have this in your glass! This is such a luxurious treat – notes of marmalade, marzipan, acacia honey and dried apricots exude from the glass and fill your senses with joy. No wonder Chris and Andrea Mullineux are considered one of the best wine making duos in South Africa.
Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 – £32. A meticulous wine, I mean this in the sense you can taste the precision, it has all the hallmarks you want from a new-world Aussie Chardonnay, but with balance and finesse. I am a huge fan of anything that celebrated winemaker Tom Carson makes, this would match wonderfully with a shellfish entrée.
Chateau Valentin, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, Cotes de Blaye 2018 – £14.50. A wine that really surprised me, I haven’t tasted a Bordeaux like this under 20.00GBP, let alone under 15.00! It is on the money, generous, well balanced, and incredibly morish. It may have been the moody wintery evening I opened this on or the fact it’s a complete and utter winner – The Christmas day ‘red’ doesn’t have to break the bank at all!
Recioto 'Stella' Monte Santoccio Nicola Ferrari 2015 – £49. Such a performer, a wine that sings decadence. Made in the Amarone method with delicately dried fruit from Valpolicella, dried slightly longer than normal to concentrate those rich yet delicate flavours. The perfect match with a cheese board, filled with lots of mature and aged wonders – stick a fork in me!