A FESTIVE WINE RIOT…. ON BUDGET.                             

 

‘Just been chatting with Adrian Chiles on BBC FiveLive about Christmas wines for less than a tenner. The fact that we’re paying more than a fiver makes it quite easy … many people don’t realise that after duty, VAT, profits and fixed costs there’s only about 40 pence of wine in a five quid bottle. Pay £10 and you’re getting between 6-7 times more wine for your money. Paying just a little more for the wines will also make for a far tastier Christmas lunch!

Champagne (Deutz NV., Taittinger NV., £36) and English Sparkling Wine (Exton Park NV, Hambledon NV, £28) may be king of aperitifs but if the price tag’s too royal pour a princely Cremant de Bougogne from Burgundy, a sparkling Saumur from the Loire Valley, a Vintage Cava from Spain or an Australian sparkler; they’ll all give you change from a tenner and really get the party buzzing. Be trendy and serve your bubble from normal wine glasses – flutes are so yesterday!

Chablis, the crisp, steely Burgundian (William Fevre 2015, £18.99) is a classic match with smoked salmon but if your budget won’t stretch that far but it still has to be Chardonnay look to Chile’s cool Casablanca Valley (Errazuriz Wild Ferment 2015, £9.99) or South Africa’s beautiful Stellenbosch vineyards (Journey’s End Honeycomb 2015, £9); the ripe citrus apple flavours make for an exotic combination.

Grassy, citrus Sancerre will be as popular as ever but if £15 isn’t, try Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (Domaine Guenault 2016), from just up the road in France’s Loire Valley. It may lack the uummph of top Sancerre but it’s the same grape and it’s six quid cheaper. Staying with Sauvignon Blanc, both Bordeaux (Dourthe 2016, £8.50) and New Zealand (Villa Maria Private Bin 2016, £9) offer super value. A taste-off between Touraine and Marlborough will make great sport around the table!

Adrian asked about a wine match with the turkey, “how about a red”, he asked. Grenache-charged Gigondas and Vacqueyras from the southern Rhone come to mind but at £16 they don’t come cheap. Fear not, under rated neighbour Cotes du Rhone (Chapoutier, £8.75) offers a tasty alternative.

Cru Classe Bordeaux requires a second mortgage so look to the lesser known regions of Bourg, Blaye, Fronsac and Castillon for a very decent bottle for less than a tenner.

Burgundy is generally expensive but a peep into the village vineyards of Rully, Montagny, Mercurey and Givry for Pinot Noir lovers will bring a pleasant surprise. Oh, and don’t forget that although Beaujolais is made from Gamay it’s still ‘Burgundy’ and is often a bargain, (Morgon, Chateau de Pizay, £9.99). Chilean Pinot Noir (Cono Sur, £7.50) will also hit the spot.

Rioja needs no introduction but this Christmas you can trade up to ‘Reserva’ for £10; that extra boost of toasty, soft red fruit is the result of  12 months barrel ageing in cool Spanish cellars. ‘Talking about Rioja, don’t forget White Rioja – several of my friends prefer white wine with the turkey, (Vina Real Barrel Fermented Blanco 2015, £12). Popping across the border into Portugal will also bring rich rewards – there are some cracking, top value reds from the Douro Valley and Alentejo that give you change from a tenner.

A big up-front New World red with goose or duck? Go for Aussie Shiraz from the baking vineyards of Barossa Valley, (Jacob’s Creek Reserve 2013, £7.50). Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah from the Rhone Valley by the way.

Argentinean Malbec has taken the world by storm – its crisp dense black fruit is a steal at £9.99, (Viñalba Reservado 2015). Guests will also have fun comparing an Argentinean Malbec with a traditional yet lesser known Malbec from Cahors in south-west France (Cahors 2015, £8).

Hearty singing normally accompanies the flaming Christmas pudding; the wine match is tricky but little beats the warm, nutty raisin flavours of Tawny Port from Portugal’s Douro Valley, (Noval 10 year old).  At £20 it’s not cheap but it will keep its charms in the bottle until New Year’s Eve – halving the cost to fall within budget – the Dutch serve Port as an aperitif … ‘just a thought as your friends arrive on the 31st.

If you prefer a sweetie with the pud head to Spain, (Torres Moscatel Oro, £9), ‘Down Under’ for an Orange Muscat and Flora (Brown Brothers, £9) or, if you can extend your budget slightly, to Sauternes in Bordeaux where a half bottle of Castelnau de Suduiraut, the second label of Cru Classe Chateau Suduiraut no less, will deliver honeyed heaven at £12.

At the end of a memorable Christmas lunch everybody’s in that wonderful mellow mood …the table’s strewn with half empty bottles, discarded glasses, paper hats and crackers. Now’s the time relax, reflect on some wonderful wines, applaud the newcomers, sip your favourites and …… feel smug at the money you’ve saved.

My best wishes for a Grand Cru Christmas and Vintage New Year.