Independent 50 Best 19 December 2009
2008 Carta Vieja Sauvignon Blanc, Maule Valley, Chile.
This aromatic little number from Chile’s lesser-know Maule Valley is an attractively pure sauvignon blanc with undertones of blackcurrant leaf and gooseberry and a refreshing dry finish. Does what it says on the tin, which, at two for £8, adds up to a good festive quaffer. £4.99, Oddbins.
2008 Hilltop Tradition Czerszegi Füszeres
For obvious reasons, Hungary’s czerszegi füszeres grape has been called the unpronounceable grape and even had a wine so named. It’s a refreshing dry white with juicy ripe apple and pear flavours that are considerably easier to swallow than the name itself. Oh go on then: I’ll have that chair-siggy foojeress, please. £3.89, Morrisons.
2009 Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley
One of the year’s bargains at its discounted price, this fragrant Chilean sauvignon blanc from the increasingly impressive Errazuriz is full of the Loire grape’s classic gooseberry fool flavours, with an added segment of zesty grapefruit to keep the tongue on tingling tenterhooks. £6.24, buy 2 = £4.99, Majestic.
2008 Taste the Difference Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur lie
From Domaine Jean Douillard , one of Muscadet’s top producers, this sur lie version has all the tangy sea-salt freshness of Nantes’ seafood-friendly melon de bourgogne grape variety with a requisite dry aftertaste. The bottle is a bit hefty, but some might find this impressive on the dining table. £5.99, Sainsbury’s.
2008 Montana Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
The upmarket version of Montana’s reliable sauvignon blanc normally retails for £8.99, so you have a couple more weeks yet to grab this typically pungent reserve. It’s suitably nettley with Marlborough’s expressively aromatic, capsicum undertones and a lively mouthwatering aftertaste. Down to £5.95, from £8.99, until 1 January, Tesco.
2007 Fitou, Cave de Mont Tauch
From one of the South of France’s most consistently reliable co-operatives, the Cave du Mont Tauch in Tuchan, this a spicy Languedoc blend of grenache, carignan and syrah and mourvèdre, with vivid peppery-spicy black cherry fruit and damsony acidity, making it the perfect festive party glugger. £4.49, Morrisons.
2007 M de Murviedro Syrah, Utiel- Requena
This 100 per cent syrah from southern Spain’s Utiel-Requena region, is a bright red full of juicy, succulent black fruits and spice; and it’s unoaked which adds to a deliciously appetisingly freshness that the region would have struggled to achieve in the past. A bright, new-wave Spanish tinto. £5.48, Asda.
2008 Reggiano Rosso Single Estate, Emilia Romagna, Italy
Emilia-Romagna is the home of much-maligned Lambrusco, which, in its dry rosso version, can not only be delicious but very good value too: like this strawberry and rhubarby quaffer with its vivid, fresh Italianate crisp aftertaste. The real deal for parties, finger foods and robust meat-based pasta dishes. £4.99, Marks & Spencer.
2005 Chianti Reserva, Villa Dante
A reserve chianti for under a fiver seems almost too good to be true, but this nicely mature sangiovese-based rosso, with its herby undertones and sour cherry fruit quality, shows that you can enjoy a good Tuscan red through Christmas at a distinctly modest price. £6.99, buy 2 = £4.99, until 4 January 2010, Majestic.
2008 Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz, South Australia
This bright South Australian shiraz from Barossa’s Grant Burge is delightfully peppery, with lots of red berry fruit flavours, plenty of spicy oak and the sort of tannins that cry out for feathered or furred game. If you’re not a member of the Wine Society, it’s still great value at £6.49 at Booths. £5.95, The Wine Society.
2007 Asda Extra Special Chablis Domaine de la Levée
From winemaking wizard Jean-Marc Brocard, this impressive Chablis is unoaked, and so manages to capture the flavour and style both of the grape and the minerally character of its location in northern burgundy; an appetisingly bone dry white that leaves both palate and its owner suitably satisfied. £8.94, Asda.
2008 Pont de Milieu Pouilly Fumé
So named because the nearby bridge is exactly halfway between the source and mouth of the Loire, this is a refreshingly nettley, aromatic sauvignon blanc that tastes of squashy gooseberries, all the while retaining a dry, mineral aftertaste. £8.99, down from £11.99, until 5 January, Waitrose, and www.waitrosewine.com.
2009 Bellingham the Bernard Series Roussanne
There’s an immediate, fresh lemony zip to the nose of this distinctive Rhône white varietal made in South Africa; its flavours are rich and powerfully full of stonefruits, rounded out by a touch of toasty oak and complemented by a crisp, lemon-zesty quality that brings complexity to this unusual Cape dry white. £9.99, Sainsbury's.
2008 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
From Petaluma’s spectacular riesling vineyards in the Clare Valley, this is a classic dry Aussie riesling, showing some of the ‘keroseney’ aromatic characters of the grape, and with it, refreshing, delicate lemon and lime flavours enlivened by a zesty zip of acidity. £9.99, Waitrose, www.waitrosewine.com, Bibendum .
2008 Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay, Casablanca, Chile
Intense, expressive and full of burgundian-style buttered nut and oatmeal characters, there’s a fresh spritz and peach and pineapple richness of tropical fruit flavours here, all infused with the butterscotch and nutty flavours of lees stirring and oak, and bisected by a trenchant aftertaste. Buy two = £8.79, or £10.99 a bottle, Majestic.
2008 Gulf Station Pinot Noir
From the de Bortoli family in Australia’s Yarra Valley, this appealing fragrant pinot noir displays plenty of opulent strawberry and loganberry fruit flavours with a suppleness of texture that’s not compromised by a cool Yarra Valley freshness that brings savour, elegance and texture. £9.99, Sainsbury’s.
2007 Flagstone Dragon Tree, South Africa
A fragrant fruit salad Cape blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinotage and merlot from Cape whizzkid Bruce Jack, the rich full-flavoured cassisy cabernet-dominant fruit is moderated by the spice and pepper of shiraz and pinotage’s strawberry, all in all a rich and satisfyingly smooth Cape blend. £9.99, Tesco.
2005 Ch. Fabre Gasparets Corbieres-Boutenac, £9.50, therealwineco.co.uk
Spicy, rich and savoury with a peppery edge, there’s lots of lovely dark berry fruit flavour in this impressive bottle, kept lively and peppery with a fresh twist of astringency, but best of all, this deftly oaked classic southern French four-way blend of carignan, grenache, syrah and mourvèdre is just oh-so-drinkably moreish.
2006 Chono Syrah, Elqui Valley, Chile
Smoked meat, tar and medicinal creosote may not be quite what you imagine in your red wine but believe me the sum is greater than the parts in this opulently spicy, blackberry fruited Chilean counterpart to the northern Rhône’s Crozes Hermitage from the charismatic Alvaro Espinoza. Majestic have the equally fine follow-on 2007 at £7.99. £7.55, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440; bbr.com).
2007 Yalumba 'The Scribbler' Cabernet/Shiraz, 2007, Barossa Valley, Australia
In this Barossa Valley blend of roughly two thirds cabernet sauvignon and a third shiraz, Yalumba winemaker Kevin Glastonbury has crafted a brilliant Aussie red whose garrigue-like rosemary and mint bring complexity to the wine’s vibrantly succulent red fruit and plum concentration. £9.99, or £7.99 by the case, Oddbins.
2007 Château de Puligny Montrachet Saint Romain
A bit of a liberty you might think to borrow the superior Puligny Montrachet name, but this stylish white burgundy doesn’t disgrace the Puligny name with its seamless peach and lemon fruitiness deftly etched with a nuttiness from barrel-fermentation and a pure citrusy finish. £23, Laithwaites (0845 194 7720; Laithwaites.co.uk).
2006 Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido Chardonnay
To look at Jim Clendenen’s fierce demeanour and flowing locks, you wouldn’t think that the wild man of Santa Barbara was capable of coaxing such delectable vanilla fudge, apricot and lemon citrus flavours from chardonnay, but he achieves just that with this classy California-meets-Burgundy dry white. £19.99 Majestic .
2007 Chablis Domaine Chantemerle, Adhémar et François Boudin
An intense dry white Burgundy, this is terrific Chablis that shows not just the fruit of the chardonnay grape but the crisp, bone dry steely acidity and chalky minerality that singles out the chardonnay grape as the unique product of its northernmost Burgundian terroir. 14.40, or £13.75, bottle/case, Lea & Sandeman (020 7244 0522; www.londonfinewine.co.uk).
2007 Loiserberg Grüner Veltliner, Jurtschitsch, Kamptal.
Intriguingly aromatic stainless-steel fermented grüner veltliner, Austria’s foremost white grape variety, displaying a lively spritz and typical white pepper along with a honeyed, full-flavoured character, whose refreshingly dry and elegant finish makes this a perfect Christmas dry white for shellfish. £14.99, Corney & Barrow (0207 265 2430; www.corneyandbarrow.com).
2006 Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot, Vigne Blanche
Glorious Chassagne-Montrachet at its rich and most powerful best, this shows the concentration of fruit of old vine chardonnay, crafted though barrel-fermentation and lees-stirring into a formidable dry white Burgundy with toasted oak nuttiness, and honeyed characters, and etched by a limey crispness. £47.50, Waitrose (47 branches) and www.waitrosewine.com.
Tinto Pesquera , 2006, Ribera del Duero
Pure tempranillo from the banks of the Duero River, the smoky vanillan oak fragrance is a trademark of Alejandro Fernández, whose top red is vibrantly concentrated with a mulberry and plum intensity of flavour framed by lovely supple-textured tannins and the freshness that’s a characteristic of the high Ribera plateau. £20.99, case price / bottle £16.79, Oddbins.
2006 Vacqueyras, Domaine de la Garrigue, Cuvée des Trois Cyprès
A Christmas cracker from the southern Rhône, there’s loads of rain, plum and spice, and even a funky undercurrent, to this vibrantly peppery blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault; it’s as powerful and intensely flavoured as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but cheaper and every bit as deliciously drinkable. £11.99, Majestic, or £9.59 if you buy two.
Berrys' Margaux, Ch. Giscours, Bordeaux, France
One of Berry’s Own Selection Bordeaux , this chip off the 3ème Cru Classé, Château Giscours’ block, from Eric Albada Jelgersma, is all about cedar, cigar box and vanilla-infused aromas and the pedigree and cassisy richness to make it a special red to accompany a Christmas day turkey, duck or chicken - or terducken. £17.95, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440; bbr.com).
2005 Contino Reserva Rioja
A shock to the system for lovers of traditional Rioja, this is the very model of a modern tempranillo-based red, with some of the classic hints of smoke and vanilla but more to the point oodles of voluptuous cherry and strawberry flavours, made all the more appetising by its bright acidity and ageing potential. Around £20.99, Waitrose, Majestic, Marks & Spencer, The Wine Society.
2004 Domaine Canet-Valette. Le Vin Maghani, St Chinian
This outstanding, aromatic southern French blend from winemaker Marc Valette is deliciously spiced with angostura spice and pepper, suggesting a large proportion of syrah in the mix., while the fruit is blackberry-like and savoury with an almost zesty bite, making it one of the Languedoc’s most promising reds. £18.95, Stone, Vine & Sun (01962 712351; stonevine.co.uk).
2008 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling
There’s beguiling aroma and rich mouthfilling mousse to this seductive Australian fizz made from the champagne grapes chardonnay and pinot noir, while the acidity is delightfully fresh. This will make a terrific champagne substitute at under a tenner for all those on a budget this Christmas. £9.99, Morrisons, tesco.com.
Cesarini Sforza Cuvée Pinot Noir Spumante Rosato
Looks like pink champagne, and while this northern Italian fizz can’t quite make grand claims to champagne’s weight and longer-lasting mousse, this salmon pink sparkler still has the frothy fun and effervescent liquid candy floss with a tangy dry aftertaste. Case of 6, special offer at £36, down from £72, Tesco.
Taste the Difference Prosecco di Conegliano
Fragrant and freshly scented with ripe conference pear aromas, this is a delightfully juicy and ripe, apple and pear-flavoured Italian fizz from the pretty hills of the Veneto’s Conegliano area. Classic mixer with peach juice for a traditional Bellini, cocktail but if it ain’t broke, no real need to fix it. £8.99, Sainsbury’s.
Bluff Hill Brut NV
A classy East Coast Kiwi blend of the champagne grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir, this fizz from Montana, based on the 2006 vintage, is refreshing full of lemon, cream soda and vanilla aromas, while a crisp, champagne-like yeasty tang and creamy mousse add to its contender status for best value Christmas cracker. £8.99, Marks & Spencer.
Oriol Rossel Rosado NV Cava
Made entirely from Catalonia’s Trepat grape, this is an unusually good Spanish cava, its salmon pink champagne-method bubbles bursting on the tongue with pinot noir-like berry fruit flavours of raspberry and strawberry, while the crisp dry freshness brings extra zip . Normally £9.99, there’s £1 off if you buy before the end of January. Laithwaites (0845 194 7720; Laithwaites.co.uk).
Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Cuis 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs, NV, Champagne, France
Pure Chardonnay from premier cru vineyards at Cuis in the Côte des Blancs, this is startlingly crisp, with an intensely rich mouthfilling mousse of bubbles and blade of chalky minerality bringing sophistication and tangy elegance to a fine champagne that works equally well on its own or with seafood. £29.99, or £23.99, case price/ bottle, Oddbins.
Champagne Vergnon Brut Grand Cru NV
One of a number of excellent growers’ champagnes that are new to the dynamic, 300-year-old Berry Bros & Rudd, this has the distinctive yeasty / ovaltiney aromas of chardonnay from Le Mesnil in the Côte des Blancs, while its fresh, biscuit and brioche flavours are quite delicious, making it, at this price, something of a bargain. £24.95, buy six = £22.45, Berry Bros. & Rudd (0800 280 2440; bbr.com).
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne
Fresh floral, biscuity aromas lead to an-all chardonnay fizz of considerable distinction, a delicate toastiness and intense rich flavour on a cushion of elegant creamy bubbles which are satisfyingly crisp and dry to the tastebuds. £29.99, Corney & Barrow (0207 265 2430; www.corneyandbarrow.com).
1998 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut.
Pale gold in colour, this vintage prestige cuvée champagne is no less luxurious in its way than Krug or Cristal but every bit as sophisticated with a wonderful hazelnut and lime scent and an ethereal mousse of bubbles, whose dazzling flavours are locked in by a key lime zesty freshness. Ultra-stylish bubbles that show that there’s more to champagne than mere champagne. Around £130, Jeroboams shops, Waitrose, Majestic, Harrods, Fortnums.
Champagne Tarlant Brut Zéro, Champagne, France
The sweet-toothed should avoid this refreshingly crisp, ultra-dry Champagne, which, as the name suggests, contains no added sugar to keep its biscuity aromas and Granny Smith bite as tongue-tinglingly tangy and tart as they can be: absolute austerity for ascetic aesthetes. £28.00, Marks & Spencer.
Sainsbury’s Muscat de St Jean de Minervois
Fragrantly, exotically muscat, this grapey fortified sweet white from the Minervois hills in the Languedoc is strong and richly full-flavoured, a treat on its own after the meal or try it with Stilton as a lighter, more fragrant alternative to a heavier Port. £4.29, half-bottle, Sainsbury’s.
Lustau, Emperatriz Eugenia Very Rare Oloroso Sherry
Made from 100 per cent palomino fino grown in the white chalky albariza soils of Jerez’ Montegilillo vineyard, this amazing Sherry is aged for no less than 20 years in cask, concentrating its aromas into sweet caramel toffee and grilled almond while its complex, nutty rich flavours are teasingly dry. A Sherry lover’s dream. £19.99, Waitrose, 3 branches and www.waitrosewine.com.
1994 Tesco’s Finest Vintage Port
Serious kit on a budget from the people who bring you Dow, Warre and Graham, this invitingly mature fortified red has the classic raisin and prune aromas and lovely smooth rich fruitcake and nut quality of a mature vintage port. It begs to go with, but not in, your Stilton. Stand it up for 24 hours and decant off its sediment a couple of hours before serving. £15.99, Tesco.
Marks & Spencer 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal
From David Guimaraens of Taylor’s Port renown, this is a lovely rich toffee and fig tawny Port, aged for 20 years in cask to concentrate its flavours and bring a nutty, aged richness and smooth-as-silk texture to its wonderfully mature fruit. A great alternative to vintage port, and no need to decant. £29.99, Marks & Spencer
De Bortoli Old Boys Very Fine Old Fortified, 21 Year Old
Hedonistically rich fortified sticky made from a blend of semillon, muscat and shiraz, this remarkable liquid sticky toffee pudding is wonderfully aromatic and complex with intense caramel toffee / crème brulée aromas and butterscotch fudge and roasted nuts flavours. £19.99, or £15.99 as part of a mixed case, Oddbins.
2006 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Concha y Toro, Maule Valley
Surely one of the best value sweet white wines on the market, albeit in a half-bottle, this pale citrusy late harvest sauvignon blnac from Chile’s Concha y Toro displays a lovely crystallised lemon and grapefruit quality with a sweetness that’s neatly bisected by its elegantly fresh acidity. £5.99, buy 2 = £4.79, half-bottle, Majestic
2006 Tamar Ridge, Kayena Vineyard, Limited Release Botrytis Riesling,
This glorious sticky from Tasmania won a Decanter World Wine Awards gold for its luscious lime-oozing unctuousness and fruit purity cut by the most trenchant cool climate acidity Tasmania has to offer. If this were a German Riesling beerenauslese, it would cost three times as much. £13.49 - £13.99, half-bottle, Waitrose (limited availability), Adnams, Charles Steevenson Wines, Novum Wines, Philglas & Swiggott, Noel Young Wines, The Secret Cellar Ltd, The Revelstoke Wine Co Ltd.
2007 Oberhäuser Brücke Gold Cap Riesling Auslese, Dönnhof, Nahe
Exotic aromas of grapefuit and mango with seductively rich grapefruity flavours tempered by a pristine, refreshingly crisp and zesty acidity, so much so that all that concentrated fruit and opulence is perfectly balanced on the most delicate but sharpest of knifeblades. Around £27.40, half-bottle, Berry Bros & Rudd, Howard Ripley, Bordeaux Index.
2005 Darting Estate Scheurebe Beerenauslese
Intense grapefruit and peach undertones on the nose of this pure scheurebe from the Rheinpfalz lead to a lovely luscious palate of crystallized peach with intense grapefruit acidity bringing freshness and zest to the palate. Shy by name perhaps (from Dr. Scheu, who gave his name to the grape) but not retiring any time soon. £14.99, half-bottle, Marks & Spencer.
2006 Château Petit Védrines, Barsac.
A classic sweet Bordeaux blend of 80% semillon, 17% sauvignon blanc and 3% muscadelle, this Sauternes alter ego is a delicious sweet white with an apricot and pineapple-fresh aromatic quality, and a peachy lusciousness beautifully balanced by the zest to cut through the tropical richness of fruit. Good value even if it looks pricey for just half a bottle. £11.99, half-bottle, Sainsbury’s.