top of page

The Festive White Wine Guide 2016

A round-up of white wines – dry first, then sweet – to cover the festive season, whether it's a quiet night in, basic crowd control, or the ultimate celebration. There's also one rosé, a rosé like no other. There's nothing at a really bargain-basement price, as there is in my Festive Reds selection, simply because I don't find the same quality in whites at the bottom of the price scale. Wines are listed in ascending order of price within the two categories of dry then sweet. If you need alternative stockists in the UK or elsewhere, it's always worth trying

The Exquisite Collection Limoux Chardonnay 2015, Languedoc (Occitanie), France

Elegant, fresh, wax-smooth southern French Chardonnay with a beeswax and sweet almond perfume and soft peach fruit.

£6.99, Aldi

Limoux Chardonnay

Sassi del Mare Falanghina 2015, Beneventano, Campania, Italy

Medium-bodied, fresh-faced, easygoing, southern Italian white with flavours of red apples, pears, herbs, citrus zest and a pinch of spice.

£7.99, Lidl


Altano Douro Branco 2015, Douro, Portugal

Characteristically refreshing, mineral dry white from the port-producing Douro region. It has a whiff of smoke and citrus fruit, a supple texture and a tangy lemon finish. Works with simple fish dishes, salads, cured hams or as an aperitif.

£8.50–£10.50, The Wine Society, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Tanners, Davy’s

Altano Branco

Lyrarakis Dafni 2015, Crete, Greece

Unusual and enticing aromatic white made from the rare, local Dafni grape on Crete. Sweet, herbal, bay-leaf fragrance, crisp pear flavour and a soft, flowing texture. An ideal aperitif, but a match for shellfish too.

£10, Marks & Spencer

Dafni white wine

Domaine de la Ville de Colmar Clos Saint-Jacques Riesling 2014, Alsace, France

Floral, apple, lime and acacia honey fruitiness offset by Alsace Riesling’s signature minerality and zingy acidity; medium-bodied and just off-dry. Sashays seamlessly from apéro to seafood and light Asian-spiced dishes. Christmas quiz fact: Colmar is the second driest town in France.

£11.99, or £9.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

Alsace Riesling

Le Pallet Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2014, Loire, France

Partially oak-fermented Muscadet that leans towards a white Burgundy style. Beeswax and lemon nose, honeyed but tangy lemon-curd flavour, buttery texture and salty, zesty finish. Shows the potential of Muscadet.

£11.99, or £9.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

Pallet Muscadet

Borgo Paglianetto Petrara Verdicchio di Matelica 2015, Marche, Italy

Smoky grilled almonds, preserved lemons, lemon butter and lime peel – a Verdicchio with lovely depth and energy.

£12.25, The Vintner


Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough, New Zealand

A challenging growing season in 2016, but Greywacke sails through on a wave of elderflower, gooseberry, fennel and lingering minerality, all conveyed with effortless vibrancy, harmony and length.

£14.49, online only offer, North & South Wines; £15.25–£16.95, Divine Fine Wines,, The Whisky Exchange, The Halifax Wine Company, The Vintner

The Society’s Exhibition Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France

Classy, classic white Burgundy, fleshy but fine-boned, combining nutty richness with a mineral spine and lemony bite.

£18, The Wine Society

Cape Chamonix Reserve 2014, Franschhoek, South Africa

A barrel-fermented blend of Sauvignon (mostly) and Semillon in the style of a fine, dry white Bordeaux. Intense and concentrated with lemon, orange and herbal flavours enriched with toasty oak. Drink with fish or chicken flavoured with lemon, or cellar it for a two or three years.

£18, WineTrust100

Torbreck Woodcutters Semillon 2012, Barossa Valley, Australia

Rich and ripe but light on its feet. Zesty, creamy, lemon meringue pie flavours and a light touch of vanilla oak. A shoo-in for fish pie or shellfish, but also worth a thought if you want a white for turkey.

£21.50, Harvey Nichols

Torbreck Semillon

Domaine Rijckaert Arbois Savagnin Grand Elevage 2014, Jura, France

Wonderful raciness and intensity, creaminess and density, poise and length. Flavours of green apricot, walnuts, spice and salty sea spray. Complex and food-friendly. I had it with a rich goose-stock risotto, scallops with bacon, goats cheese and Camembert (no, not all at once).

£24.95, The Vintner

Arbois Savagnin

Domaine Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2010, Burgundy, France

A glorious Grand Cru from a glorious vintage for Burgundy (both white and red). You could cellar this for another decade or you can soak up the concentration, richness and complexity now – toasted nut, candied citrus, mocha, vanilla minerals and much more.

£77.50, Four Walls Wine Co; £84, Fareham Wine Cellars; £110, House of Townend


Tatsima, Vin de France

This is a rosé like no other: a Grenache Gris 2015 from North Catalonia that is the polar opposite of the light aperitif or quaffing style. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for those who want something thought-provoking and impossible to ignore, this is just the ticket. It’s a full-bodied, so-called natural wine with a structure and texture that includes tannin, a smell reminiscent of toffee apples and flavours that include smoked paprika, orange and orange peel. It’s a great wine for dealing with assertive food.

£19.95, Wine Sensations

Tatsima rosé


Disznókő 1413 Tokaji Édes Szamarodni 2013, Hungary

Barrel-matured Tokaji made from late-picked botrytised grapes. Opulent but tinglingly fresh with a palate of candied orange-peel, apricot, honey and ginger. Christmas quiz fact: 1413 was the year the Disznókó vineyards first appeared in the Hungarian land register.

£14.95 for 50cl, Lea & Sandeman; £14.99, Ocado

Disznoko Tokaji

Domaine Rotier Renaissance Gaillac Vendanges Tardives 2012, Gaillac, France

Distinctive, lush, sweet wine, made from Gaillac’s Loin de l’Oeil grape variety matured in acacia as well as oak barrels. Apricot, peach, earl grey tea, vanilla and oak flavours contained in an almost syrupy texture, then a rewardingly fresh finish. Serve with puddings, including ice cream, or creamy blue cheese.

£14.99 for 50cl, selected Waitrose and

Rotir Vendanges Tardives

Seifried Nelson Sweet Agnes Riesling 2015, New Zealand

Vibrantly fresh and vividly sweet with honeyed pink grapefruit, nectarine, red apple and spice flavours.

£13.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose; £18 (37.5cl), Harvey Nichols

Sweet Agnes Riesling

Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007, Hungary

Impeccable balance between sweetness and acidity, even though the 2007 is not quite as intense as the great 2008 to come. There’s an enticing floral note over luscious honey, sweet orange, apricot and stem ginger. Can partner chocolate, blue cheese, fruit tarts, crème brûlée... almost any pudding.

£26.95–£30.95 for 50cl, Ocado, Waitrose, Lea & Sandeman

Tokaji 5 Putts

All photographs except Limoux Chardonnay and Sassi del Mare Falanghina by Joanna Simon

bottom of page