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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia

The Festive Red Wine Guide 2017



Twenty red wines to take you through all manner of festivities and in some cases festivities for years to come. As, always, they’re listed in ascending order of price, give or take differences in retailers’ prices and special offers. There are three wines I highly recommend but have not included below because they, or a previous vintage, were in last year’s Festive Wine Guide: Les Hauts de Saint-Martin Saint-Chinian 2015 (great value at £6.99, Co-op), the exemplary CVNE Rioja Reserva Imperial 2012 (£17.99–£22.99, Co-op, Tesco, Majestic, Waitrose) and the Co-op’s Irresistible Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 made by the Perrin family (on offer at £12.99 until January 2).

Domaine Mas Barrau Cabernet Franc 2016, Pays d’Oc, France

Juicy and soft with strawberry and spice on the nose, chocolate-coated cherry and nutmeg flavours and a leafy, spicy, freshness to finish.

£8, Booths supermarkets

Bodegas Chivite Baluarte Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain

Round, supple, fruity blend of Garnacha, Merlot and Tempranillo lightly brushed with oak. A crowd-pleaser.

£8, Booths supermarkets

Bodegas La Purisma Old Hands Monastrell Ecológico 2015, Yecla, Spain

Smoky, sweet nose, luscious dark cherry fruit, spice and liquorice flavours; full-bodied but fine textured and lots of vitality. A great discovery by Lea & Sandeman. It also comes in a 3-litre bag-in-box, which works out even cheaper. Bargain.

£8.95, or £7.95 in a mixed case, £27.50 for 3-l box, or £25 when youbuy three or more, Lea & Sandeman

Château de Pitray Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2012, France

Straightforward, good value, Merlot-based claret with typical mulberry and blackberry fruit and savoury cedar and leather notes. Ready for drinking, but good for two or three years.

£8.95, The Wine Society

Valdesil Valderroa Mencía 2015, Valdeorras, Spain

The Mencía grape showing its arresting cherry, raspberry and black pepper flavours without any oak getting in the way. Plush but tight-knit.

£9.59, on offer Waitrose (until 26.12.17, then £11.99); £12.25, Booths

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy

Fine-boned, supple Chianti with aromatic herb, sweet earth, tobaccoey spice and ripe black-cherry flavours. This blend, made by the highly regarded Bibbiano, is exclusive to the Co-op. Bargain.

£10.99, Co-op

Taste the Difference Château les Bouysses Cahors 2015, France

Malbec from its native Cahors: slightly grippier and more savoury than its Argentine cousin but softened by oak and with a minty, herbal lift to the plummy black fruit, graphite and liquorice flavours.

£12, Sainsbury’s

*finest Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016, Central Otago, New Zealand

Fragrant, polished New Zealand Pinot with fleshy red-berry fruit framed by softly toasty oak. Made for Tesco by the much-awarded Villa Maria winery. A good bet with Christmas turkey – and you may like to know that the Tesco *finest label can be peeled off.

£12.50, Tesco

Pierre Usseglio Côtes du Rhône 2015, Rhône, France

Full-bodied, warming, ripe, Châteauneuf-style with succulent, sweet fruit, garrigue herb, cracked black pepper and fine tannins. Could be kept for four or more years (in cellar conditions).

£14.99, or 12.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

Renato Ratti Nebbiolo Langhe Ochetti 2015, Piedmont, Italy

Barolo in miniature with lovely autumnal, earthy sweetness, red cherry and almond flavours, effortless fine-grained tannins and gentle acidity. Drink now – with game birds, baked lamb shanks, mushrooms or truffles – or at any time over the next eight years (if stored in cellar conditions).

£16, The Wine Society; £18.99, Liquorice Wine; £19.99 Mumbles Fine Wines and Hoults Wine Merchants

Clos Clare Cemetery Block Shiraz 2014, Clare Valley, Australia

From a two-hectare plot of 20-year-old vines in the Watervale sub-region. Benchmark Clare clarity and definition, with cool mint, ripe blueberry and chocolate, touches of toast and liquorice and super-sleek tannins. Drink over the next seven years.

£112.50 for 6 bottles, Strictly Wine; £122.88 for 6, Corking Wines

Domaine de Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Gaby 2014, Rhône, France

Textbook Crozes: meaty, peppery savoury richness with perfumed red-berry fruit. It’s a selection of the estate’s best barrels, bottled unfined and unfiltered so that nothing is taken out. Loves rib of beef, lamb and game.

£22, Tanners

Château Haut-Bergey Pessac-Léognan 2004, Bordeaux, France

Just the ticket if you want a classic mature claret. Savoury and elegant with mellow fig and blackberry, spice and cigar-box flavours and soft tannins. Lots of charm.

£25.50, Lea & Sandeman

Domaine de Montcalmès Terrasses de Larzac 2014, Languedoc, France

Full-bodied, polished and aromatic blend of Syrah (60%), Grenache and Mourvèdre made in limited quantities from low-yielding vines. Fragrant spices, brushwood and sweet herbs stoked with red and black fruit. A new star in Yapp’s range.

£27.50, Yapp Brothers

Lismore Syrah 2016, South Coast, South Africa

Supremely graceful Syrah from mountain foothills in the hidden-away Greyton region. Fragrant, pure raspberry and cherry fruit edged with smoke and white pepper and the silkiest of tannins. The Pinot Noir is also excellent (£28, Oddbins).

£29, Oddbins

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove 2014, Bolgheri, Italy

The second wine of the great Tuscan Ornellaia estate. A Bordeaux blend, like Ornellaia, but with more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon and made from younger vines. Although not the easiest of vintages, this is typically generous in flavour and texture with blackcurrant, mocha coffee, cedary spice and sleek tannins.

£34, Roberson; £39.20, Hedonism; £42, Armit; £45 (or £40.50 in any 6-bottle mix), Majestic

Berry Bros & Rudd Nuits St-George by Benjamin Leroux 2014, Burgundy, France

Deliciously scented, sweet-fruited and subtly smoky with textural depth, elegance and length.

£35, Berry Bros & Rudd

Palazzo Grimani Amarone della Valpolicella 2014, Veneto, Italy

Classic, rich, concentrated, dry Amarone with opulent dark chocolate, vanilla and violet flavours. Powerful and polished.

£39.99, Waitrose

Château Potensac Médoc 2005, Bordeaux, France

Mature cru bourgeois claret from a great vintage, made by the same (great) team as Léoville Las Cases. Mellow and supple but with a backbone of fine, dry tannins and acidity. Dark chocolate, fruitcake, graphite and cedary spice.

£44.95, Jeroboams (on offer up to and including 23.12.17, down from £55.)

Domaine Nicolas Rossignol Volnay 1er Cru Chevrets 2010, Burgundy, France

The stuff of Burgundy lovers’ dreams – perfumed violets, dark fruit, chocolate, minerals, satin-smooth texture, length, complexity and precision. No hurry to drink it, but resist if you can.

£62.50, Lea & Sandeman

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