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The Festive White Wine Guide 2017

Festive white wine

Sixteen dry whites to cover the festivities and all eventualities at prices from £7 to £48 and from the supermarket giants to small independents. New Zealand Sauvignon is conspicuous by its absence, not for any lack of enthusiasm on my part, but because it was clear from my tasting notes and scores that with NZ Sauvignon you pretty well get what you pay for. If you want something more expressive, expect to pay £13-£20 and head for the likes of Greywacke, Dog Point, Churton, Auntsfield, Tupari Boulders Row or Tinpot Hut.

Taste the Difference Languedoc White 2016, Languedoc, France

A versatile, soft-textured, dry white made from Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Vermentino and Viognier by Jean-Claude Mas. Fresh herb and peach flavours with a dash of lime cordial. A good party wine, but also a capable partner for chicken, fish pie, pasta and salads.

£7, Sainsbury’s

The Grape Grinder The Wild Olive Chenin Blanc 2017, Western Cape, South Africa

Medium-bodied, unoaked Chenin made from traditionally tended old vines. Floral, nutty and zesty with soft, fresh, apricoty fruit. Good value.

£8, Oddbins

*finest Greco Beneventano 2016, Campania, Italy

Crisp and sappy, with juicy orange, lemon and pear fruit and a mouthwatering lemon-peel finish. Made for Tesco by Feudi di San Gregorio (whose Aglianico reds and long lost Sirica I wrote about recently).

On offer at £8 (down from £9) until January 1, Tesco

Dopff & Irion Pinot Blanc Cuvée René Dopff 2015, Alsace, France

A dry, fresh but soft, delicately floral and fruity Pinot Blanc with spicy notes and fruit suggestive of greengage and apricot. Particularly good as an aperitif, but a match also for light starters, vegetable and fish dishes.

£9.95, Tanners

Bottega Vinai Pinot Grigio 2016, Trentino, Italy

Pinot Grigio with the intensity it so often lacks: light on its feet but expressive, with aromas of freesias and spice, and flavours of fresh pear, stone fruit and citrus, all underscored by a soft, chalky minerality.

£9.49, Roberts & Speight; £9.76, Woodwinters, £10.50, Cheers Wine Merchants, £10.99, Amps Fine Wine, £11, Highbury Vintners

Ramón Bilbao Rueda Verdejo 2016, Rueda, Spain

Ramón Bilbao’s winemaker Rodolfo Bastida is a fan of Sauvignon and makes an enticingly aromatic, grassy Rueda Sauvignon Blanc, but Verdejo is Rueda’s own grape and this one is spot on, with almond nuttiness, tropical fruit, creamy texture and mineral freshness. Versatile – aperitif, vegetables, fish, chicken…

£10.95, Great Western Wine

Màquina Y Tabla Laderas de Leonila White 2016, Bierzo, Spain

Round, fresh and full. A delicious original that was partly matured under flor yeast (like sherry) – the flor giving an apples-in-the-attic spiciness, straw and saltiness to the juicy greengage and apricot fruit and oak-aged creaminess.

£13.95, Lea & Sandeman

Corney & Barrow White Burgundy Mâcon-Chaintré 2016, Burgundy, France

C&B’s pristine, nutty, creamy white Burgundy from Domaine Dominique Cornin, a certified organic estate. Subtle peachy, apricot fruit and a chalk-smooth texture.

£14.95, Corney & Barrow

Mullineux Old Vines White 2015, Swartland, South Africa

A generous, fleshy white with delicious intensity of honeyed, smoke, mineral and citrus flavours. It’s produced from an eclectic blend of old-vine Chenin Blanc (74%) with four other varieties, all fermented with wild yeasts.

£17, Oddbins

Oliver Zeter Fumé Blanc 2016, Pfalz, Germany

Why choose a Sauvignon Blanc from Germany? Novelty? Contrariness? Neither. It’s simply that it’s a wine of real class and character: an oak-fermented Sauvignon with suppleness, intensity and length expressed through a smoky, sweet nose and an arresting palate of apricot and orange marmalade lightly dusted with smoky oak. Drink it on its own or take advantage of the fact that it can handle quite bold flavours – buttery asparagus, scallops with bacon, rich fish pie, Christmas baked ham.

£19.99, Adnams

Heirloom Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Adelaide Hills, Australia

A European-style Chardonnay fermented and matured in French oak barrels and made from organic and biodynamically grown grapes. Subtley nutty and toasty, with melon and peach freshness and polished texture. Contemporary Australia in a nutshell.

On offer at £14.99 (down from £19.99) until 26 December, Waitrose

Loiserberg Grüner Veltliner 2014, Kamptal, Austria

Weighty but racy dry white with smoky bacon, almond and vanilla patisserie richness and spicy, yellow-plum fruit. Lovely depth and integrity. Good with Asian spices as well as shellfish and pork.

£21.95, Jeroboams

Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuissé 2015, Burgundy, France

Unoaked Burgundy with spring blossom and almond on the nose, Chardonnay’s seductive natural creaminess and lemon, apple, quince and almond flavours. Drink over the next two or three years with fish or something in a cream sauce. If you want a more widely available alternative, the slightly lighter, more mineral Louis Latour Pouilly-Vinzelles En Paradis 2015 is in Majestic (£22.99, or £19.99 in any 6-bottle mix). It’s also in Hailsham Cellars (£17.95).

£21.95–£25, Hailsham Cellars, Saxty’s, Chester Beer & Wine; £123 for 6 bottles,

Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc 2016, Haut Vallée de Gassac Blanc, Languedoc, France

Viognier-dominated and a perennial favourite. Succulent, full and fresh with a nose of flowers, pears and apples, flavours of white peach and spice and a long, zesty, lemon-curd finish. Particularly good with shellfish (except oysters).

£27, The Wine Society

Domaine Defaix-Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Lechet 2003, Burgundy, France

A Chablis of this age is unusual, but Premier and Grand Cru Chablis are long-lived, even from the freakishly hot 2003 vintage. As such, this is atypically opulent and honeyed with a rich crème fraiche texture and flavour, but the richness is balanced by intense, zesty lemon flavours and riveting acidity.

£30, or £27 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

A Paquet Chassagne

Domaine Agnès Paquet Chassagne-Montrachet Les Battaudes 2015, Burgundy, France

Top quality, oak-fermented Chassagne from the warm 2015 vintage – and a great favourite with the audience at a recent Burgundy Masterclass I presented. With its peaches and cream succulence, floral lift and delicate nutty oak, it's dangerously drinkable now but has the keen acidity and length to enjoy over the next five years.

£48, Stannary Street Wine Co (email if you want to buy a single bottle as part of a mixed 6 or 12-bottle case, rather than an unmixed 6 bottles)

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