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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia

The Festive Red Wine Guide 2018



Red wines from all around the world to take you through all kinds 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.

Ostoros Pinot Noir 2016, Hungary

Astonishing to find something that tastes of Pinot Noir at this price – light and soft textured with fresh, sweet berry fruit and Pinot's delicate stemmy earthiness. Hats off to the Society's Eastern Europe buyer. 13.5%

£6.75, The Wine Society

Finest GSM 2016, McLaren Vale Australia

Very good value Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre blend made for Tesco by d'Arenberg. Bouncy, bright, full-bodied but not hefty and brimming with black fruit, blueberry, spice with a top notes of violets. 14.5%

£8, Tesco (865 stores and online)

Famille Perrin Les Cardinaux 2016, Rhône, France

Generous, fruity, Grenache-based southern Rhône packed with vibrant, fresh raspberry flavours and cashmere softness. 13.5%.

£8 on offer until 3 January (down from £10), Co-op

Montgras Pinot Noir Reserva 2017, Leyda Valley, Chile

Leyda's cool, coastal climate gives pristine cherry and pomegranate fruit and a salty tangy to the silky texture and lightly toasty oak of this very good value Pinot Noir. 14%.

£9.50, Waitrose

Le Salare Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2017, Italy

This is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo far removed from the rustic, chunky, mass-market versions. With barely a whisper of tannin, it's medium-bodied and full of vitality, tangy cherry aromas, soft cherry fruit, black pepper and sweet root flavours. Good with charcuterie and pork and worth trying with fish. 12.5%.

£9.50, The Daily Drinker

Prior de Panton Xastra Mencía Selection Bierzo, Spain

A good introduction to what has become one of the most in-vogue red grape varieties: northwest Spain's Mencía. Medium-bodied, fresh and supple with squishy mulberrry fruit, light crunchy pepper and mineral charcoal notes. Food friendly, but not for heavyweight, powerfully flavoured dishes.13.5%.

£9.99, Adnams

Kayra Buzbag Ökuzgözü-Bogazkere 2017, Turkey

A youthful, juicy version of Turkey's famous Buzbag (pronounced Bush-bag) with crunchy sour-cherry and wild-berry fruit, spicy black pepper, tangy freshness and carefully tamed tannins. In case your Turkish is no better than mine, Ökuzgözü and Bogazkere are the two grape varieties involved. Drink it with the likes of lasagne, moussaka, meatballs, chorizo and mezze feasts, or give it as a present to any wine drinker who like something a bit different or to a fan of food from the Eastern Med. 12.5%.

£10.99, minimum 6 bottles, Strictly Wine; £11.56, minimum 6 bottles, winebuyers.com

Château Cabos 2015, Bordeaux, France

It's refreshing to be able to include three quite modestly priced clarets in the line-up this year – all from the same ripe, accessible vintage. Which you choose may well depend on which retailer suits your purposes. This is round and plummy with blueberry, spice and chocolate notes and a clean, savoury finish. 14%.

£11.50 (or £10.50 in any 12-bottle mix), Lea & Sandeman

Château Argadens Bordeaux 2015, Bordeaux Supérieur, France

Bright, ripe, contemporary Bordeaux with all the classic cassis and soft pencilly graphite flavours and a dry but gentle finish. 13.5%.

£11.50, Tanners

La Petite Agnès Priorat 2015, Spain

Persuasive Priorat at a very reasonable price. Density piqued by hallmark savoury, earthy-mineral freshness, smoky, chestnutty flavours, ripe berries, hints of dark chocolate and fine tannins. 14.5%.

£14.99, Waitrose (79 stores and WaitroseCellar.com)

Paso-Prima Tinto 2017, Somontano, Spain

A Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Tom and Emma Hunt (ex-Tanners employees). Full-bodied and bright with youthfully exuberant, intense spiced-blueberry and blackcurrant fruit and polished tannins. 14%.

£15.95, Tanners

Château Sénéjac Cru Bourgeois 2015, Haut-Médoc, France

A textbook oak-matured Cabernet Sauvignon-led Bordeaux blend that shows the ripeness and richness of the vintage. Cedary spice and cigar-box notes infusing mulberry and blackcurrant fruit with velvety depth. 13.5%.

£15 until 3 January (down from £17), selected Co-op (582 stores)

Finest Angelica Sur Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina

Stylish Malbec made for Tesco by the sure-footed Bodegas Catena. Deep, rich, fresh plum and cassis fruit with notes of liquorice and spice underpinned by fine tannins and peppery length. 13.5%.

£18, Tesco (465 stores and online)

Adnams Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015, New Zealand

Pinot Noir is a shoe-in for turkey and the trimmings (among many other things) and this is a winner. With just a little more age than many New Zealand Pinot Noirs on the market, it's gained some Earl Grey tea, dried herb and orange peel complexity but lost none of its racy strawberry, cherry and plum fruit. Serve cool. 13.5%.

£19.99, Adnams

2012 Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva Rioja 2012, Spain

Powerful, dark, succulent Rioja with ripe black fruit and savoury, gamey richness. You can drink it now or any time over the next six or seven years. 14%.

£22, The Wine Society; £45 a magnum, waitrosecellar.com; £22.50/£25, Majestic

Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012, France

Not the snappiest of names to roll off your tongue, but the wine slips down with consummate ease – all mellow red berry, dark chocolate and softly smoky oak flavours. 13%.

£23, Sainsbury's (350 stores)

Serraboella Cigliuti Barbera d'Alba 2015, Italy

Lovely, fleshy dark-berry and cherry fruit – sweet and ripe but with an appetising tang – then layers of tobaccoey spice, hints of coffee and soft, rounded tannins. 14.5%.

£23.50 (or £20.95 in any 12-bottle mix), Lea & Sandeman

Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2015, France

Glorious oak-matured Moulin-à-Vent. Sumptuous and approachable, but with serious structure and ageing potential. The spirit of Beaujolais and the stature of Burgundy. It will become more Burgundian if you cellar it. Very food friendly, including with the roast turkey fest, rib of beef, or venison or pigeon. 13.5%

£23.50, Berry Bros & Rudd

The Society's Barbaresco 2015, Italy

Oh, the fragrance of Nebbiolo... roses, spice, incense, autumn forest floor, a suggestion of truffle. Both silky and delicately chewy; perfect weight, beautiful balance and very long. 14.5%.

£28, The Wine Society

Poggio Landi Brunello di Montalcino, Italy

Deep, concentrated, brooding Sangiovese with damson, dark chocolate, clove and black tapenade flavours and smooth, dry tannins. It needs food – porcini, game, beef, a wedge of Parmesan – and you could cellar it for another 5 years. 14%.

£29.99, Waitrose

Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva 2015, Spain

Rioja at the other end of the style spectrum from the Muga (above). This was aged for six years in barrel, then six in bottle and is fabulously fragrant with cedar, tobacco and red fruit flavours, a silky texture and elegant intensity. Drink now or any time over the next ten and more years. 13%.

£32.50, Berry Bros & Rudd

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015, France

Top-notch Châteauneuf from low-yielding 80-year-old vines and made without oak – sweet, aromatic fruit, sun-warmed stones, Christmas spice. Generous and full-bodied but with beautiful purity and focus. Can be drunk this Christmas or kept, in good conditions, for 15 or more years. 14.5%.

Yapp Bros, £39

Domaine Thierry Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Vigne Belle 2011, France

Mature red Burgundy showing the benefits of cellaring. Sweet, mellow, briary fruit, softly nutty, spicy flavours and effortless silky texture and balance.

£45.75 (or £40.75 in any 12-bottle mix), Lea & Sandeman

Photography by Joanna Simon

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