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The Festive Red Wine Guide 2019

My round up of red wines to take you through all kinds of festivities - major, minor and in some cases festivities for years to come.

As always, wines are listed in ascending order of price, give or take differences in retailers’ prices and special offers (note that offers in stores and online are not always the same). If you're in the money, you'll know to scroll down and start at the end. One big retailer worth a mention is the Co-op: several wines I would like to have recommended were only in relatively few stores and you can't buy Co-op wines on line. If you live near a branch with a big selection, take a look – at the Bordeaux range, for example. 

Tesco Côtes du Rhône 2018, France

An astonishing price for a thoroughly convincing southern Rhône red with generous raspberry and cherry fruit and peppery spice. It’s a typical Grenache-based blend, but one with a good whack of Syrah (one third). An ex-supermarket buyer I discussed it with said she’d be jumping for joy if she’d secured this deal. 13.5%

£4.50, Tesco

Finca Carelio Tempranillo Barrica 2016, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain

Poor man’s Ribera del Duero – in fact it is largely Ribera del Duero, but includes some grapes from outside the DO Ribera borders and hence the Vino de la Tierra classification. Full bodied with ripe black fruit well matched to chocolaty oak and enough backbone to take on beef and meaty casseroles. 14%

£6.66 from 2-30 December, down from £7.99, Majestic

Sorso Nero D'Avola 2018, Sicily

Easy drinking, soft, baked cherry-pie and blackberry flavours with typically Italian juicy freshness. Morrisons uses the name Sorso for a line of Italian wines, so make sure you pick up the Nero D’Avola. 13%

£7.25, Morrisons

Sainsbury's Western Australia Shiraz 2018, Australia

My Wine of the Week on November 8 has gone up by 75p in the few weeks since, but it’s still very good value. Full tasting note and background details here. 14.5%  

£7.50, Sainsbury's

Morrisons The Best Douro Red 2016, Portugal

Portugal continues to be a country to mine for good value in both reds and whites: exhibit A, this smooth, dry red with savoury, dark fruit and graphite mineral character. 13.5%

£7.50, Morrisons

Famille Perrin Les Cardinaux 2017, Rhône, France

Even if 2017 doesn't have the lofty reputation of the 2016 vintage, this is still a bargain southern Rhône from a family famed for its Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Whether you think of it as a good Côtes du Rhône or a mini-mini Châteauneuf, it's suitable fuel for the festive table or a party. 13.5%

£7 from 11 December to 2 January (down from £10) Co-op

Les Nivières Saumur 2017, Loire Valley, France

Christmas isn’t only about big reds and big roasts. The fresh blackcurrant, currant leaf and graphite mineral flavours in this Loire Cabernet Franc make it a contender for Boxing Day cold collations, a salmon or tuna centrepiece, goat’s cheese salad or a veg fest.  13%

£9.49, Waitrose 

Finca Constancia Entre Lunas Organic Tempranillo Moon Wine 2017, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain

Another Tempranillo from Castilla (see Finca Carelio above), but from a single, organic vineyard and vines cultivated biodynamically in line with the phases of the moon. Sweet, briary, cassis fruit tempered by dusty, spicy earthiness and soft vanilla-oak. 14%

£10, Sainsbury’s

Château Argadens Bordeaux Supérieur 2015, France

I recommended this in last year’s Festive Red Wine Guide (here), but I’ve tasted it again recently and it’s such a model claret at a great price that it would be criminal not to drawn attention to it. 13.5%

£10.95, The Wine Society; £11.90, Tanners 

Durigutti Cara Sucia Cereza 2018, Mendoza, Argentina

Deliciously and dangerously drinkable, light-bodied, glistening pale-ruby coloured red, with tangy, sweet red-cherry and rosehip fruit streaked with white pepper and tobacco. Cereza is the grape variety and Cara Sucia, if you don’t know, means dirty face. Search me. Eminently drinkable on its own, but also a good bet with charcuterie, carpaccio or cold meat. 13.5%

£12, The Daily Drinker and The Whisky Exchange

d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2017, McLaren Vale, Australia

No question this is a big wine, but there’s a tailored elegance to it, with green herb, pepper and raspberry giving a lifted freshness to the rich smooth blackcurrant and chocolate flavours. 14.5%

£12, Tesco

Colomé Malbec 2017 and Colomé Altitude Malbec Blend 2017, Salta, Argentina

Vineyards reaching 2,600 metres in the Upper Calchaqui Valley take Malbec’s characteristic dark, glossy fruit to new levels (excuse the pun) of intensity and clarity. Both wines were matured in French oak, a little longer for the slightly richer, more concentrated straight Malbec, while the Altitude Blend has a touch of Tannat and Cabernet Franc adding an extra pinch of peppery spice. The Altitude, which has a red label, is new in the Co-op, but only in 112 stores. The straight Malbec (which has a white label) is on a great offer at Waitrose until early in the new year. Both are very good Christmas wines, whether you're having turkey, beef of even goose.14.5%

£10 (down from £17.49 until 2 January) for the Malbec, Waitrose stores ; £13 for the Altitude Blend, selected Co-op 

Newton Johnson Full Stop Rock Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre, South Africa

The Johnsons in Upper Hemel and Aarde, a few kilometres from the Atlantic, are renowned for their Pinot Noirs, but they have some granitic soils that are perfect for Mediterranean varieties. Witness the polish and purity of this Syrah-based red with its fresh herb, cherry, raspberry and pepper flavours. 13.5%

£13.95, The Wine Society

Domaine Uby Byo No. 27, Vin de France

This rather opaquely named organic wine is a Cabernet Franc from the Gers in southwest France and it’s not only textbook Cab Franc it’s a complete delight – all violets, blackcurrants, leafy, peppery freshness and tender tannins. Serve it on the cool side. 12.5%

£14, The Daily Drinker

Château Beauchêne Premier Terroir Côtes du Rhône 2016, France

Powerful, concentrated, aromatic and richly savoury with herb, roast meat, dark plum, black olive and dark chocolate flavours.  Close your eyes and you could imagine you were drinking a robust, young Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Not surprising when you know that the vines – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre – are 30–100 years old and growing in the same ‘galets’ (large pebble) soils as Châteauneuf. 14%

£14.50, Private Cellar 

ArmAs Karmrahyut 2014, Armenia

If you're looking for something different, this unoaked Armenian red made from the indigenous Karmrahyut grape variety is just the ticket – a delicious oak-free zone of spicy black-cherry fruit and soft, earthy, mineral freshness. Try it with lamb, casseroles, moussaka, cheese, or vegetarian mushroom dishes. 13% 

£14.69, Fintry Wines; £82.98 for 6, Corking Wines; £86.33 for 6, Great Wines Direct

Zeni Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore Marogne 2017, Italy

Rounded but structured with cherryish fruit and smooth, nutty concentration. An appealing, Christmassy bottle, but that doesn’t mean you need to drink it this Christmas. You could easily keep it two or three years. 14%

£16.80, Tanners Wines

Muga Rioja Reserva 2015, Spain

A rich, fleshy Rioja with nutty, spicy oak and smooth tannins woven seamlessly through the ripe black fruit. Lovely now, but it’s got another 10 years in it. Ideal for the Christmas table. 14%

£16.99, Majestic

Nanny Goat Pinot Noir 2017, Central Otago, New Zealand

Elegant but fleshy with sweet, dark-cherry fruit, a touch of smoky mocha and gentle, supple tannins. A good wine for the turkey feast. 14%. If you like a slightly firmer, oakier style of New Zealand Pinot, Mt Difficulty Bannockburn 2016, is on offer at £20.99 (£5 off) until 2 January. 14%

£19.99, Waitrose  

Domaine Muré Côte de Rouffach Pinot Noir 2017, Alsace, France

The quality of Alsace’s Pinot Noir wines has leapt forward in the last few years, thanks in part to climate change, but the Muré family has been making persuasive Pinots for years. This has an arrestingly pretty, fresh nose, red berry and wild rose fruit, a touch of sweet spice and super-fine tannins. 13.5%

£22, The Wine Society

Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2017, France

Not the grandest of Burgundy appellations, but winemaker Thomas Bouley is from Volnay and the vines for this expressive, aromatic Pinot lie above the village of Volnay. It has lovely raspberry and cherry purity, nutty, savoury depth and silky texture. 12.5%

£24.75, Haynes Hanson & Clark

Azienda Agricola Nervi Gattinara 2015, Piedmont, Italy

An intricate mosaic of autumnal forest and sweet dried-cherry flavours, lacy tannins and understated intensity. This glorious Nebbiolo (locally as Spanna) from Gattinara in Alto Piemonte – north Piedmont – is the first vintage under the ownership of Roberto Conterno of Barolo fame. 13.5%

£52.25, Corney & Barrow

Alberelli di Giodo Etna Rosso 2016, Sicily

The first vintage from famous wine consultant Carlo Ferrini’s one hectare of very old Nerello Mascalese vines sitting nearly 3000m up on the slopes of Etna. Like his Brunello di Montalcino (read more here), it’s supremely elegant, long and complex, fragrant and floral, savoury and salty, firm yet supple, infused with red berries. 14%

£56.95, or £50.95 in any mix of 12 bottles, Lea & Sandeman

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2016, Maremma, Italy

A spellbinding Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot (60:30:10) from a great, but still very young vintage. Sweetly floral, patisserie aromas, and a palate that is insistent yet elegant, and structured with super-fine, flowing tannins, dark fruit, fresh bay and spicy sandalwood notes. A great wine. 14.5% 

£70.48, Lay & Wheeler; £92.80, Hedonism Wines

Chateau Rocheyron Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015, France

This has such fine, silky tannins, such pure, perfumed fruit, spicy, cedary freshness, fine-boned structure and elegant understated oak that you could drink it now. I wouldn’t blame you, but I’m honour-bound to say that you really shouldn't. Leave it and it will evolve gracefully over many years, becoming more and more layered and complex. 13.5%

£82.50, Corney & Barrow

Photographs by Joanna Simon


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