The Festive Red Wine Guide 2020


However different this Christmas turns out to be, wine is going to be at least as vital as usual. Here then is my round-up of red wines to cater for all kinds of occasion during the festive season, or no occasion at all.


As always, wines are in 75cl bottles unless stated and are listed in ascending order of price, give or take differences in retailers’ prices and special offers. If you're in the money, you'll know to scroll down and start at the end. A couple of other things to note: stores' terra firma and online offers are not always the same; and this year it's almost impossible to keep track of what's in and out of stock online. It can change more than once during the day and something showing as out of stock may be in good distribution in stores.


UNDER £12

The Copper Crew Merlot 2018, South Africa

If you have yet to be persuaded that canned wine can be a good thing, this Western Cape red in a 250ml can should convert you. A blend of Merlot with 9% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot aged in seasoned French oak barrels, it has smoky, dark blackcurrant fruit, herbal freshness and supple tannins. Worthy of anyone's Christmas stocking. 13.5%

250ml can: £24.99 + £4.80 delivery for 6, £49.99 for 12 (free delivery), coppercrew.co.uk; also available from independents in and around Cambridge


Cap Royal Bordeaux Supérieur 2018, France

With its fruit-forward mulberry and cassis flavour and framework of sandalwood, cedar and duvet-soft tannins, this is even better than the 2016 that was one of my wines of the week last December.

£9 on offer for delivery by 2/1/21, Tesco (down from £10)


Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Saint-Chinian Syrah Grenache 2017, France

Always one of Sainsbury's best value red wines, this brings together summer berry fruit, rosemary, thyme and peppery spice in a comforting, warm hug. 14.5%

£9, Sainsbury's (and there's a 25% off 6 offer until 13/12/20)


Domaine du Cros 'Lo Sang del Pais' Marcillac 2018, France

One of south-west France's many jewels, Marcillac is made from the local Fer Servadou grape – here called Mansois – grown in iron-rich soils. The wine is medium bodied with juicy, tangy, raspberry-ish fruit and a distinctive and delicious ferrous note. The tang makes it a good wine for cutting through fatty food and for matching acidity. 13%

£9.50, The Wine Society


The Society's Blaufränkisch 2018, Austria

Exuberant blueberry and red fruit and savoury, stony, black pepper brought together with clarity, gentle tannic grip and fresh acidity. Very good with pork and it could also handle the multifarious stuffings, sauces and side dishes that trail the turkey. 13%

£9.95, The Wine Society


Grant Burge League of Three Shiraz 2019, Australia

Bright, floral (violet), briary, black cherry, plum and black pepper flavours brought together in an accessible but not simplistic style. The crunchier fruit comes from the cooler Limestone Coast (including Coonawarra), the riper, warmer flavours from the Barossa Valley. Neat. 14%

£10, Tesco


Vachnadziani Saperavi, Georgia

This was a wine of the week in January, but the wine The Daily Drinker has seems to be a different batch or shipment. As it doesn't state a vintage, it's hard to be sure, but it tastes a bit wilder, spicier and more intense, with vivid, briary, berry flavours, a streak of woodsmoke and tannin and acidity playing nicely against each other – in a way, more classically Saperavi. 12.5%

£10.50, The Daily Drinker


Tanners Rhône Valley Red 2018, France

A good Côtes du Rhône always comes in handy over the festive period. This one, from the Gonnet family of Domaine de Font Michelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape, includes Cinsault and Mourvèdre with the usual Grenache and Syrah and is bright and warming with succulent black cherry and bramble jelly fruit generously spiced with black pepper. 14.5%

£10.95, Tanners


Domaine Laougué Madiran 2018, France

All the character of Madiran without the tannic pain that traditionally came with Tannat from this part of south-west France. Full-bodied with smooth tannins, ferrous freshness and aromas and flavours of violet, plum, spice, vanilla, smoke and liquorice. Good with beef, game or lamb shanks. An eye-catching label too. 14%

£10.95–£13.99, Cheers Wine Merchants, The Stroud Wine Company, Harris & Co Wine, Shaftsbury Wines, Martinez Wines


Bodega Pascual Larrieta Rioja Alavesa Crianza 2017, Spain

For those for whom Christmas isn't Christmas without Rioja, this single-vineyard Crianza from a family-run property is spot on. It's dark in colour with ripe, smoky black fruit, a silk-smooth palate, creamy vanilla and chocolaty oak, a whisper of roast game and liquorice and a clean, lightly cedar-spice finish. 14.5%

£11.69–£15.95, Tivoli Wines, Eynsham Cellars, Stroud Wine, Fountain Hall Wines, Hay Wines, Whitmore & White


Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2017, France

A Pinot Noir made in the image of red Burgundy by one of Burgundy's big names, but further south in the vineyards of the Var. Rounded and delicately fresh with enticing raspberry, red cherry and pomegranate fruitiness and a bit of cranberry bite. 13.5%

£11.99, Majestic


Tesco Finest Ebeia Ribera del Duero 2018, Spain

Supple, spicy oak and fine tannins framing Ribera's high-altitude freshness, minerality and dark-fruited intensity (blackberry, blueberry and damson). A new wine to Tesco's range made by Bodegas Portia. 14.5%

£12, Tesco


OVER £12

The Society's Exhibition Chianti Classico 2018, Italy

Medium-full, nicely ripe, rounded Chianti with fragrant cherry, almond, cedar and tobacco aromas and the combination of velvety tannins with a gentle cherry rasp on a dry finish that makes Chianti so appetisingly food-friendly. Made for the Society by the Bartoli family on their Poggiopiano estate. 14%

£12.95, The Wine Society


Angeline Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018, California

Succulence and precision combined in cherry, plum and cranberry fruit, saline freshness and delicate, rounded, coffee-ish oak. A good Pinot Noir candidate for turkey or a whole salmon. 13.7%

£14.75–£19.99, St Andrews Wine Company, Aitken Wines, Cheers Wine Merchants, Flagship Wines, Shaftsbury Wines, Starmore Boss, Tivoli Wines, The Wine Twit


Quinta da Pedro Alta Pedra a Pedra Douro Tinto 2017, Portugal

From the terraced vineyards of an old but recently revitalised estate high up in port-producing countryside, this is enjoyable now but would repay cellaring. Made from indigenous grape varieties, partially foot trodden, fermented with wild yeasts and aged on lees in stainless steel and old oak to emphasise fruit expression and authenticity. Floral notes, damsons and fresh, sweet blackberries overlay sun-baked rocks, creamy cocoa and a sinewy structure. 13.5%

£14.95–£17.90, Trelawney Wines, The Sampler


Cave de Saint-Desirat Saint-Joseph 2018, France

Ripe yet fresh black cherry and raspberry fruit and nutty, spicy, tapenade flavours. Combining power with elegance and a silky mid-palate, this is quintessential northern Rhône Syrah and very good value for the quality. 14%

£15.99, Waitrose


Château Grand Village Bordeaux Supérieur 2016, France

Only straight Bordeaux comes lower in the hierarchy than Bordeaux Supérieur, but this wine is very far from lowly. It comes from the Guinaudeau family whose other day job is owning and running the revered Château Lafleur in Pomerol. The same team is at work here, producing the high-definition intensity, agile acidity and lithe tannins that follow a peal of black fruit and cherries, subtle vanilla and graphite and verdant freshness. 14%

£15.95–£19.95, Hic!, Gourmet Hunters, E W Wines, Justerini & Brooks, Jeroboams; £99.96 for 6, North & South Wines


Tanners Red Burgundy 2018, Italy

Seamless purity and energy in this Bourgogne Pinot Noir made for Tanners by Nicolas Potel, who has the winemaking flair and necessary connections in Burgundy to source good quality wines and grapes. Crunchy, sweet red cherries, spice and autumnal woodland, a delicately rounded texture and the lightest touch of tannin.

12.5%

£16.60, Tanners


Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2018

A baby Brunello that seems to have emerged unscathed from a difficult growing season in Montalcino. Lifted red cherry and plum fruit edged with creamy mocha, peppery balsamic notes and light tannic grip and acidity. (Read my blogpost on the Castello Banfi story and empire here.) 14%

£16.99, Majestic


Samuel's Collection Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2018, Australia

Old vine Grenache from the Barossa is a great style if you want Australian ripeness but a lighter style than Shiraz. This would be a good red to choose for the Christmas feast if you're catering for white as well as red wine drinkers. It's juicy and smooth, fresh and savoury, with raspberry and red cherry fruit and black pepper spiciness. Best served cool. Yalumba also produces, although not every year, a Grenache from just 820 bush vines planted 130 years ago. Called The Tri-Centenary it's worth looking out for. I've tasted the fabulous 2017 but haven't been able to find a stockist. 14.5%

£17.49, Fraziers Wine; £78 for 6, winedirect.co.uk


Cortese Sabuci Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Italy

Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily's only DOCG, is a blend of Nero d'Avola (at least half) and Frappato. This one from the organic Cortese estate (nothing to do with the Cortese grape) is a wonderfully expansive wine – at the same time chewy, smooth, savoury and spicy, with sweet berry and bitter cherry fruit, leather and chocolate notes. Inspired by ancient Greek culture, the Nero d'Avola was fermented in open-top barriques and the Frappato in 7hl terracotta amphorae. 14%

£18.50-£19.95, Aitken Wines, Slurp


The Chocolate Block 2018, South Africa

This is something of a cult wine, so it doesn’t need any help from me, but I haven’t recommended it on my website before – and it sings Christmas. It’s a dark, full and generous Syrah-based red from Swartland with floral, spice, raspberry, sun-baked earth and dark chocolate flavours and a fresh, wet-rocks and cherry-twist finish. The man behind it is Marc Kent of Boekenshoutkloof, producer of the reliable, widely available Porcupine Ridge wines (red, white and rosé), which retail around £6–£8.50, depending on (frequent) special offers 14.5%

£18.73–£23.50, Majestic, Waitrose, Hennings Wine ; £120 for 6, The Whalley Wine Shop


£20 AND BEYOND

Paradise Rescued Block Two Merlot Cabernet Franc Bordeaux Supérieur 2016, France

Merlot from a 0.35ha block planted in 1957 then abandoned before being ‘rescued’ in 2011 by David Stannard (a Melbourne-based Briton) and revitalised by a French mother and daughter viti and vini team. A harmony of violet, black fruit, green pepper and cedar aromas softly edged with dark chocolate and graphite, fine tannins and acidity. Confident, satisfying wine. 13.5%.

£21, or £48 for 3, Winebuyers


Torres Salmos Priorat 2016, Spain

This has all the expression, authenticity and power of Cariñena and Garnacha grown in Priorat's distinctive, black slate licorella soils – the telltale dark fruit and graphite mineral freshness – but ageing in French oak has brought finesse with subtle cedar, mocha and vanilla notes. 15%

£21.50–£21.99, Fareham Wine Cellar, Waitrose


Château du Moulin-à-Vent Moulin-à-Vent 2016 and 2017, France

I’ve just tasted both these vintages (and the yet to be released 2018) from this stellar Moulin-à-Vent estate and they’re both lovely but quite different. The 2016 is a classic – red and black cherries, rose and peony, orange zest, spice, fine-grained tannin and the mineral freshness of granitic soils. It has the concentration keep up to 15 years. The 2017 from a small, hail-reduced, earlier harvest is lighter but very pretty, silky and nimble with fragrant fraise des bois fruit, spice, orange and saline freshness. Drink it before it’s tenth birthday. 13%

2016: £22.30–£33, Q Wines, Selfridges, Phoenix Wines, Hedonism

2017: £24.99–£26, The Wine Reserve, Lockett Bros


Petit Cantenac Grand Cru Saint-Emilion 2016, France

Deep, youthful purple, intense black fruit and violet fragrance and a palate driven by glossy blackcurrant and dark plum fruit, cedary oak, touches of nutmeg and chocolate, fine tannins and reassuring tension. Drink it any time over the next 12 years, or beyond that from a magnum. Talking of which, a magnum would make a great present, as would the very fine 2016 Grand Vin (£37.5, Private Cellar). 14%

£51 (150cl), Private Cellar; £33 (75cl), Hedonism


Agostini Pieri Brunello di Montalcino 2015, Italy

An intense, concentrated, rich but mineral-fresh Brunello from the warmest part of Montalcino in a warm year. Iris and violets, ripe blackcurrants and blueberries, cedar-sweet spice and a hint of cocoa. Perfect for drinking now (goose, venison, beef, wild mushrooms) or keeping for another 6 years. 15.5%

£26.25 (down from £36.95, until Christmas), Jeroboams; £32.99, or £24.73 mix six price, Majestic


Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2018, New Zealand

Pinot Noir at its purest and most ethereal – aromas of red cherry, raspberry and rose, an arresting saline flavour, fine-boned structure and gossamer silkiness. Glorious new wine from the new owners of Pyramid Valley. Expect to see and hear more about Pyramid Valley in the coming years. 13%

£30.95–£34, winedirect.co.uk, La Zouch


Grant Burge Meshach Barossa Shiraz 2012, Australia

Sweet but fresh fruit – spiced raspberry and black cherry with a floral lift; nutmeg, sweet earth, savoury maturity and polished oak. Succulent, concentrated, complex, powerful but contained. Exceptional, and with years to go. It's a museum release of Grant Burge's top Shiraz, which the Vinorium has at an inexplicably low price. The current release, 2016 (£65.99, Majestic, mix six price), is also superb, although with individual flavours and components as yet less entwined. If you want something more accessibly priced, the Filsell Old Vine Shiraz 2018 is a step towards Meshach (£21.99, Majestic, mix six). 14.5%

£41.95 The Vinorium; £99, Harvey Nichols


Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2013, Chile

There's a lovely floral fragrance and spicy bay-leaf freshness and energy to Errazuriz's flagship Bordeaux blend from what was a cool vintage in the Aconcagua Valley. The fruit is more Victoria plum than blackcurrant and the tannins and oak are seamlessly assimilated, giving a layered and complete wine that can be drunk now or kept. The blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec with 11% Carmenere and Petit Verdot was aged in French oak barrels, two thirds new, for 22 months. 14%

£54.50–£.55.95, waitrosecellar, TheDrinkShop, winedirect.co.uk; £69.99, Selfridges


Photographs by Joanna Simon


#wine #red #Christmas2020 #festive #Bordeaux #Rioja #PinotNoir #Brunello #Syrah #supermarket #winepairing #wineandfood

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