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The Festive White and Rosé Wine Guide 2023

Welcome to my roundup of 21 white and rosé wines for the festive season. Ranging freely through styles, regions, grape varieties and prices, it's designed to cover all occasions and eventualities from now until Christmas and well into the new year.

There are wines for the towering occasions, lots of inspiration for gifts and, no less important, wines for the times when absolutely nothing is happening. All are ready for drinking, but some will also continue to develop.

Whites come first, then rosés, and the wines are listed in ascending order of price within those two groups, give or take the occasional vagaries of special offers.

Whites and rosés should be chilled, of course, but you can overdo it and numb wine into oblivion. As a very rough guide, finer and fuller bodied wines need less chilling than light, crisp, cheaper or higher acid wines.

You'll find some bottle weights along the way, but some wines were tasted at events and sometimes, at home, I simply forgot to weigh them. Finally, to all producers and retailers of own labels, I beg you to reduce the weight of your bottles if you haven't already done so.

Finca Navahermosa Sol Verdejo 2022, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain

Light and sprightly – a useful party, apéro and crunchy winter salad wine made from Spain’s Verdejo grape and from certified organic vineyards. Crisp, grassy herb and preserved-lemon flavours fleshed out with some riper tropical fruit. 12%. Empty bottle weight: 410g.

£9.50 –£10, Aitken Wines, Hay Wines, Harris & Co, St Andrews Wine Co, Fountain Hall Wines, Noble Grape, Chilled & Tannin

Morandé Terrarum Patrimonial Semillon 2022, Maule Valley, Chile

This old-vine Semillon was a Wine of the Week in May but it’s such great value and such a good fit for Christmas – I’m thinking Christmas Eve shellfish, Boxing Day leftovers, presents – that I’m featuring it here. And it’s still at the original price, despite the swingeing duty increase in August. 12.5%. Empty bottle weight: 409g.

£9.99, Waitrose

Nero Oro Grillo Appassimento 2022, Sicily, Italy

Vibrant, intensely fruity with crystallised lemon and orange flavours, dried apricot, hints of honey and pear, and soft texture yet mouthwatering acidity – acidity which hides the fact that it isn’t completely dry. It’s unusual in being made from Sicily’s high-quality white Grillo grape but using a technique called appassimento that’s usually reserved for red wines, especially Valpolicella. The grapes are partially dried, which concentrates their flavours and makes the wine seem rounder. Works well with tagines, other savoury dishes with fruit, mild curries, the sweet intensity of cooked red peppers, and firm and semi firm cheeses. 13.5%. Empty bottle weight: 536g.

£9.99 (in any 6 bottles), Majestic

La Combe Saint-Paul Rolle 2022, Pays d’Oc, France

A relaxed, fresh-faced, floral and fruity white made from what is better known as Vermentino, but which the Italians have now commandeered for their wines alone. Whatever it’s called, this one sells well to Michelin-starred restaurants apparently. I can see why: aromas of jasmine, pear, peach drifting across a rounded, marzipan-inflected palate with a lick of grapefruit peel. 13%. Empty bottle weight: 419g.

£10.75, Stone, Vine & Sun

Vergelegen Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc 2023, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Brisk, bright, aromatic Sauvignon that the Sauvignon-averse won’t find too dry or spikily sharp. Bursting with gooseberry, passion fruit and lime flavours set-off by a hint of smokiness, it makes a reviving apero. Or bring it on for a Thai green curry, punchy salads and slaws, including with feta, tomatoes and green olives, or offer it with the Boxing Day leftovers or gammo, if they’re not going to be slathered with cranberry or Cumberland sauce. 13.5%

£11, Tesco

Mainente Vigna Cengelle Soave 2022, Italy

A proper, estate-grown Soave is always worth having to hand, not just at Christmas but all year. Davide Mainente’s single-vineyard Cengelle balances lemony, leafy vitality and bounce with subtle almond nuttiness and supple, creamy texture. Ideal for impromptu drinks and light fish, chicken and pasta dishes. 12.5%. Empty bottle weight: 433g.

£12.50, Stone, Vine and Sun

Vignerons Ardéchois Grand Aven 2022, Côtes du Vivarais, France

In this rare white Côtes de Vivarais (over 90% of the appellation’s wine is red), Grenache Blanc and Marsanne deliver a full-bodied, characterful dry white with floral and tropical fruit aromas, sweet earthy spices, white pepper and herbs. Think of it as an alternative to white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and consider if for the turkey, if you’re prepared to ease off on the cranberry sauce, or gammon if you rein in the Cumberland sauce. 14%

£14.25, Yapp Brothers

Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2020, Ardèche, France

This is the stylish, sunny, unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy producer Louis Latour’s outpost in the more Mediterranean climate of the Ardèche region further south. There’s a lovely oak-aged version too, called Grand Ardèche (very good value at £14.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic), but this relies on its stone-fruit ripeness and citrus freshness rather than on any oak. Doesn’t need food, but takes to a fish pie or macaroni cheese. 13%. Empty bottle weight: 620g.

£14.50, Ocado

Les Montys le Parc Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2021, France

A Muscadet of this quality, with its yeasty, nutty, saline depth, grapefruit subtleness and silky smooth texture makes a persuasive alternative to more expensive Chablis. It comes from a single 11-ha vineyard and one of Muscadet’s news stars, Jéremie Huchet. Oysters, mussels or spaghetti alle vongole, please. 12%

£15.25, Haynes, Hanson & Clark

Domaine Guerrin Mâcon-Vergisson Les Rochers 2022, France

From the Guerrin’s spectacular vineyards lying at 300m and enjoying distant views of the Alps, this shows what good value there is to be found in Burgundy to the south of the starry names and eye-watering prices of the Côte d’Or. With delicate nuttiness and minerality, racy freshness and understated richness, this is a delight for Christmas Eve fish and lightly creamy pasta dishes. 13.5%

£16.50, Tanners

Tiefenbrunner Merus Pinot Grigio 2022, Alto Adige, Italy

There’s so much humdrum Italian Pinot Grigio around, it’s easy to forget how good it can be in the right hands and the right place. This is a consummate example of effortless concentration and airy intensity, of sweet floral fruit and crystallised citrus, fine grip and lovely silkiness. It can be sipped on its own, or alongside cheese and onion tarts or fondue, among other things. 13.5%

£17.20, Tanners

Adnams Chardonnay 2018, Waitaki, New Zealand

The distinctive struck-match flinty accent and toasted wheat may not strike a chord with everyone, but I love the way these flavours are woven seamlessly through the elegant apple and lemon fruit and nuttiness of this South Island Chardonnay. It’s from New Zealand’s second smallest wine region, Waitaki, between the Southern Alps and the Otago coast. 13.5%

£19.99, Adnams

Château de Plaisance Anjou Blanc ’N’ 2021, France

Imagine walking amid hay bales in a quince orchard laden with ripe fruit – that’s what this organic and biodynamic Loire Chenin Blanc smells like. It has wonderful fruit purity, riveting acidity and fine-drawn texture. Try it with crab, scallops with pancetta or pea purée, prawns, vibrantly flavoured salads, stir-fried veg or vitello tonnato. 13%

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

Domaine Laurent Cognard Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts 2019, France

Herbal sweet intensity and concentration; lemony, nutty and silky textured. This is a gorgeous southern Burgundy from a 0.3ha plot of vines that are more than 50 years old. Fermented with its natural yeasts and aged in large, used French oak barrels, it’s immensely enjoyable now but has the wherewithal to develop for a few years. 13.5%

£27.85, Private Cellar

Sigalas Santorini Barrel Assyrtiko 2021, Greece

Although fermented and aged in French oak, the barrels are mostly second and third use, so this Santorini, made from Assyrtiko vines with an average age of 60 years, is far from being oaky. Instead, it’s rich, dry, layered and fresh with luminous citrus fruit, reverberating salinity and ripples of mango and peach, vanilla, cream and spicy honey. Good with rich cheese and vegetable tarts, oily and meaty textured fish and with almost anything (chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, vegetables) in avgolemono sauce. 14.5%. Empty bottle weight: 738g.

£35–£42.04, The Great Wine Co, London End Wines, Vinvm, Callmewine, Maltby & Greek, Epinoia

François Millet et Fils Bourgogne Aligoté Les Graviers 2020, France

Proof that in the right place and right hands Burgundy’s other white grape, Aligoté, can produce wine as beautiful and complex as Côte d'Or Chardonnay (in the wrong place, it gives charmlessly sharp, neutral wines). François Millet’s Les Graviers is chiselled, sustained and deeply textural (the latter thanks to 18 months on lees) with nutty, mineral and creamy flavours and fragrant quince-like fruit. Show it off with fish such as turbot, halibut or mirror carp, cooked fairly simply, or rose veal escalope. 13%

£40.25, Corney & Barrow

Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2019, Australia

If you want to splash out on a top Viognier, this is a beauty. If you want something easier on the pocket, try any Viognier made at Yalumba, where Louisa Rose reigns as Australia’s pioneer and master of Viognier. The top-of-the-range Virgilius is oak-fermented and wild-fermented to produce a wonderfully expressive wine with soaring aromas of honeysuckle, apricot, ginger and orange pomander, opulent texture with citrus zing and a light, nutty oak underlay. Cries out for luxury shellfish, push-the-boat-out fish pie, or chicken in a creamy saffron sauce. 13.5%

£40, Ocado, Shelved Wine


Château Paquette Côtes de Provence 2022, France

You can pay a lot more for Provence rosé of this quality, especially when it comes in a fancy bottle. This eschews an over-designed bottle in favour of the contents (and a lightweight bottle), and it’s all the better for that. Pale, but not too pale, it has an enticing, gently spicy, red-berry perfume which opens on to silky-textured strawberry, redcurrant and orange notes, sea-breeze freshness and minerality.  12.5%. Empty bottle weight: 431g

£16–£17.50, Shaftsbury Wines, Connollys; St Andrews Wine Co, Talking Wines

Domaine de Mourchon Soubois 2022, Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret, France

A seriously good, textural, copper-pink rosé that has been created to go with food – which it does. It’s Syrah-based with 25% Grenache, fermented and aged on lees in large oak barrels for 6 months, and it resonates with red berries dusted with spice, citrus zest and a touch of bitter herb. It goes well with substantial herbed and spiced fish dishes and with whole white Spanish anchovies in olive oil. It could be your turkey, salmon or Boxing Day wine. 13%. Empty bottle weight: 519g.

There’s a very good oaked Soubois white, too, made from 80% Viognier and 20% Roussanne, but I haven’t yet found a stockist of the 2022. And Mourchon’s unoaked Loubié rosé is a perennial favourite that has been my Wine of the Week more than once (the 2022 is £13.99 in a 12-bottle mix, Laithwaites, Avery’s).

£17, The Wine Society

Lyme Bay Pinot Noir Rosé Reserve 2022, England

Another food-friendly oaked rosé, this one made from Pinot Noir from the sun-trap vineyards of Crouch Valley, Essex, partly fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Copper coloured, it has polished, toasty oak offset by spiced strawberry and apricot fruit, freshening orange zest and a generous texture. 13%. Empty bottle weight: 417g. If you don’t want oak, there’s also a juicy, sappy, strawberryish, off-dry, unoaked, version, which you could pair with lightly spicy dishes (£19.99).

£23.99, Lyme Bay Winery

Château Galoupet Côtes de Provence Cru Classé 2021

Full-bodied, partly oak-fermented, organic rosé from a large, sustainable, biodiverse estate within spitting distance of the Mediterranean (I wrote more about it here). It's a rosé aimed at the table and one that can be drunk now or cellared. Opulent in texture, structured and layered with fragrant red fruit, apricot, orange, nuts, briny oyster-shell and mineral freshness. It can be paired with chicken in a creamy, garlicky sauce, creamy shellfish dishes, herby roast lamb, and aubergine dishes. And it could partner roast turkey, as long as you ease off on the sweet, tart cranberry sauce, which would do it no favours. 14%. Empty bottle weight: 499g and 70% recycled glass.

£36.50–£50.70, Berry Bros & Rudd, Majestic, Brunswick Fine Wines, The Champagne Company, Clos19, The Finest Bubble, Jeroboams, Hedonism

Photographs by Joanna Simon

Glassware: Josephinen for La Combe Saint-Paul Rolle and Mainente Vigna Cengelle Soave; Schott Zweisel for Sigalas Santorini Assyrtico.


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