White wines under £10
De Bortoli DB Family Reserve Botrytis Semillon, New South Wales, Australia 2013 (£6.98, 37.5cl, Asda)
Making use of all this firm’s expertise with “nobly rotten” late-harvested grapes (De Bortoli makes one of Australia’s finest sweet wines, Noble One) this golden, sticky, tangy elixir works like an antipodean sauternes for pairing with puddings or stilton.
Sassi del Mare Falanghina Beneventano, Campania, Italy 2016 (£6.99, Lidl)
Great value for a dry white that displays all the charm of the great southern Italian grape variety falanghina. It has the unoaked juicy succulence of ripe stone fruit, orange citrus and crisp freshness and makes a perfect “buy-a-case”, fridge-door standby.
Castillore Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy 2016 (£6.99, Aldi)
With its generous squeeze of lime and lemon, blossomy aromas, and subtle almond-nuttiness, this breezy Italian was made for matching with Christmas fish courses based on crab, prawns, or smoked salmon.
Tesco Finest Gaillac Perlé, France 2016 (£6.99, Tesco)
With the merest prickle of bubbles, and flavours of crisp fresh apple and lemon, the perlé style of dry white from the Gaillac appellation in the Tarn region of south-west France doubles up nicely as racy apertif or match for a fish course.
Matetic Corralillo San Antonio Sauvignon Blanc, Chile 2016 (£8.25, thewinesociety.com)
The San Antonio region right on Chile’s Pacific coast is now established as one of the world’s best sites for racy, aromatic whites, and this sauvignon scoes a direct mouthwatering hit with its vivid herbal-meets-citrus, seafood-friendly crispness.
Stellenrust Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2017 (£8, Sainsbury’s)
Full of new-vintage charm, this chenin blanc from one of the Cape’s best exponents of the variety has the tingle and tang of green apple and a mouthfilling tropical fruit juiciness. A great, food-matching all-rounder.
Castillo de Monterey Godello, Monterrei, Spain 2016 (£9.50, Marks & Spencer)
Rías Baixas and albariño is the grape-region combo that has put Galician wine on the map in the UK, but godello in Monterrei can be every bit as inviting. This is very nicely done: all tangy lemon building to ripples of juicy ripe white peach.
Cave de Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, Alsace, France 2016 (£9.99, Waitrose)
The richness of quince and pear in this spicy but fluent off-dry Alsace white would fare equally well with the mish-mash of sweet and savoury flavours in a turkey dinner, and the stir-fried or curried leftovers.
White wines £10 -£20
Alphabetical White Vin Ordinaire, Western Cape, South Africa 2016 (from £12.50, swig.co.uk; Robersonwine.com; hangingditch.com; thegoodwineshop.co.uk)
Blending the Rhône valley’s roussanne with a little chardonnay this funky, great-value new-wave South African balances ripe and juicy stone-fruit richness with a herb-inflected raciness. A versatile dry white for fish, white meat or solo-sipping.
Peter Jacob Kühn Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany 2016 (£13.95, Tanners)
Any lingering, Blue Nun-inspired doubts you may have about German wine will surely be dispelled by this utterly charming dry riesling from a master exponent of the grape, where the thrilling acidity cuts through succulent stone fruit.
Pillitteri Vidal Canadian Ice Wine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada 2016 (£14.99, 37.5cl, Lidl)
Pilliterri’s sweet ice wines are the highlight of Lidl’s Christmas offering. Made here from vidal grapes frozen on the vine to concentrate the sugars and flavours, the result balances crystallised tropical fruit with electric acidity.
Château d’Aqueria Lirac Blanc, Rhône, France 2015 (from £16, Booths; Berry Bros & Rudd)
The white wines of the Rhône may be overshadowed by their red counterparts, but they can be every bit as compelling. Here five varieties come together for a wine that mixes floral, peachy and pastry aspects with cool, spicy freshness.
Kardos Supreme Tokaji Dry, Tokaj, Hungary 2013 (£16.95, Novel Wines)
A superbly rich, mouth-filling dry white made from the furmint and hárslevelű grape varieties in the great sweet wine region of Tokaj. The livewire acidity cuts through both the tangy ripe tropical fruit and any Christmas roast fattiness.
Walter Massa Timorasso Derthona, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy 2015 (from £17.99, Cadman; Uncorked)
In the home of Gavi in Piedmont, Walter Massa single-handedly revived the timorasso grape, from which he makes this scintillating, long-lived dry white wine with its gorgeous floral-tinged stone-fruit flesh and fine, chiselled acidity.
Tupari Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2015 (£18.50, Oddbins)
Effortlessly combining pure passion fruit and elderflower with oh-so-racy acidity and sparks of flint, this superbly energetic, refreshing sauvignon blanc is a vivid reminder of why this now-ubiquitous style became so popular.
Boschendal Elgin Chardonnay, South Africa 2015 (£19.99, Waitrose)
For lovers of the much-imitated, Burgundy-patented, barrel-fermented style of chardonnay this classy cool-climate South African is superb value, with the creamy richness, oatmeal and nuts joined by lively citrus and green apple.
White wines £20 and over
Montonale Orestilla Lugana, Lombardy, Italy 2015 (£21.75, Berry Bros & Rudd)
From a single vineyard near Lake Garda, and made from the local turbiana grape, this silk pillow-textured white has a wonderful glossy feel, its exotic fruit flavours seasoned with dill-like herbs and racy, mountain-stream freshness.
Robert Denogent Mâcon-Villages ‘Les Sardines’, Burgundy, France 2015 (from £24.95, Vincognito; Clos & Cru; Twenty One Wines)
A considerable cut-above the Mâcon-Villages average, this luminous Burgundian chardonnay positively sings with pure lemon and white flowers, nuts and cream, flowing beautifully while matching smoked salmon and/or the main meal.
Riesling Albert Boxler, Alsace, France 2015 (£26, Lay & Wheeler)
An estate with roots in 17th-century Alsace makes dry whites of simply stunning purity under the stewardship of the latest generation, Jean Boxler, with this riesling a study in energetic, mineral, pristine quality that will be beautiful now or in a decade’s time.
Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Gold Capsule, Rheinhessen, Germany 2009 (£26.99, 37.5cl, Waitrose)
Low in alcohol, high in sugar and deep in flavour, this golden German sweet white is wine as precious nectar, the honeyed pineapple and mango shot through with a sparkling slash of steely, mouth-cleaning acidity.
Red wines under £10
Aldi Exquisite Argentinian Malbec, Mendoza, 2016 (£6.29, Aldi)
A textbook malbec that stands out from the crowd for price but also delivers the charm that has won this style so many fans in recent years, mixing pretty perfume with plums, black cherries and savoury succulence.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Claret, Bordeaux, France 2015 (£7, Sainsbury’s)
2015 was a great vintage in Bordeaux, with quality showing even in the region’s cheaper wines, among them Sainsbury’s merlot-led own-label blend which offers classic claret cassis and pencil lead, with extra plumpness for Boxing Day beef.
Morrisons The Best Western Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 (£7, Morrisons)
A delightfully fragrant bargain cabernet that will please fans of Bordeaux and Australia alike during festive roast dinners of all kinds with its blend of juicy blackcurrant, black cherry and subtle leafy freshness.
L’Arène des Anges, Costières de Nîmes, France 2016 (£7.99 (£5.99 until 28 Nov) Waitrose)
Stock up before Advent, while the offer price lasts. This lively, supple grenache-syrah blend from where the Rhône meets the Languedoc has a deliciously bright and aromatic spiced blackberry-raspberry juicy quality.
Incanta Pinot Noir, Romania 2016 (£7.99, or £6.49 in mixed case of six, Majestic)
Romanian winery Cramele Recas has become a byword for well-made, affordable pinot noir, and while this doesn’t offer the complexity of the grape’s Burgundy homeland, it does offer a vivacious, light-of-tannin, bright-of-berry turkey match.
Bodegas Jiménez-Landi Bajondillo, Mentrida, Spain 2016 (from £8.50, Wine Society; Fine and Rare)
Garnacha (aka grenache) can make big, bright, fruit bombs, but an increasing number of Spanish producers are using it to make something closer to pinot noir: pale, subtly earthy, and red-fruited, as in this silky, turkey-friendly stunner.
Tesco Finest Aglianico, Campania, Italy 2015 (£9, Tesco)
Aglianico is sometimes dubbed the “barolo of the south” for its combination of perfume and powerful texture, and here it brings a brooding mix of dark cherry and spice with grippy tannins for cutting through the fat of the Christmas bird.
Casa Vinicola Botter Carlo Rocca Pagliara Apassimento, Puglia, Italy 2015 (£10, Marks & Spencer)
The appassimento technique of making powerful reds from dried grapes is associated with the Veneto but is increasingly popular all over Italy, and was used to make this superbly figgy, pruney, dark chocolatey, hard cheese-friendly Puglian.
Red wines £10-£20
Château Milhau-Lacugue ‘Cuvée Magali’, St-Chinian, Languedoc, France 2013 (£11.25, Yapp)
With a waft of garrigue herb and liquorice and a shake of the pepper pot seasoning the bright brambly fruit, this three-way Mediterranean blend (syrah, grenache and cinsault) is a vivid, great-value alternative to big Rhône names.
Tesco Finest Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand 2016 (£12.50, Tesco)
Tesco showed three Kiwi pinot noirs at its recent press tasting, and this, made by reliable large firm Villa Maria, with its gliding, sleek-savoury style, was by far the best and certainly worth the near-£5 premium for a Christmas dinner treat.
Scotto Cellars Grace Bridge Pinot Noir, California, USA 2013 (£12.95, Stannary St )
It’s hard to find truly top-flight pinot noir anywhere and get much change from £20; in California it’s more or less impossible. No wonder this gorgeously fluent, pure raspberry and strawberry-scented example has proved such a critical hit.
M.O.B. Lote 3, Dão, Portugal 2014 (£14.95, Berry Bros & Rudd)
Three of the best winemakers in Portugal’s Duoro Valley have teamed up to make this delightful red blend in the neighbouring Dão region. Pale, perfumed, and pretty with red fruit, light alcohol, a lithe texture, and the freshest finish.
Màquina y Tabla Laderas de Leonila Mencía, Bierzo, Spain 2015 (£15.95, Lea & Sandeman)
From far north-western Spain in Bierzo up near Galicia, a joyous, vivid version of the local star red grape mencía that is concentrated and full of pure black cherries with a nip of plum-skin tang for pairing with red meat or dark game birds.
Iona One Man Band Red, Elgin, South Africa 2013 (£16, Marks & Spencer)
From one of South Africa’s best producers of elegant whites in cool-climate Elgin, a superbly rich, multi-layered red blend that is deep and dark with savoury meatiness, plump polished black fruit and a velvety tannic touch. Very classy.
Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja, Spain 2009 (£17.58, Cambridge Wine)
There’s a reason that mature rioja is such a festive favourite: the deeply savoury, leathery and vanilla flavours and soft, mellow texture on display here are as comfortable and cosy as a post-dinner snooze in a fireside armchair.
Majestic Parcel Series Claret, St-Emilion, Bordeaux, France 2010 (£19.99, or £15.99 in mixed case of six, Majestic)
From what may well be Bordeaux’s finest 21st-century vintage, this is a clever bit of buying (and marketing, with the teasing secrecy about the producer) from Majestic: showing a touch of cedary maturity, it’s luxuriously textured, long, yet fresh.
Red wines over £20
Sesti Rosso di Montalcino, Italy 2015 (from £22, Tanners; Uncorked; Handford)
Rosso is the more affordable style of sangiovese red from Brunello country around Montalcino in Tuscany, and Giuseppe Sesti is one of its best exponents, here mixing oregano, sour cherry and citrus in a wine of wonderfully tangy concentration.
Domaine Pierre Guillemot Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, France 2013 (£29, Roberson)
A Christmas dinner treat from a young producer operating here in one of Burgundy’s less starry appellations (hence the relatively, for this region, humane price), this is pinot noir at its most graceful and pure.
Lismore Estates Vineyard Syrah, South Coast, South Africa 2016 (£29, Oddbins)
Samantha O’Keefe makes some of South Africa’s most exciting wines from her lonely spot in a converted dairy farm in Greyton. This is the best of the beautiful bunch, a satin-textured, black-pepper-scented, raspberry-fruited pure syrah.
Timo Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia from £39, Vincognito; Swig; The Sampler2016 ()
Named for the tightly packed vines in a corner of German pinot noir master Timo Mayer’s Yarra Valley vineyard, this is a feather-textured red, with this grape variety’s classic mix of ethereal red fruit and forest floor savouriness.
Sparkling wines and champagne
Morrisons The Best Vintage Cava Brut 2014 (£7.50, Morrisons)
Eclipsed by prosecco as the affordable fizz of choice for many in the UK, cava is often a far more interesting and food-friendly proposition, in this case, with wild flowers and leafy herbs joining toasty rich apple and creamy mousse.
Corney & Barrow Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Méthode Traditionelle, Savoie, France NV (£12.75, Corney & Barrow)
The quality of French fizz from regions other than Champagne has improved massively in recent years, and here’s another great-value example. From alpine Savoie it’s just so cool, fresh and full of soft creaminess and green apple crunch.
Azienda Agricola La Battagliola Lambrusco Grasparossa ‘Dosage 15’, Emilia-Romagna, Italy NV (£15, Borough Wines)
When they’re as well made as this, it’s hard to think of a better, more versatile drink to have with tapas or antipasti than the sparkling reds of Lambrusco, with the tartness of cranberries and the joyous fruity exuberance of fresh black cherries.
The Co-op Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne, France 2008 (£25.99, The Co-op)
Much as I love Waitrose’s Special Réserve Vintage 2005 (£24.95), the standout supermarket champagne I’ve tasted this year is once again the Co-op’s evergreen Heidsieck-made vintage stunner: fabulously rich, toasty and balanced.
Hambledon Brut, Hampshire, England NV (£29, Marks & Spencer)
Now firmly established in the top handful of English fizz producers, Hambledon’s classic cuvee of the three champagne varieties is on top form at the moment: dazzling acidity dovetailing beautifully with the creamier, brioche-like yeasty flavours.
Champagne AR Lenoble Brut Intense, Champagne NV (from £34.95, Bottle Apostle; Uncorked; Stannary St)
This small, family-owned house makes some of the finest and best-value champagne around. This classic non-vintage blend has a deeply satisfying combination of filigree bubbles, subtle brioche, crisp fruit and minerals.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 12 year Old Oloroso Sherry, Jerez, Spain (£8, Sainsbury’s)
A long-time highlight of the Sainsbury’s range, this superb sherry from the consistently excellent house of Lustau is intense, tangy, dry-tasting but full of Christmas flavours of orange, nuts, vanilla, and date and fig for the cheese plate.
Morrisons The Best 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal (£12, Morrisons)
Morrisons has gone big on port this Christmas with several new additions, but this blend of various ages of wood-matured wines from the Symington family stood out; its sweet Dundee cake orange peel, nuts and dried fruit feel fresh and lively.
Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita Port, Douro, Portugal 2008 (£30, Marks & Spencer)
Using fruit from one of Taylor’s best vineyards in a year when the firm didn’t make a traditional vintage port, this is a luxurious, velvety wine where touches of cigar box and chocolate deliciously shade the deep, dark fruit.
Parcé Frères Rivesaltes, France 1969 (£38, Wine Society)
From the Rivesaltes region of Roussillon near the Spanish border, this classic sweet French fortified wine is remarkably sprightly despite its 46 years in barrel, with flavours of toffee, muscovado sugar, dried apricot and plum.
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