Our Christmas listing!

(by peter & susie)

It’s that time of year when the requests for advice on wine, which regularly come our way, reach a particular crescendo.

Christmas, it seems, is thirst-making work.

We welcome such requests. After all, the sheer volume of these (especially from those who have attended our wine tastings) was the impetus behind us setting up our Wine Club, via which members can buy exclusively discounted cases, chosen personally by us, from selected retailers.

We will be launching the first such case in early 2012 – just in time for Valentine’s and to help fend off the winter gloom.

If you’d like to sign up – it’s absolutely free, with no obligation to buy the wines – you can do so by clicking here. We’d love to have you as one of the gang, plus there are great discounts, recipes, tips etc to be had.

In the meantime, though, we thought we would give you a free taster of the kind of treats in store for those who do sign up to our club. These are the kind of wines we’ll be recommending in future wine club offers – although probably with fewer of the more expensive options, which are meant for Christmas treats. And remember, all wine club cases will be exclusively discounted for members (so not available on general release like these are).

The following listing is a selection of our personal highlights from some of the better known retailers (and some of the more off-beat ones too) specifically for Christmas drinking.

There’s Champagne for under £14, gorgeous whites, reds and stickies starting from £5.59, not to mention the odd ale thrown in for good measure.

Almost all of these wines represent great deals; many are wines we have featured at our tastings and events. You can pick and choose from our selections or put together whole cases – it’s up to you.

We’ve also put together some suggestions for wine-related paraphernalia (eg books, glasses, events) which we’ve particularly enjoyed this year, and which would make a great festive gift.

Enjoy! (And happy Christmas…)

Susie and Peter’s Christmas wine listing

NB: Offers may relate to multi-buys and are dependent on stocks lasting – might be worth a call before popping in if you want to be safe.

MAJESTIC (offers end 31.1.12)

  • FIZZ: La Marca Prosecco Extra Dry, £9.49 (down from £9.99) – fruity, juicy and ridiculously easy drinking, a Wine School staple
  • FIZZ: Canard-Duchêne 2004, £19 (down from £29) – a good deal for vintage fizz: crunchy green apples with a creamy texture
  • AROMATIC WHITE: Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand, £10.99 (down from £13.49) – elegant, foodie and beats any similar-priced Sancerre into a cocked hat
  • CREAMY WHITE: Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2010, Nicolas Potel, £7.99 (down from £11.99) – nutty, refreshing and charming
  • ELEGANT RED: Viña Eguia Rioja Reserva 2005, £5.99 (down from £9.99) – unbelievable bargain: heavenly scents of creamy coconut and dried red fruit
  • WINTER WARMER RED: Amalaya de Colomé Malbec Blend 2009, Argentina, £6.99 (down from £8.99) – vivid, rich and spicy
  • SWEET: Rustenberg Straw wine 2010, South Africa, £9.99 (down from £12.49) for 37.5cl – indulgent apricot sweetness
  • PORT: Taylor’s LBV 2005, £9.99 (down from £13.99) – spiced dark fruit


WAITROSE (offers end 3.1.12)

  • FIZZ: Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut Cuvée, Australia, £9.99creamy and satisfying
  • FIZZ: Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury 2009, Sussex, £21.99orchard apples and fresh bread, lovely vitality and harmony
  • AROMATIC WHITE: Waitrose Sauvignon Blanc, Viña Valdivieso 2011, Chile, 12.5%, £7.99tangy, crunchy and very pure
  • RICH WHITE: La Forge Estate Marsanne/Roussanne/Viognier 2010, France, 13.5%, £9.99glazed citrus and honeysuckle with a touch of spice
  • SPICY RED: Gerard Bertrand Syrah/Carignan 2009 Minervois, France, £5.59 (down from £7.49) – rustic and peppery
  • SMOOTH RED: Beronia Rioja Reserva 2006, £9.99 (down from £12.99) – creamy, nutty and wonderfully smooth
  • SWEET: Blandy’s Alvada 5-year-old Rich Madeira, £12 for 37.5cl – utter indulgence at Christmas time: raisiny, nutty, tangy and luscious
  • ALE: Duchy Originals from Waitrose Organic Old Ruby Ale, £1.99 for 50cl – gentle and elegant with fruity/malty notes


SAINSBURY’S (offers end 3.1.12)

  • FIZZ: Taste the Difference Vintage Cava 2008, £6.99 (down from £10.49) – glazed lemons and an engaging fizzy freshness
  • FIZZ: Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Champagne, £13.99 (down from £20.99) – smoky, elegant and biscuit: great value
  • AROMATIC WHITE: Taste the Difference Awatere Riesling 2011, 11.5%, £8.99super zingy green apples but also succulent and rounded
  • OLD-SCHOOL WHITE: Taste the Difference Chablis 2010, 12.5%, £8.99classic woolly, herby and appley character, elegant and foodie
  • VALUE RED: Taste the Difference Chilean Merlot 2010, 13.5%, £5.99peppery, glossy dark fruit
  • ELEGANT RED: Taste the Difference Crozes-Hermitage 2009, 13%, £9.49black olives and grilled meats, compact and savoury. A steal.
  • SWEET: Taste the Difference 12-year-old Sweet Pedro Ximenez, £7.99 for 50cl – sticky raisins in a glass. Freeze it and pour it over ice cream.


MARKS & SPENCER (offers end 1.1.12)

  • FIZZ: Prestige Cava Brut NV, £6.49 (down from £8.49) – appley and herbal
  • FIZZ: Louis Chaurey Champagne NV, £15 (down from £30) – dry, bready and refreshing
  • ELEGANT WHITE: Chablis 2008, La Chablisienne, £8.99 (down from £10.99) – classic, invigorating, stoney white
  • ELEGANT RED: Secano Estate Pinot Noir, £6.99 (down from £8.99) – brambly red and black fruits with a touch of spice
  • SWEET: Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina, Villa di Monte 1995, £15.99 for 37.5cl – raisins, walnuts, digestive biscuits…what’s not to like?!
  • PORT: 10-year-old tawny port NV, £14.99the ideal match for cheese and all kinds of fruit-based puds this Christmas


THE INDEPENDENT OPTION: Stone, Vine & Sun (based in Twyford, Hampshire)

  • FIZZ: Crémant de Bourgogne NV, Blanc de Blancs, Vitteaut-Alberti, 12%, £13.50smoky apples, fresh clean and nutty
  • FIZZ: Champagne Brut NV, Thomas-Hatté, 12%, £22.50scented, creamy, appley: very decent
  • AROMATIC WHITE: Domaine de Chevilly Quincy 2010, 13%, £11.50Sancerre in all but name: elegant tangy gooseberry
  • RICH CREAMY WHITE: BLANKbottle 2009, The White Black, South Africa, 13.5%, £18.75pricey but well worth it: sexy nutty mealy style from a  maverick but inspired producer
  • HEARTY RED: Madiran Tradition 2009, Château Barrejat, 13%, £8.25smoky bacon with firm tannins, lovely food wine, something different
  • ELEGANT RED: Château Beauregard Ducasse Graves 2006, Cuvée Albert Duran, 13%, £12.95classic claret at a great price
  • SWEET: Rivesaltes Ambré 1999, Domaine Fontanel, 16%, £14.95stunning value for a beautifully mature, ravishingly tangy sweet, all roasted nuts and muscovado sugar


THE ‘NATURAL’ OPTION: Les Caves de Pyrène (shop in Guilford)

  • FIZZ: Rosé Saignée Brut Nature NV, Champagne Francis Boulard, £26.65from an organic estate converting to biodynamics, this is a lovely harmonious fizz, beautiful stuff
  • BLOW-OUT FIZZ: Champagne Philipponnat Clos de Goisses 2001, £93.65outstanding fizz of the top drawer: honeycomb, dried nuts and beguiling bubbles
  • ‘ORIGINAL’ WHITE: Testalonga El Bandito Skin Contact Chenin Blanc, £18.10dense, mineral, savoury: beautiful texture and vigour
  • NUTTY WHITE: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2005, Edoardo Valentini, £39.85stunning wine: clotted cream and vanilla with tangy silken structure
  • ELEGANT RED: Savigny-Les-Beaune ‘Gollardes’ 2007, Domaine de Chassorney, Frederic Cossard, Saint Romain, £20.60pale, ethereal, scented and tangy, with wonderful persistence
  • GUTSY RED: Bobar Syrah 2010, Tom Belford, Yarra Glen, 12.5%, £15.80masses of floral, black pepper and eucalypt aromas; spicy, elegant palate blows you away with grace and purpose
  • SWEET: Bea Sagrantino Passito 2000, £38.95full of the fire of life: spicy, malty, immensely vital wine. A real experience.



Shameless plug: our gift vouchers – if you want a present with a difference this Christmas, one of our gift vouchers is a great idea (and a brilliant excuse for the giver to join in the fun too!) From £20 in any multiples of £10. Use the page link above or email us directly.

Book for the wine newbie: The Battle for Wine and Love (or How I saved the world from Parkerization), Alice Feiring, Mariner Books, from £8 on Amazon.co.uk – a passionate, quirky, brilliantly told adventure in wine, a great intro to her more recent book Naked Wine.

Book for the wine lover: Authentic Wine, Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW, UC Press, from £15.15 on Amazon.co.uk – an authoritative rattle through most of the hot topics in today’s wine world, from natural wine to carbon footprints.

Wine glasses: Zalto Universal glass, £27.50 per stem (Around Wine) – this was the year we fell in love with a wine glass, and this is it: sculptural in its angular beauty, almost weightless in the hand, yet relatively durable in the wash (OK, so we have broken a couple already…) The Zalto Champagne glass is the same price and just as brilliant.

Restaurant: North Road – Brilliant Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova is thoroughly down-to-earth, as is his food, which includes the likes of venison in burnt hay with beetroot textures, and pine and birch ice cream. Challenging, original, inspiring food at this Michelin-starred eatery in Farringdon – something different for Christmas too. You can read our review here.

Subscription: www.jancisrobinson.com – quite simply one of the very best websites around for wine lovers, packed full of detailed tasting notes and general wine wisdom. We know that, strictly speaking, Jancis’ site is a competitor – but why not join her site and sign up to our free wine club and get the best of all worlds?!

Charity: Magic Wand appeal – raising money for a new children’s ward at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. You can read more here. If you’d like to support a charity this Christmas, perhaps with the funds you save by sending out e-cards rather than real ones, then this is our recommendation.

Cocktail + crime of the year: Mumbai Martini at Benares – being something of a cocktail agnostic, Peter had a Damascene moment in Benares earlier this year when served this green genie of a glass: tangy, nutty, spicy and recklessly moreish. Take a bow, Mr Atul Kochhar and the team at Benares. (As for the crime, we say ‘boo’ to Benares for closing its superb Hampshire outpost Vatika – and we urge them (in utterly self-interested manner) to re-open in Winchester, where they will find a ready and willing clientele whatever the rent. Go on Atul, you know it makes sense!)

Event: BBC Good Food Show – fab food, top chefs, wonderful wine and a veritable cornucopia of anything a food-and-drink lover could want in one very very big room. OK, so the winter event is over (you can read our report here), but there is plenty more to come in 2012. Find out more (and book tickets) here.