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Dreaming of a red Christmas

Stage Three of our look at seasonal wines puts the focus on red wines with an eye to Christmas lunch – but most of these selections will work for other festive events too.

Next week will see the turn of dessert wines – along with another seasonal special.

 As ever, where pictures are available, click on the image for an enlarged version that should help you locate the wine on a crowded shelf.

Starting with something light

Turkey can be a forgiving dish where the selection of wine can often have more to do with the trimmings than with the meat itself.

Unless those accompaniments are especially hearty, rosé can prove successful as can a light red such as – a favourite style for me – Loire cabernet franc.

Finding a good one can be tricky but, guided the guys on the spot, I have at last found a version that ticks all the right boxes.

With those classic violet aromas 2016 Domaine de Bonneliere Saumur Champagny (£11.95 at and 12.5% abv) also exhibits soft loganberry and cherry fruit with bold acidity and suggestions of roast pepper, coffee and herbs built into its savoury depth.

For some pinot noir and Christmas are inseparable

If New World pinot is the style for you then I have a delightful Central Otago version that, helpfully, is on offer with a substantial discount just at the moment.

The aromas are more rose petal than violet in 2016 Nanny Goat Vineyard Pinot Noir (£14.99 – instead of £19.99 until Christmas – at Waitrose and 13.5%) which also has raspberry and red currant fruit with touches of aniseed and clove all neatly counterbalanced by a vibrant acidic prickle.

Or perhaps a version from Burgundy

Northern hemisphere pinot invariably leads to Burgundy but price can be an issue here unless you are prepared to move away from vineyards on the region’s celebrity status hills.

I have done that to locate the red cherry and raspberry based 2015 Chorey Les Beaunes Veilles Vignes (£16.99 at Aldi) which also brings us attractive floral touches along with that (classic pinot) beetroot style earthiness.

But there are claret traditionalists too.

For Claret aficionados, what could be a better great value option than a 70:30 merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend from the Third Growth Chateau Boyd Cantenac.


I refer to 2013 Finest* Margaux (£20 at Tesco and 13.5%) with its nicely balanced bramble and black cherry fruit with gentle tannin and a nutmeg influenced savoury edge.


Never ignore Bordeaux’s rising stars

As with Burgundy, one needs to move off the beaten path to find up and coming producers offering impressive quality: price ratios – I have in mind areas like Blaye and, in this case, Castillon.

There is that typical claret texture to 2012 Chateau La Clariére Laithwaite (£24 at Laithwaite and 13%) which is infused with graphite centred savouriness.

This gives depth to the wine’s long, black cherry and damson fruit, soft tannin, good acidity and supporting suggestions of menthol, chocolate and nutmeg.

Here is a seriously unexpected option

Speaking of cabernet and merlot, do try a lovely Tuscan blend of those star grapes – albeit, and understandably, with a 20% sangiovese component too.

Enjoy the soft, full, rose centred raspberry and bramble fruit of 2015 Orbitali Bolgheri (£10.48 at Asda and 14%) given verve by firm acidity and neatly embellished with mocha influenced hints of dried fruit.

But getting back to tradition

Any lamb oriented Christmas lunch would be enhanced by a nicely aged rioja but one with enough tannin to neutralise the slight fattiness of the meat.

Although many rioja reds are blends, 2010 Baron de Ley Rioja Gran Reserva (£12 at Morrisons and 13.5%) is 100% tempranillo and has brilliantly bright, minty cherry and damson fruit to prove it and acidic freshness.

Now for a couple of wild cards

If there is sturdy fare on the Christmas lunch table, we usually need full and robust wine to accompany it – and that often takes us to Southern France and, in this case, to the original home of malbec.

A good candidate then is 2015 Taste the Difference Chateau les Bouysses Cahors Malbec (£12 at Sainsbury’s and 13.5%) with firm acidity and warm coffee and clove enhanced cherry and loganberry fruit but gentle tannin.

Finishing where we started

My enthusiasm for cabernet franc is not restricted to those lighter versions from the Loire Valley because the grape successfully adds structure to Bordeaux reds and is rugged enough for standalone versions further south.

For instance, Languedoc gives us 2015 Gayda Figure Libre Cabernet Franc (£16.99 at  – who may shortly move to the equally acclaimed 2016 vintage -and 14%) – a warm, dark plum, cassis and red cherry centred red with mint, chilli and cocoa touches and contrasting sweet edges.

I hope that has given you ideas for Yuletime reds as we move onto pudding wine next week.


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