After our look at red wines last week, it is time consider white wines of elegance and grace to enhance your Christmas.
This is not just a list of carefully chosen recommendations but also insights into why those wines are good options.
From classy chardonnay to aromatic sauvignon, most palates should be catered for.
So should most budgets – although it is normal to loosen purse strings a little at this time of year.
Do remember, though, not to overchill these wines.
While sauvignon and sparkling wines are OK a little above fridge temperatures (say at around 7°C) chardonnay is usually best around 10°C – above most domestic fridge temperatures.
But today is not just about tasting these wines, use some of them as gifts that are sure to impress friends and family.
The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays.
Starting in New Zealand
2022 Extra Special Awatere New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£10.75 at Asda and 13% abv):
Of all Marlborough’s sub-regions, the Awatere Valley has acquired a high reputation for acidic vibrancy and the herbal influences of the sauvignon blanc it produces.
See for yourselves how successfully it works with this nicely configured example that is well priced for New Zealand sauvignon at this level.
Mineral influenced and more restrained than many Marlborough sauvignons, it has soft apple, peach and ripe melon flavours.
These are supported by tropical fruit aromas, sharp grapefruit acidity and a tangerine, pea shoot and green herb centred texture.
And by way of comparison.
2022 Joseph Mellot Sincérité Sauvignon Blanc (from £13.99 at Laithwaites and 12.5%):
As prices for the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly push steadily upwards, sauvignon from further down the Loire Valley starts to gain a following.
It may be worth comparing this wine with the one previously recommended to get a fix on how New Zealand and Northern France versions differ.
Similarly subdued but with exceptional clarity, this one delivers gooseberry, melon and bell pepper flavours with sherbet lemon acidity
That foundation is made even more attractive by the and a fresh, clean, mouthfeel on display here.
Always the bridesmaid
2020 Edouard Delaunay Bourgogne Aligoté (£23.40 at Honest Grapes and 13%);
Overshadowed by the magnificence of top level chardonnay- based white Burgundy, it is easy to downplay the delights the region’s No.2 grape (aligote) can provide.
For sure, it can match neither the versatility of chardonnay nor its aging potential, but aligoté is enjoyably fresh, crisp and deceptively stylish.
Sophisticated and smooth, this one exhibits pear, peach and baked apple flavours with lingering adroitly oaked toastiness.
All that is partnered here by lively citrus acidity, a creamy texture with traces of vanilla and orange peel.
Onto chardonnay itself
2022 Robert Oatley Semaphore Chardonnay (£10.50 at the Co-op and 12.5%):
Having been successfully involved in the wine trade for 50+ years, Robert Oatley now has winemaking operations in three different parts of Australia.
This enables his people to combine fruit from different parts (which I believe has been done here) to fine tune things so as to achieve the required result.
Nutty but with subdued aromas, this subtle but classy result features smoky medium bodied red apple and nectarine flavours.
Accompanying constituents include pithy grapefruit acidity that is skilfully balanced with hints of fudge.
Again contrasting new world and French versions.
2022 Esprit de Siléne Chardonnay (£11.95 at the Co-op and 14%):
If Robert Oatley has a reputation for his Australian wines, then Jean Claude Mas is similarly acclaimed for this Languedoc wines.
Here J-C uses fruit from his vineyards in the Limoux where conditions are ideally suited to chardonnay production.
White gold in colour but with good depth, this is wine I have praised before, but its intense tropical fruit and ripe pear flavours continue to impress.
It also contains well-judged lemon acidity supplemented by suggestions of minerality and a well toasted butter, almond and caramel finish.
Now stepping up a gear
2021 Pierre Vessigaud Pouilly Fuissé (£22 in M&S stores but do check price and availability) and 13.5%:
Well, we do know that areas like Pouilly Fuissé provide tasty, great value chardonnay without hitting the supreme heights of Cȏte d’Or, but this guy is rather special.
So many positives are at work here – 55+ year old vines, wild yeasts, oak fermentation and 12 months barrel maturation.
Yellow in colour and velvety smooth, it exhibits elegant red apple, ripe melon and apricot flavours enlivened by grapefruit acidity.
Subsidiary influences that hit the palate include vanilla, caramel, chalkiness and nuts, all built into an overall richness supercharged by oaky aromas.
Next we head to Alsace.
2022 Best Alsace Pinot Gris (£10 at Morrisons and 13%):
While Alsace is normally associated with riesling ang gewurztraminer, never underestimate the quality of the pinot gris produced there.
Often vinified in a dry style, this example from Turckheim has a little more sweetness making it a versatile and food-friendly option.
Perfumed and just off-dry, it brings us bright honey, ripe pear and apricot flavours and is slightly weightier than versions from other parts of the world.
Those components integrate well with the wine’s soft but rounded herbal, almond and mineral hints and clean acidic verve.
And a top level riesling.
2022 Hardys HRB. Riesling £20 at Tesco and 12.5%)
Once again, we see grapes from different Australian regions brought together to create wine that reflects the strengths of all areas involved – this time it is Tasmania and South Australia’s Clare Valley.
The result is an astoundingly good riesling that fully justifies its price label.
Although its opens with those classic, mildly kerosene based aromas, here, they are much more constrained on the palate.
They are merely a backdrop to the wine’s green apple and pineapple flavours that are coupled with zesty lime acidity and a long, sherbet infused texture.
Now for the luxury level choice
2022 Santo Wines Assyrtiko (£22.40 at VINVM and 13%):
Greek wines are getting more of a foot-hold in the UK and few have generated more enthusiasm than assyrtiko (once described as “chablis on steroids”).
Versions have emerged from all over the country, but the gold standard offerings are from Santorini – where traditional winemaking expertise and a volcanic geology seem ideally suited to the grape.
Smooth and beautifully integrated, it delivers tongue tingling red apple, melon and white peach flavours.
It works best at the top end of the white wine temperature range (say, 12-13°C) where its clean lines, grapefruit acidity and gentle mineral background all show at their best.
Let’s finish up in the pink
2022 Tavel Cuvée Prima Donna Rosé, Domaine Maby (£14.50 at The Wine Society and 14.5%):
Accepted wisdom says that the darker the rosé the sweeter it is – so normally you should head for the and palest one available.
However, nobody told the winemakers of Tavel in the Rhȏne Valley – where their rosé is complex, age-worthy, food-friendly and …. deep pink.
Raspberry coloured with real depth, this example is firmly based on racy blackcurrant and grapefruit flavours.
Freshness comes from its sharp orange acidity which is pleasantly complemented by spicy touches and a suspicion of mint.
More News from Eddie
“As Morrisons 25% off buy 6 offer finishes on the 12th, the latest information is that 25% off buy 6 bottles at Sainsbury's continues, and they have extended the time limit to 19th December. Tesco still go until the 17th.
Fast-and-furious stuff just now – and to a greater extent difficult to track as it changes day on day with shelf price reductions attaching to the possible multi buy deals.
Tesco Clubcard is particularly good on this double-dipping, à la that Eglise Saint-Jaques, Bergerac, that goes £7 to £6 to £4.50, and will delight all who enjoy a traditional Bordeaux blend.
Add to that the other major retail outlets like Lidl offer some limited money-off items on their Plus Card app.
But there are some substantial reductions on a series of bottles being offered week-on-week at Aldi, none more so than this one that's attracting a lot of press comment.
It goes from Monday 11th and is bound to be very popular with a massive £5.50 off. Cairanne Cru des Côtes du Rhône is way greater than the actual asking price this week of £3.49!
It will be hard not to want a couple of bottles when this wine has such provenance. I say a couple because it seems 2 bottles per person is all we can have per transaction.
That won't stop those desperate to have more who will have to pay a couple of visits back to the car and return for further purchases!
Interesting how so many ”old fashioned” French wine styles, and traditional bottles like this Rhône GSM, are grabbing centre stage just now. Why not … it gladdens my heart …”
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