Having looked at impressive sweeties and fortified wines last week, today it is the turn of reds for yuletide lunch tables.
In compiling the list, I have made two assumptions – selections need to be fairly traditional (and, thus, displaying something of an old world orientation) and, given that this is a season of indulgence, folk are prepared to spend a little bit more.
Being MidWeek Wines though, most recommendations are available in High Street stores or established online operations, because accessibility is – I do understand – important.
Although all the wines cited seem, to me, to punch above their price point, I have given gold tinting to those I consider represent especially good value for money.
As ever, use any available pictures to help find the wine whether they form part of a crowded shelf or appear on an on-line page.
Starting with a great value option
As recognition of the quality and style their wines achieve, a handful of villages are allowed to add their names to the broad regional appellation and picturesque Seguret is one of them.
It is also one noted, incidentally, for the early maturing properties of its wines.
Textured and dark, 2020 Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret (£7.49 at Lidl While stocks last and 14.5% abv): has medium bodied cherry and loganberry flavours partnered by firm acidity, balanced tannin and a pleasing mineral edge along with traces of roses, oregano and cinnamon
Another really well priced choice
With their wines possibly the biggest sellers in Spanish bars and restaurants, Rioja and Rueda specialists Ramon Bilboa bring innovation, freshness and sense of purity to what they produce – often, as here, at fantastic prices.
Aromatic and smooth, 2018 Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza (£9 at Tesco and 14%) brings us full, bramble and elderberry flavours accompanied by balanced tannin, good acidity and hints of cocoa, clove and a slate-style minerality.
A high scorer from Italy
Eyebrows were raised when a £10 supermarket red blend secured 92 points in the recent Decanter IGT Tuscan Red Tasting but this is a worthy successor to the “Super Tuscans” created around half a century ago.
If you are not familiar with the Super Tuscan story, this link provides a succinct and simple guide to how and why that particular genre was born.
Medium bodied but with impressive intensity, 2018 Best Toscana (£10 at Morrisons and 13%) exhibits red currant, plum and cherry flavours supplemented by good acidity but firm tannin and traces of vanilla, roses and menthol.
On to France next
Burgundy prices are now such that I struggle find an example I can recommend at an approachable price, so I headed next door for a top-notch Beaujolais Cru example that offers brilliant value for money.
Ripe with bold acidity, 2019 Morgon ‘La Ballofière' Domaine Dubost(from £12.99 at Majestic and 13%) contains vivid red currant, plum and rhubarb flavours supported by a light, ginger and clove imbued depth, contrasting sweetness but little tannin.
Sticking with Majestic
That great (but, sadly, departed) Australian wine man Peter Lehmann once memorably said “When God created shiraz, He had the Barossa in mind” and this well-crafted version neatly illustrates the basis for dear old Peter’s thinking.
Dark with especially well-defined fruit components, 2017 Plum & Pepper Shiraz (from £12.99 at Majestic and 14.5%) features juicy cherry and blackberry flavours embellished by gentle tannin, good acidity, a savoury finish and suspicions of allspice, eucalyptus and black pepper.
And staying in Australia
Named after Max Schubert (who created the legendary “Grange” red wine 70 years ago), this is a blend of Schubert’s grape of choice (shiraz) with cabernet sauvignon which also prospers in defined parts of South Australia.
Soft yet dense, 2019 Penfold’s Max’s Shiraz Cabernet (£15 for Clubcard holders – instead £20 until 6 December – at Tesco and 14.5%) delivers damson and blackberry flavours combined with firm tannin, good acidity and touches of thyme, mocha and clove.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the new world
One key reason for Argentinian malbec’s quality and popularity is altitude – and the freshness that the consequent cool nights bolster – and the urge to go higher and higher continues.
The Uco Valley (a current star) is higher than other parts of Mendoza while some of the highest vineyards within the Uco Valley itself are in Tupungato – home to this particular malbec.
With a dark colour but typical organic brightness, 2020 Domaine Bousquet Organic Malbec (£11.75 at Vintage Roots and 14%) has ripe damson and loganberry flavours married here to firm acidity but gentle tannin and hints of sage, chocolate and baking spice.
Back to Europe
While a lot of the current focus in the Glorioso range goes on the crianza, their reserva is a decent bottle too and well worth your attention as a substantial Christmas red.
Incidentally, when writing here recently about the Cosme Palacio winery (that produces this wine) I said it was part of a major conglomerate; well, that’s no longer true.
Since this June, its main shareholders have been the Entrecanales Domecq family – a name that probably needs little introduction here, given its two centuries of involvement with the wine business.
Soft and smooth, 2016 Bodegas Palacio Glorioso Rioja Reserva (£14.99 at Ocado and 14%) provides rounded plum and cherry flavours complemented by good acidity (but close grained tannin) combined with a mineral edge and touches of clove, mint and rosemary.
I believe that The Wine Society will also have the wine from the middle of this month.
Remaining in Spain
Given the claim and counter-claim about which area is the prime producer of Spanish reds, it seems only diplomatic to include an example from Ribera del Duero as well as representation from Rioja.
Ribera is slightly cooler than Rioja (by about 2°C) and significantly higher which helps the freshness of the fruit although its assorted geological bases mean styles vary but the intensity of Ribera del Duero wines seldom seems to do so.
Smooth yet inky in colour, 2018 Secreto (£15.50 at The Wine Society, available from around 13 December and 14%) provides classy black cherry and plum flavours with firm tannin but gentle acidity and suspicions of cola, anise and a subtle sweetness within its nicely rounded density.
When only claret will do for Christmas
No Christmas section would be complete without a representative from Bordeaux’s prime cabernet sauvignon country on the left bank of the Gironde.
Prices and a tendency to release wine too soon make it difficult to pinpoint “drink now” options but this Margaux (an area where deep rooted vines can make its wines relatively soft early on) is already a great choice.
Decant it and drink it now or, better still, keep it for a year or two.
Complex with typical savoury elements, 2019 L’Epiphanie de Margaux (From £30 at Laithwaite and 14.5%) offers us blackcurrant, loganberry and prune flavours coupled with firm tannin, good acidity and suggestions of mint, toffee and cedar.
There, then, is a group of wines that I think will grace any Christmas lunch table and, with the wide range of styles described here, I hope I have found something that will do so for yours.
Champagne Shortages for Christmas?
A week or so back, in The Drinks Business, Giles Fallowfield suggested that reports of a champagne famine over Christmas may be exaggerated.
He seems to feel that the impression of supply problems has its roots in the industry’s initial misjudgement about the major sales rebound as “post pandemic opening up” began.
In any event, he concludes that problems may relate more to specific suppliers than to the region as a whole – and hints that where stocks are (rather than their volume) may be an issue.
To me though, it is still unclear what will happen although budget priced champagnes are available – contrary to early predictions. My fizz review on 16 December will point you towards some of them.
Meanwhile do follow this link to read all the Fallowfield piece but remember it was written last month so prices and deals mentioned may well have changed.
Call in again on Monday when I reveal my latest Top Tips and outline the current promotions in major retailers and make a note to do so again on Thursday for the white wine window of my Mini Advent Calendar.
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