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Top Tips for “Casual, Laid-Back, Get-Together” Christmas Wines

As befits our only remaining feast day, special care often goes into choosing wines for 25 December.

However, as the “partridge and pear tree” carol reminds us, there is usually a lot more that one day of festivities.

Those other days will, of course, also need a bottle or so to ease them up the enjoyment stairway.

Such occasions may be family events (calling for something a level down from Christmas Day) or a party when a “crowd pleasing but sensibly priced” wine is more appropriate.

Today’s post has something for both situations.

It contains, in effect, extended Top Tip and Friday Treat selections.

I hope that they work for you.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible for the main selections to help you locate the bottle in question.

First then some party reds

Eglise Saint-Jacques Bergerac (£7 at Tesco and 13% abv)

Although Bergerac now seems to align itself with SW France rather than Bordeaux, it can still (as this non-vintage wine illustrates) provide “claret resembling” reds at brilliant prices.

Smooth, with Bordeaux-like leafy aromas, this delivers bramble, black cherry and prune flavours.

These are coupled, though, with firm tannin and suggestions of aniseed, graphite and cocoa.

Moving to Italy

2019 Burdizzo Chianti Riserva (£7.25 instead of £8.25 until 13 December at Asda and 12.5%):

If your memories of chianti remain of dense, full, heavy, red wine, this will amaze and delight you.

Smooth and vaguely nutty, it dispels those outdated notions with medium bodied, cherry, plum and sun-dried tomato flavours.

Completing the picture are traces of thyme, cocoa and cinnamon partnered by firm tannin and lively acidity.

Then back to Southern France

2022 Calvet Cite de Carcassonne (£7 – instead of £8 until 1 January – at Morrisons and 13%):

Typical of Southern France, this carignan-led red suits wintertime and its heartier seasonal foods perfectly – full, warm and overflowing with flavour.

Dark yet attractively floral, it has a centrepiece of concentrated red currant, raspberry and damson flavours.

Additional embellishments come in the form of fresh acidity and firm tannin as well as from graphite, incense and anise components.

Next Party Whites and Rosé

2022 Rocca Murer Pinot Grigio Rosato (£7 – instead of £8.25 until 12 December – at Sainsbury’s and 12.5%):

Here, the elevated vineyards in North Eastern Italy and pinot grigio grapes combine to create a delightful rosé as subtle as many from Provence.

Aromatic and pale pink in colour, it contains ripe melon, peach and crab apple flavours.

These are partnered by balanced citrus acidity amid a delicate strawberry foundation.

Staying thereabouts

2022 Chosen by Majestic Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (from £6.99 at Majestic and 11%):

Those same cool, Alpine influences also work their magic on this pinot grigio from Venezie.

The result gives this wine the invigorating acidity that more southerly versions of pinot grigio often lack.

That acidity (grapefruit tinged in this case) provides a suitable escort to the wine’s fresh aromas and bright, textured greengage, pear, white currant and apple flavours.

Then to SW France

2022 Duffour Pere et Fils ‘Vinum’ Côtes de Gascogne (from £7.99 at Majestic and 11.5%): 

As alternatives to New Zealand sauvignons, consider the whites of Southwest France – especially if you are happy with marginally less assertiveness.

Aromatic with just a gentle hint of sweetness, this appealing blend of local grape varieties is based around textured quince, melon and cooked apple flavours.

Those are coupled with lively citrus acidity, a chestnut centred savoury edge and suspicions of fragrant herbs.

Reds for Informal Family Events

2022 Adnams Malbec (£8.49 at Adnams and 13%):

Argentina’s San Juan region (home to this wine) is very hot and dry but its wines are usually softer and fruitier than those from Mendoza, to the south.

This very young example certainly matches that profile.

Typically youthful with a neat floral aura, it delivers juicy loganberry and plum flavours supported by lively acidity, but firm tannin.

Suggestions of baking spice, sage and espresso (all within a largely savoury background) add to its overall attractiveness.

Or, possibly, a Claret

2018 Yvon Mau Premius Bordeaux (£10.95 at Slurp and 13%):

Christmas is traditionally a time for claret so here is one I enjoyed. 

Finding good versions below £12, however, is difficult because many inexpensive options are under-ripe or overly dominated by tannin or savoury elements.

This hits just the right note.

Smooth with forest floor aromas, it brings us minty, prune and bramble flavours accompanied by firm tannin.

Also on parade are savoury edged hints of charcoal, espresso and dried herbs.

Whites for Family Events

2022 Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi, Pontemagno (£9.50 from House of Townend and 13%):

I often praise verdicchio from this region but why does that grape do so well in that part of Central Italy?

Three factors help – suitable geology, sunny days and cool nights (from sea breezes and elevated vineyards).

Beautifully clean tasting and light in body, this has lemon sherbet acidity and a mildly saline finish.

All those factors ably support its foundation of floral, apple, white peach and grapefruit peel flavours.

Back to France Again

2022 La Toile Vierge Rolle Blanc (£10.99 at Virgin Wines and 12.5%):

The somewhat odd name (translating into “a blank canvas”) describes the label and the content of the bottle.

It uses the rolle grape (known as vermentino elsewhere) with the geographic flexibility of the Vin de France classification to create a wine resembling Picpoul de Pinet.

Crisp and intense, the result’s primary feature is a combination of apple, grapefruit and nutty flavours.

These are accompanied by zesty citrus acidity, a pleasingly clean mouthfeel rounded out by a mildly herbal finish.

Some I Prepared Earlier

Here is a quick look at other wines I have featured before that could also work well for Christmas.

Check back on the specific posts for further details (use the search facility in the side bar for this) and also confirm their availability in the store near you.

Inexpensive Reds

  • 2021 Kooliburra Australian Cabernet Shiraz (£5.07 in Aldi): Uncomplicated red wine with spicy and minty damson and blackcurrant flavours.
  • 2021 Pierre Jaurant Bordeaux Rouge (£5.29 at Aldi): Authentic “claret touches” here combine with leafy plum flavours and hints of graphite.
  • 2021 Vista Castelli Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (£5.50 at Tesco): Bold yet medium bodied blackberry flavours with minimal tannin.
  • 2017 Grandeza Aged Red Wine (£7.50 at Tesco): Skilfully aged with a plum and cherry richness.

Inexpensive Whites

  • 2022 Pierre Jaurant French Viognier (£5.99 at Aldi): Nectarine centred with mandarin acidity and aromatic freshness
  • 2022 DINO Trebbiano Pinot Grigio (£6 at Tesco): Undemanding white with low (11%) abv, zesty lime acidity supporting tangerine and apple flavours.
  • 2022 La Vieille Ferme Blanc (£7 at Morrisons in Scotland or 3 for £21 elsewhere): Long established favourite with creamy textured quince flavours and a mineral undercurrent.
  • 2021 Sturmwolken Riesling (£8 at Sainsbury’s): Modern riesling with sherbet acidity and textured melon flavours.

£8 to £10 Reds

  • 2017 Joya de Reyes Rioja Crianza (£9.99 at Adnams): Nicely aged with gentle tannin and plum and black cherry flavours.
  • 2022 Specially Selected Gamay Rouge (£8.69 at Aldi): Light and juicy blackcurrant fruit with hints of violets and cocoa
  • 2021 Sorcova Pinot Noir (£8.49 at Waitrose but about to drop appreciably shortly): Floral with medium bodied raspberry and plum flavours and from Romania.

£8 to £10 Whites

  • 2021 Les Vignes Retrouvées Blanc Saint-Mont (£9.50 at The Wine Society): Perfumed and concentrated with greengage flavours and made from local varieties.
  • 2022 Remastered Fiano (£9.50 at Tesco): Floral with a long finish, this delivers light bodied apple and pear flavours with crisp grapefruit acidity.
  • 2022 Kooliburra Chardonnay Grüner Veltliner (£9.99 at Aldi): Unusual alliance offering tropical fruit elements, oak aging and full texture.

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Comments

12 Comments

Keith Evans

I’m sure Eddie will have got this one covered and not withstanding minimum alcohol pricing in certain parts of the UK but some readers will be delighted to know that the competitively priced Eglise Saint Jacques Bergerac can be bought for just £6 with Tesco Clubcard until end of December and could be even cheaper as part of 25% off 6 deal until 17th Dec.

Brian Elliott

Thanks for underlining this Keith. It is perfect House Red for Christmas.

Eddie Walker

Thank you Brian …A useful reminder and guide to what’s out there in true Mid Week Wines fashion at the cheaper end of things. A fine insight as to recommended purchasing that must be massively helpful for those shopping on a budget.

And if we are shopping for several bottles to cover different occasions over the festive period the prices get even better when 6 from the same retailer gets us a 25% reduction!

Personally I still enjoy most what I can only describe as traditional, maybe old-fashioned, old world wines, and here are at least two French bottles that have served my palate well already in the past few months. Just to say that these wines might well pass folks by because they don’t shout at us, as many of the mass-marketed wines do having big TV promotional campaigns.

So these are ”quiet” wines on the shelf and only get enthusiastic recognition when flagged-up on sites like Mid Week Wines. We are lucky to have that for both the enthusiast and occasional buyer.

The Eglise Saint-Jaques Bergerac and the Calvet Cite Carcassonne are bottles I currently rate highly both for quality and value . They provide enjoyable typical grape and locality characteristics and are joyfully rustic enough to evoke what is best about France where cheaper-end everyday table wines are concerned.

Buy 6 of the Eglise Saint-Jaques right now with a Tesco Clubcard and that’s £4.50 a bottle. Extraordinary value!!

Brian Elliott

You are right. There are some nice wines in that “quiet” category that do repay winkling out. It is not helped, though, because they are usually the minority among bottom shelf offerings. Talking of buying on a budget, incidentally, Thursdays post, does push the average price up because it covers the Christmas lunch wine recommendations.

Paul Davies

Whoever the Tesco wine buyer was who procured Eglise Saint-Jacques deserves to be congratulated.
Such a good red wine at such a kind price.Hopefully it will be a permanent part of the Tesco wine range,I will certainly be buying more of it.Top recommendation,Brian.

Brian Elliott

Yes, as I have said, an ideal wine to have handy because it is so versatile.

Paul Davies

May I just add one more suggestion for midweek members to consider in the inexpensive white wine category?
I have very much enjoyed the Coop’s Cape Point Fair trade South African Sauvignon / Semillon blend at £8.A big step above generic party sauvignons , with an enticing lick of salty lime fruit.

Brian Elliott

The Co-op seldom lets us down; offerings like that are usually kindly priced and a step above average quality at whatever its price point is.

Chris B

Wow Brian, you have found time to ferret out some great wines for the festive season and as you say the market has fewer bargains and the tap at Lidl has been almost turned off.

I revisited Waitrose and after a struggle found a range of sub £10 wines branded “Loved and Found.” There is about 12 different bottles, the issue is the brand is not on the bottle label, it’s on the shelf edge and it was a circular full height affair about 6 foot high. I dubbed the range as “Lost and Found” but ask the staff. All the ones I tried were lovely and some scored as almost 90 points by Decanter.

Then you gave me a nostalgic moment mentioning bottles by Yon Mau, then Calvet both very old French names that I have stayed loyal to on and off for 60 years. Many great bottles at fair prices. Then a relative newcomer “La Vieille Ferme” that I think started in 1970 and also one of the best value for money wines in the world. Classic wine indeed.

I found Aldi a bit of a challenge then I found the “Kooliburra” Brand and some of their wines are definite 90 pointers. Still in Aldi I found “Pierre Jaurant” priced a bit lower however many wines scoring in the high 80’s.

Now I’m off to Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op and Sainsbury’s to search out these value for money “finds”

Thanks for all your work Brian and to the MidWeekers above

Brian Elliott

Thanks for those kind words Chris. That Lost and Found range is indeed well worth trying, as are equivalents in M&S and Sainsbury’s (the Discovery range). Calvet has recently had a major re-vamp and some of the results are terrific. Yvon Mau have had a longstanding link with Tesco and the resulting own label wines are usually pretty sound.

Jim Tague

Tesco’s Eglise Saint-Jacques Bergerac that you recommended recently at £7 will be £6 till the end of the month.

Brian Elliott

Good spot, Jim., and thanks for getting in touch – always great to hear from new contributors. A sound buy at £7, the wine becomes even more attractive for Clubcard holders, as you imply, with that £1 reduction until the year-end.


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