Champagne and sparkling
2000 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs
An effortlessly complex, elegant but rich, all-chardonnay grand cru. Tremendous length. For me, this was the star of The Wine Gang’s recent Prestige Champagne event.
£140. 75, Corking Wines (Yorkshire), and others
Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs, Avize, Champagne
Fine-boned chardonnay champagne from the grand cru of Avize. Delicately biscuity, creamy and supple with notes of crisp, candied citrus, peach and apple. Good value.
£25.99, Cadman Fine Wines
Krug Grande Cuvée, Champagne
I tasted Krug for the first time in ages recently. I’d forgotten how good it is – such depth of flavour and texture – but even better was the bottle that had been released three of four years earlier. More honeyed and biscuity yet still ineffably fresh.
2006 Louis Roederer Brut, Champagne
The pinot noir (70% of the blend) gives a dense, smooth wine-like quality to this Roederer vintage, alongside succulent fruit, flavours of brioche and toasted hazelnut and minerally acidity.
£44.10, Tanners, and others.
2008 Le Soula (white), Pays des Côtes Catalanes-Fenouillèdes, Roussillon, France
Fascinating, complex wine. Lemon, spicy resin and oak aromas. A dry, full, supple-textured palate with stony mineral and citrus flavours and dazzling natural acidity. Long and still quite tight. It’s made from tiny yields of 23-year-old bush vines, grown high up and free from pesticides and chemical fertilisers on decomposed granite. The blend is just over a third each of sauvignon blanc and macabeu with vermentino (19%), grenache gris and blanc, marsanne, roussanne, malvoise de roussillon and chardonnay. Vinification is traditional with natural yeasts. Aged partly in oak (some new) and partly tank, 18 months on lees. Unfined, light filtration.
£23.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, and others
2011 Domaine Saparale Corse Sartène, Corsica, France
This is an unoaked vermentino, a grape variety on a roll (yes, I know, one of its synonyms is rolle). Good examples like this combine a richness of texture with pithy acidity, aromatic herb and lemon flavours and a sea-salty tang, although that could be because it’s often grown near the sea. A great wine for Christmas eve if you’re having fish or seafood. 13.5%.
£13.70, Yapp Brothers
2011 Herdade de Esporão Verdelho, Alentejo, Portugal
Delicate jasmine scent with supple lime and grapefruit flavours. Medium-bodied and dry with a lick of grapefruit on the finish. Attractive, characterful verdelho. 13.5%.
£8.95, The Wine Society
2011 Valle Pradinhos Branco, VR Transmontano, Portugal
Unusual blend of gewurztraminer, riesling and malvasia fina from mature vineyards in the remote, hilly region of Trás-os-Montes near the Spanish border. Aromatic and floral with grape, spice and citrus flavours. Medium-full and smooth-textured, but lively and fresh with a lingering citrus finish. 13.5%. See also the Valle Pradinhos red below.
£10.95, The Wine Society
2011 Guerrieri Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Excellent single-vineyard Soave with some chardonnay adding richness to the garganega. Fresh, elegant, almond-nougat perfume and beautifully textured palate with nutty, lightly flavours. Real depth and length. 13.5%
£14.99, Fortnum & Mason
2011 Seven Springs Unoaked Chardonnay, Overberg, South Africa
It’s good to find a successful unoaked chardonnay outside Chablis. Not an easy to style to get right, but this works well. It’s round and soft-textured, but reassuringly crisp, with bright, well-defined, pineappley fruit framed by a gentle cashew-nut flavour and a hint of vanilla, although not the vanilla you get from oak. 13%. See also the syrah below and try the sauvignon blanc, a very pure, clean-cut, cool-climate style. Went well with a risotto which included fennel bulb.
£11.95, Bijou Bottles (Norfolk)
2012 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
The fourth vintage and another benchmark. Intense, fragrant sugarsnap pea and lemongrass flavours with a minerally, slightly salty undertow. Very fresh and nervy, but with textural depth and breadth.
£16.49, Noel Young Wines, and others.
1999 Château Grate-Cap, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Mature Pomerol at a modest price. Perfumy and floral on the nose with plummy fruit and a distinctive sweet-herb character. Dry but ripe tannins and a minerally finish. Grate-Cap is a small estate near Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin. Illustrious neighbours indeed.
2010 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Polish, layered pinot noir with succulence and depth. Rose and sweet spice perfume, ripe red-berry fruit framed by elegant oak and a satin-smooth palate with palate.
£25.00, but on offer at £19.99, Majestic
2010 Domaine Vincent Paris Granit Cornas, Rhône, France
Lovely Cornas. Raspberry, pepper and savoury, meaty, minerally notes. Great depth and presence. Can be drunk now, but worth laying down for five years. 13%. Not expensive.
£264 per case, Laithwaites
2010 Valle Pradinhos Porta Velha, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal
Medium-bodied, rounded, fresh, spicy and mineral, with plum/damson fruit and a hint of star anise. Dry, grown-up wine. Made from estate-grown Touriga nacional and tinta roriz (aka tempranillo). 13%.
Went well with a Peruvian recipe for slow-baked, chilli-spiked lamb with pulses and lentils (recipe by Louisa Carter in October 2012 House & Garden). See also the Valle Pradinhos white above.
£7.50, The Wine Society
2008 Quinta Lagoalva de Cima Alfrocheiro, Grande Escolha, VR Tejo, Portugal
A dry, savoury red with herb, licorice and mineral notes, damson-like fruit, a suggestion of leather and light, dry tannins. 13.5%.
Went well with slow-roast hand of pork with fennel and piment doux. Would be good with a baked Christmas ham too.
£14.95, The Wine Society
2010 Seven Springs Syrah, Overberg, South Africa
Impressive result from very young vines. Cassis, woodsmoke and vanilla perfume, with crunchy black fruit, smoke, liquorice and fresh herbs on the palate. Some tannin and quite marked acidity but both softened by 12 months’ oak ageing. Good with prosciutton and with grilled and roast red meat. 14%.
£13.95, Bijou Bottles (Norfolk)