The last year has seen serious price hikes with top end red Burgundy roaring away. Thankfully, Tasmania is producing astonishing Burgundian-style equivalents, so look out for them. There are still good bottles to be had at fair prices and here are our recommendations.
Starting with fizz, decent Champagne is surely a must. If it has to be a known brand then Piper-Heidsieck is at the lower end of the price bracket and, on promotion, can be as little as £18 although the shelf price is around £30. If you do not want to compromise then Louis Roederer at £45 is just perfect.
Yet again we rate the Tesco Finest Champagne, both vintage and non-vintage, which are exemplary. Its Premier Cru is listed at £20 but as we write is down to £15 and one should expect more promotional offers before Christmas. English sparkling wine, Nyetimber in particular, is well regarded but is priced at the same level as good Champagne.
If you are searching for a vintage Champagne you may be lucky to find some 2008 bottles are still available. It was a wonderful year and is the one to seize.
Should you want cheaper bubbles then look to Aldi for French sparkling wine at £8. Spanish Cava is preferable to industrial Prosecco. Muga’s Cava Conde de Haro, as sold by the Wine Society and others, is top notch at around £13.
Waitrose’s own label 2017 white Burgundy comes in just shy of £10. It is complex and one of the loveliest Chardonnays we have shared this year; strongly recommended. If you want a sumptuous bottle then the Sicilian Santa Cecilia Planeta at around £22 is the one to buy and is found in Carluccio delis. Serious French Burgundy such as Meursault has risen 20% in the last year. A worthy alternative stocked by Wholefoods Kensington is Ramey Californian Chardonnay at £41. It is on some restaurant wine lists at £200.
Ten Minutes by Tractor is an upmarket Australian producer. With a bottle of its Chardonnay and its Pinot Noir you will have both red and white options covered for Christmas Day. At about £31 each; just sublime.
Last year we covered the discounters, Aldi and Lidl. For everyday or simple party consumption look out for Aldi Vinsobres Cru du Rhône, a big gutsy red at £8.99. Its Toro Loco Reserva at £5.49 is a big red at a remarkably low price. Lidl applies its own wine scores to what it sells which is quaint. If you see any of the promised 2012 Spanish red for £5 do take a punt.
Members of the Wine Society should look at ordering some or all of the following from its range which, thanks to insider information, we believe to be their bestsellers: Claret is £7.50, Côtes du Rhone £7.95, Rioja Crianza again £7.95 and the very best being Sicilian Reserve Red for £8.50. Their best-selling white Burgundy is £9.95. At the top end, the Society regularly releases small parcels of rare wines that can cost up to £550 (a bottle) but are almost always cheaper than from a commercial supplier, it being a cooperative venture in nature.
Should you be in London go to the basement wine shop at Fortnum & Mason. Best value are F&M own label wines, all supplied by serious producers. If you ask nicely they will gift wrap exquisitely for free and you can get a smart bag too for nothing.
Not far away is our regular Monday evening dinner haunt, Hawksmoor at Air Street, a moment from Piccadilly Circus tube. Corkage is £5 on Mondays, regardless of the bottle size. Both steak and fish are exemplary as indeed is the friendly service. No one tries to sell you expensive bottles of water as you arrive. A happy spot.
Humble beer bargain of bargains is Banks Bitter, a snip in these days of pricey hipster ales. Stocked by Tesco, Morrisons and Lidl (where it is 89p). Lovely with cold beef, pork pie or ploughmans!
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