Before suggesting some worthy Christmas bottles, here are some gift recommendations for the many who enjoy wine. The best single publication is the 2021 Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book (£12.99). Vintages, producers by country and advice on what food goes with what wine are all to be found in this excellent work.
It is possible but not advised to spend over £30 on a single wine glass. Ikea and TK Maxx have good glassware at low prices. Tumblers are versatile and lacking a stem (the weak link in conventional glasses). If you are prepared to buy a dozen then look to catering suppliers, Nisbetts, who sells top of the range for a third of the price you would pay in a store.
On to corkscrews. The Screwpull is horribly efficient. It has two parts, namely, a sleeve that one places in position on top of the bottle and then an elongated metal worm which one puts into the sleeve and then rotates to draw the cork out. The Rabbit is a large, cumbersome device but very effective. Finally, the waiter’s friend is the simple bistro device that can be bought for about £3 but not so efficient at extracting tender corks. For those fond of anything sparking then a Star is a great gift. Placed over a reticent cork, one has a much better grip and pull.
‘What should I drink on Christmas Day?’ If you want to get the task sorted in a trice go to Waitrose. Its own blue label White Burgundy 2018 is sumptuous and under a tenner. There is also a half size for just over £5. Its best Red is an Organic Italian Primitivo, Terre di Faiano and is underpriced at £10. Its non-vintage Blanc de Noir Champagne is dependable and half the price of the big names. Piper Heidsieck is superb value if embarrassed to serve a supermarket offering and a genius champagne is Claude Carré 2007 Vintage, £25 at Sainsbury’s. English sparkling wine is now taken seriously. Ridgeview and Nyetimber are respected, and so they should be, with the latter non-vintage coming in at over £30.
Try an upmarket Beaujolais such as Brouilly or Moulin-à-Vent for a lighter choice of red. The 2018 vintage is exceptional and available for £15. Rioja is a snip when one looks at the price of Burgundy. Both 2010 and 2015 vintages are worth choosing. The Wine Society has a 2001 Gran Reserva for £28 and the Lebanese and Vegan Chateau Musar 2013 at £27 (half the cost of a French or American label).
If you want to do the traditional thing then both Morrisons and Jeroboams stock 2015 Pauillac Prelude à Grand-Puy Ducasse, costing £31-£35, a fair price for something so delectable. Ten Minutes By Tractor is an Australian producer whose Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both Burgundian in everything but price. £30 will buy you stunning quality.
Kumeu River Chardonnay is from New Zealand. The Wine Society has just taken delivery of the entire excellent 2019 vintage. Entry level is £16 but worth spending more on its opulent Hunting Hill and Coddington Vineyard which meet or beat Meursault. Your authors also share a love of Californian Ramey Chardonnay, £41 at Wholefoods. Campbells’ Rutherglen Muscat is a dessert wine made to partner serious fruity cake. £12.99 a half bottle at Waitrose, it was adored by a newly appointed Deputy High Court Judge when we went to Hawksmoor in London.
Finally, some inexpensive bottles. Large retailers have hiked prices towards £10 but bargains are still to be found. The Wine Society Sicilian Red (£8.50) is exemplary. Spanish Toro Red is sold in various permutations by Aldi for a fiver. Its French Sparkling wine around £8 is great too. The Waitrose Spanish Red at £4.95 has a dull brown label which belies the quality of liquid within. The small print reveals that the producer is the solid Borsao. Lidl has an eclectic variety; first rate Italian reds and whites for £6.