We will, as usual, suggest some bottles we think worthy of you this Christmas, but first some words of general advice.

So many bottles proclaim that they have ‘scored 96 points’ or the producer is ‘world renowned’. Tread carefully. Anyone can legitimately throw out a random score. Former US lawyer Robert Parker became the most influential wine critic in the world when he devised a points hierarchy going up to the maximum of 100. Now retired, wine buffs still pay homage to his scores. Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge has a locked wine fridge with trophy bottles identified with the RP score.

Today, the two critics we rate above all others are British. Jane Anson lives in Bordeaux and has contributed extensively to Decanter. Jancis Robinson MW is the foremost wine critic in our world. In the run-up to Christmas the FT Weekend magazine carries her recommendations over four weeks for sparking, red, white and sweet wines.

Stocking fillers for oenophiles

Opening a bottle can be challenging. Amazon has a variety of Rabbit openers for approximately £20. They won’t fit in your pocket but are brilliant at smoothly extricating reluctant corks. Fans of fizz can acquire for a fiver a Champagne star which grips the cork and gives one extra force in getting it out. A bouchon costs about the same and will preserve an opened bottle (don’t fall for that nonsense about a teaspoon). Another cheap implement is a foil cutter to remove the ‘wine capsule’, aka the protective foil cover sitting atop the cork.

The best single wine book on earth remains Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. The latest 2024 edition costs about £12 and bears the name of the great man despite the fact he is no longer the general editor (now Margaret Rand). Wines from all over the world are rated and vintages assessed. Regan is never knowingly separated from it when out and about. The introduction has a handy guide on what wine goes with a wide array of dishes. We can vouch that the tome is comprehensively updated each year. Mysteriously, the brilliant £30 Champagne Beaumont Des Crayères has disappeared from the new edition. Buy it if you see it.

Our wine merchant tip

Each year we recommend a wine merchant whom we have both used and respect. Xavier Hornblow is the private client account manager at Jeroboams which has a number of shops around London but ships throughout the Country. Do not be intimidated by his job title. He will happily advise you on acquiring six bottles of Bordeaux at £16 each but can get his hands on rare treasures too. He supplied the excellent Laytons Champagne for the recent Regan family wedding. Laytons has been absorbed into the expanding Jeroboams family of shops. Xavier is happy to dispense advice and numbers several barristers as loyal clients (email: xavier.hornblow@jeroboams.co.uk).

Given how expensive restaurant wine is with mark-ups of 300% or more, we continue to enjoy the wonderful Monday evening offer at Hawksmoor restaurants (London, Manchester, Liverpool) where corkage is a ridiculous £5 per bottle. Several High Court judges have been spotted, as has Gerard ‘is this shirt too loud?’ McDermott KC.

What, then, to open for the December holidays?

For inexpensive fizz, Prosecco is generally depressing. Spanish Cava is classier. Waitrose Castillo priced at £11.99 is often to be found on promotion at £8.99. A number of supermarkets stock Tasmanian Jansz for around £16. Likewise Cloudy Bay Pelorus which is approaching Champagne and priced at £25.

The cost of Champagne has roared away since last Christmas. Cristal, solely for plutocrats, has gone up by £100 to £295! Back on earth, Tesco’s own label is constantly reliable at £26. Piper Heidsieck is the best value big name and bought on promotion should be sub-£30. Ayala was acquired by Bollinger over a decade ago and at £35 is a find. Lanson is another trusty purchase. A snip is Herbert Beaufort Grand Cru at Marks & Spencer& which is still £30, as it was two years ago.

Turkey and chicken dinners can accommodate a great variety of wines, both red and white. Pinot Noir is a gentle red as is Brouilly, a serious Beaujolais that can be purchased for under £20. Those who like big reds should try Marks and Spencer’s 2021 Barossa Shiraz, such value for £14.

Rioja remains mystifying cheap for such quality. A hint of vanilla creeps through lovely fruit. Ubiquitous but seek out Barón De Ley and Beronia Reserva. A bottle of the latter, £16, given as a Christmas present had the recipients out searching for more on Boxing Day (really). Our recommendation three years ago of Terre di Faiano Organic Primitivo brought some lovely comments. It is still at Waitrose and at a similar price, £10.99.

Our tip for affordable White Burgundy is the Waitrose Blueprint for £10.99 with some branches selling handy halves for £6.49. Aldi has just taken delivery of Greek Chardonnay for around £8. We have not yet tried it but are much impressed by their wine-buying nous so it should be good.

Happy shopping!