On the supermarket shelves
Last year the major supermarkets and Marks and Spencer all ran at various times in the approach to Christmas a “buy 6 get 25% discount” promotion. This is a splendid opportunity not to be missed. At the inexpensive end of the spectrum there are bargains to be had. Sainsburys’ own label Pinot Noir from Romania sounds like a joke but it is not – £4.50 and fine. The Froglet range at Marks embraces red, white and rose and at £6 are a safe bet; their £6.99 red Bordeaux Gillet is smashing. Aldi, a brand highly regarded in its German homeland, has an Italian red called Toscano for £4.09 that has a base note of Ribena and oozes berry flavours. In stock when you read this is French Chardonnay from Limoux that is of Burgundian quality but not price (about £6). Their own brand gin for less than a tenner came out very well in a Which? blind tasting up against bottles costing more than double. Unfortunately, we found their Champagne drab.
Moving up a notch La Vielle Ferme, red and white, is stocked by many chains at about £7.50. It comes from a noble pedigree, the Perrin boys, who make collectible and stupendous Beaucastel Chateauneuf. Utterly reliable.
We have said it before but Tesco own label Champagne is the best at the price (£19.99). Indeed, it went on deep discount last year and it is a great choice. Real class. Those who cannot face a supermarket label ought to consider Billecart Salmon, Lanson, Gosset and above all, Deutz, which was the loveliest glass at a special Harvey Nichols tasting. It is achingly fashionable to buy English fizz but the price is on a par with the real thing and we are not convinced.
For the festive table
As a treat white Burgundy is without equal. Something serious such as the Waitrose St.Aubin is worth splashing £19 on. 2009 was a fabled vintage for Bordeaux across the board and should not fail you; 2010 was also excellent. 2010 Chablis is remarkable. Serious red Rioja from 2004 and 2005 at say £20 is all vanilla and warmth and length and lovely. It is what the Regan enclave will drink on Christmas day. Even now 1994 and 1995 bottles surface and remain tremendous value.
For an exotic bottle try Hedonism in Mayfair which charges fair pieces despite the expensive location. Jeremy Lee manages the London Harvey Nichols and will give you honest advice as does his Manchester counterpart. If you want to put a cellar together or to have a brilliant tutored tasting then Hugues Lepin (Hugues@wine-source.com) is untouchable. He was head Sommelier at Ducasse in London and Monte Carlo. Again, he will supply wine for everyday life as well as 1945 Mouton.
Advice in print
Two useful pocket wine guide are available. The Oz Clarke 2014 handbook is thorough although Hugh Johnson is the biggest seller with his guide just out. By far the cheapest supplier of both is the Bookpeople; see the website. Finally, real maniacs should follow the Saturday FT where, in the run up to Christmas, Jancis Robinson MW recommends good buys, but be cautious as so often the stock is low and gone when you try to buy.
Wine Review: Top picks
This year’s recommendation for unbeatable wine to accompany the Christmas feast are a white Burgundy – 2009 and 2010 are some of the best vintages – followed by a 2004 or 2005 Rioja. You won’t be disappointed.
Sean Jones QC, 11 KBW, and Dominic Regan, City Law School