FOOD & DRINK: Let's raise a glass to the festive season

WE’RE heading for Christmas so here are a few good wines you may not have tried, from light whites to big reds, to set you up for the winter.

If you like crisp whites, try one of these two Greek Assyrticos:

Atlantis Santorini 2017, Matthew Argyros 13pc (£12 M&S) Made from 90pc Assyrtiko, 5pc Aidani and 5pc Athiri grown in the island’s volcanic soil, this is a bright, crisp and citrusy dry white with zingy aromas of lime blossom and honeyed gooseberry flavours. Great drinking anytime.

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Lyriakis ‘voila’ Assyrtiko 2018 Crete, Greece 13.5pc (Majestic £11.99, £9.99 mixed 6) Bone dry and extremely fresh. A spritzy, minerally white with herbal, apple and citrus notes.

Another lovely Greek white is:

Lafazanis Geometria Malagouzia 2018 12pc (The Wine Society £10.95) With a lime and green apple nose, saline palate. Lovely on its own or with a salad for a change after the turkey.

If you’re into Pinot Grigio try:

Secret Cellars Pinot Grigio 2018, Western Cape, South Africa 12.5pc (Waitrose £7.79) A crisp floral nose, palate of white peach and fresh tropical fruit. Goes well with chicken, seafood and even desserts. With or without food, Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape variety.

All Weather Chenin Blanc 2018, Ken Forrester, Coastal Region, South Africa 12.5pc (Sainsbury £9) really is an all weather wine. Serve ice cold in summer, less so in winter with soups, fish or chicken dishes. Impressive, elegant, dry crisp white with subtle flavours of dried apricot, ripe pear and hints of honey.

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Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2018 Coastal Region, South Africa (Waitrose £8.99, Morrisons £8) Fresh and crisp, tropical fruit. Would go well with spicy seafood, roast pork or poultry. Sainsburys Taste the Difference Vouvray 2018, Pierre Chenier (£8) This Vouvray, from the Loire Valley in France, is another Chenin Blanc but off dry, juicy peach and apricot with notes of honey and minerality. Perfect with spicy Thai dishes.

Or try a New World Riesling:

Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2018, South Australia 11pc (Tesco £10) A lovely example of New World Riesling. Plenty of floral and citrus aromas of grapefruit, lime and lemon. The palate has oodles of bright, fresh citrus flavours, tangy minerality and refreshing acidity.

Chardonnay goes well with turkey. From France:

Mâcon-Lugny 2017 Louis Latour 13pc (Majestic £13.99, £11.99 mixed 6) Aromas of fresh apples, lemon curd and toasted citrus fruits and palate of fresh and crisp green apple acidity, buttery and peachy fruit and a long, warming finish. Good on its own as an afternoon apéritif or with poultry, pork or salmon.


Chateau Souverain Chardonnay 2014 (£9.50 Sainsburys, £10.99 Waitrose; Comes from the cool coastal vineyards of northern California; plenty of body, with cream brulée and toasty notes and some lighter orchard fruits and lemon flavours.

Staying in California, try:

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McManis Estate Viognier 2017 13.5pc (£11.50 The Wine Society) Ripe, aromatic, peach and apricot, stone fruit palate.

Now for the reds, starting with three easy reds from Portugal’s Lisboa and Douro regions, now an ‘in’ region at the moment:

Gloria, Vicente Faria, Portugal (Aldi £7.29) From vineyards in the Douro Valley and Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes. The result is a gorgeous wine, aged in oak barrels, with delicate, complex and persistent aromas.

Taste the Difference Lisboa 2017, Portugal, Casa Santos Lima 13.5pc (Sainsbury £6.50) Made from Touriga Nacional, Castelao, Tinta Roriz and Syrah, this has red and black fruit notes and spicy depth. Aged in French and American oak barrels for 12 months. Good with red meats and pasta dishes.

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Porta 6, Vidigal 2017, Lisboa , Portugal 13.5pc (Majestic £8.99. £7.99 mixed 6) Lovely, soft, ripe, forest fruits from a blend of 50pc Tinta Roriz, 40pc Castelão and 10pc Touriga Nacional. A savoury finish with a liquorice note, sweet spices and a touch of menthol.

Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty versatile and can go with many different meat dishes. Try:

Lost Angel Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Sonoma, California 13.5pc (Lightfoot Wines £12.60) Easy, black cherry and tea leaf on the nose, blackberry and anise palate.

On to Spain where Navarra borders Rioja and is producing some excellent wines:

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Sierra de Andia, Navarra 2017 Bodega Manzanos 13.5pc (Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference £7) is a mix of Garnacha, Graciano and Tempranillo. Bright and juicy, blackcurrant and blueberry, ideal with roast lamb.

On to Italy:

Foresco Umbria, Barberani 2017 13.5pc (The Wine Society £10.50) A blend of 80pc Sangiovese, 10pc Merlot and 10pc Cabernet, this is a lovely warm and mellow red. Ideal Christmas drinking.

Saint Clair Syrah, Hawkes Bay,New Zealand 12.5pc (Waitrose £12.99) From Gimblett Gravels, famous for its fine Syrahs. Lovely floral nose, peppery but elegant bramble fruit, fine tannins. Great with roast duck, turkey and lamb dishes.

Now to a few big boys to keep you warm this new year and all winter:

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Guenoc Petite Sirah 2015, Langtry Estate, Middletown, Lake County,California 13.5pc (£13.95 Lightfoot Wines, Wenworth) A fullbodied and rich red wine that boasts fruit-forward flavours of blueberry, red raspberry, and blackberry, velvety tannins and oak notes round out the palate, plus a long finish of bright berry fruits and cocoa. Pair this wine with a juicy grilled burger, or spicy Italian sausage (PS If I haven’t got there first!)

Signargues Cotes du Rhone Villages 2018 14.5pc (£6.99 Aldi) Attractive fruity aromas of raspberry and blackberry with spicy notes and a long finish. A classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan, this wine will be a great partner to steak or casseroles. Vinsobres 2017 Cellier des Dauphins, Cru des Cotes du Rhone (Asda £8) Full of summer fruits, rich, and spicy. Good on its own or with rich foods.

Co-op Irresistible Australian Shiraz, Mount Benson (Coop £7) From the Limestone Coast in South Australia, this Shiraz has a rich nose of ripe blueberries and blackcurrants and delicate notes of mocha. A palate of soft tannins, cassis, spice and vanilla makes this the perfect accompaniment to roast lamb or sirloin steak.

If you want a quirky looking bottle try:

Odd Lot 2017, Odd Lot Wine Company, Greenfield, Monterey County, California (Aldi £9.99) A blend of 80pc Petite Sirah and 20pc Petite Verdot this is a rich, round, juicy red. The palate is full bodied, with soft tannins and a finish of black fruit. Good on its own or try it with beef or lamb.

Lastly, a wine I am rarely without:

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Wirra Wirra Church Block 2017, McLaren Vale, South Australia 14.5pc (The Wine Society £12.50, Waitrose £13.49, The Coop £10.50) A big, full bodied blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot with red and black fruit and black pepper flavours. Should last at least 10 years. I usually decant this wine.

Why is it that I rarely drink Port throughout the year but as Christmas approaches it is the first wine I think of? Cosy and warming, my favourite of the ports I can afford is ten-year-old Tawny, usually around £20 or so a bottle. I love Taylor’s ten-year-old tawny (Waitrose £22.49) with its caramelised fruit flavours and nutty but Aldi have Maynards ten-yearold Tawny (£10.99). A pleasant mix of spice , sweet figs and dried fruit, and a genuine bargain when most tawny ports of this age cost twice the price.

Finally to go with awkward nibbles before a meal such as salted peanuts, why not try a glass of Fino or Amontillado sherry?

Gonzalez Bias Tio Pepe Fino 15pc (widely available around £10-£11) is a good one to try. I was impressed at a recent tasting with Tio Pepe Fino En Rama, 2019 bottling (The Wine Society £14.95, Waitrose £14.99). En Rama means raw. The wine is bottled each spring, unfiltered and unclarified. Deeper in colour, smooth, soft, amazingly complex. Drink within months.

Have a happy Christmas and New Year.