As tax and duty increase from year to year, it gets more challenging to find reasonably priced bottles that actually taste good. So, although it sounds like we’re heading for a bleak mid-winter, worry not. Here are some delicious, great value tipples to help keep you feeling festive.
As usual at this time of year Majestic has lots of recognizable names on offer – particularly if you’re buying six-plus bottles. Nicolas Feuillatte NV (£18.99 mix six/£24.99 per bottle) is always a sold choice and, for vintage, multi-prizewinner Heidsieck and Co 2010 Gold Top comes in at a bargain £23.99 (for mix six) and £28.99 (per bottle). Mind you, I’d also be happy to load the boot with stylish L’Extra par Langlois Brut Crémant de Loire for £10.99 (mix six or £13.99 per bottle).
From neighbouring Enfield there’s Forty Hall Brut. This beautifully made elegant fizz makes a great talking point.
A standout wine at Waitrose this year is the crisp, zesty white Cuvée Pecheur Blanc (£5.49) from southwest France is a steal and ideal for parties coming in at only 11.5 percent proof. It would also work well with simple fish or seafood starters or as a palate cleanser with cheese.
Animus Douro 2017 (Aldi £4.99) is a red from the port-producing region and a whole lot of wine for the price – bright ripe, spicy fruit, fresh and appetizing. It’s an ideal go-to red for all types of winter food and would even work brilliantly with the main event on the 25th. Not surprisingly, it’s won some leading awards. Aldi also stocks another excellent value Portuguese red – Dao Reserva 2015 (£7.99) which does a similar job but is more mature, rich and warming.
While you’re there, look out for Maynards 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Aldi £10.99). This deliciously mellow complex port would be fabulous sipped with your Christmas pud and you could spend the rest of the day polishing it off, picking at the cheeseboard.
We’ve been focusing on Aldi’s excellent range as a new branch has just opened in East Barnet. Aldi is well-deserved Supermarket of the Year in the International Wine Challenge (where I’ve been a judge since the mid 1990s).
Alternatively have a browse and taste at Stonewines in Whetstone where Riaz will talk you through the range. Highlights always include Spain, Chile, New Zealand (esp the beautiful Seresin Sauvignon I tasted recently at their Neerali’s Kitchen pop-up), small batch spirits like Sacred Gin from Highgate, craft brews and on-trend vermouths.
Finally, you can always make your own. We’re particular fans of orange shrub made simply with brandy infused with orange zest and nutmeg and home-made Bailey’s style coffee liqueur couldn’t be easier. And they make great gifts, obviously.
Wishing you the very best of the season!