s Christmas approaches, I’ve sipped — with gusto — on a one-man mission to find the best wines to bring joy to your palate.
Drawing from over a dozen countries, this list of 25 should be plenty to see you through the season — you might even consider it an advent calendar of sorts. Happy Christmas.
Get the party popping
Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brut
Offering old world character with Brazilian soul, this enchanting, Lotus biscuit-scented, fuss-free Chardonnay draws on vineyards unravelling in Brazil’s Serra Gaucha’s Vale dos Vinhedos region, which has form back to the 1870s.
Chances are that Cloudy Bay’s still Sauvignon Blancs might have passed your lips in the past. From the same landscape of Marlborough comes a deft fizz, buoyant with mango aromas and easily evaporated at a social blast.
Christophe Lindenlaub En Liberté
This naturally-fermented grapefruit and yuzu-scented “Pét-Nat” Pinot Gris has such a-la-mode, funk-to-the-fore style, it might come as a surprise to learn it harks from a 200-year-old Alsace producer.
This Pinot Noir-pepped rosé (3) is the work of Londoners Mark Hill and Harry Cooke, who wanted to fashion the world’s most complex Prosecco using grapes from the Vento’s advantageous, iron-rich, Valle delle Volpi (Valley of the Foxes).
Frerejean Frères Blanc de Blancs
Frerejean Frères was established in 2005 by the three great-grandchildren of Pierre-Charles Taittinger, the founder of the famed Champagne house. This independent, standalone maison has won the hearts of the wine trade with opulent wines such as this apricot-scented Blanc de Blancs woven from cream of the crop Chardonnay.
Bottles for quaffing
Hortas do Caseirinho Frisante
While Portugal might not be foremost in your mind for fizz, this softly sparkling Frisante from the home of Vinho Verde is vibrant and uplifting enough to challenge many a Prosecco, particularly at the very friendly price point.
Selfridges Selection Bubbling Malbec Rosé
Offering a different perspective on a grape more often associated with bellowing chargrills, this characterful Argentinian sparkler (2) is a real talking point, evoking the pleasure of biting into a bright cherry.
Miguel Torres Estelado Rosé
One of Chile’s oldest grape varieties, País has been largely ousted by more fashionable international varieties in recent times, which is woeful given it can make crunchy, real fruit jelly-scented wines such as this indulgent bottle from the illustrious Torres dynasty (7).
Crémant Rosé Domaine Collin Cuvée Prestige
Legend holds that the monk Dom Pérignon learnt how to make sparkling wines at an abbey in Limoux, home of this Crémant, before applying his knowledge back in Champagne. This likeable, wild strawberry-scented rosé is made by Philippe Collin, the son of a Champenois vigneron.
Klein Constantia Cap Classique
From Klein Constantia, makers of the hallowed sweet wine Vin de Constance — said to be enjoyed by Tsars and Napoleon — comes a well-made lime and greengage-scented fizz punching well above its price.
What to drink on Christmas Day
Ceretto Moscato d’Asti ‘20
At a mere 5.5%, this is an appealing breakfast wine (6) with which to begin the day’s festivities. Gently effervescent, the ever-so-slightly-sweet Moscato evokes the dewy taste of just-picked, just-pressed, sun-kissed grapes.
A bottle with “sekt” appeal, which is how Germans describe sparkling wines from Das Land der Dichter und Denker – “the country of poets and thinkers” – and, I might add, drinkers. Made from the lesser-known Pinot Blanc grape as well as Chardonnay, this citrus and peach-scented fizz has more than enough freshness to dovetail with the smokiest of cured salmons.
Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve ‘11
Geese and turkey abound in Nova Scotia. Whether you opt for a multi bird orgy as your Christmas day roast, or prefer a loaf of nuts and lentils, this balanced, almond-scented wine will scythe through the richest of gravies and most pungent of sprouts. It has gained ebullience and complexity over a decade while keeping the freshness borne of its maritime origin.
Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz
From one of Australia’s oldest family run wineries comes an idiosyncratic, generously appointed, passionately sparkling inky red (8). Evoking a dark chocolate and vanilla fondant, this is one of the smoothest of Australian exports and could easily step in for Port alongside the bluest, most oozing of cheeses.
Exton Park RB28 Blanc de Noirs
Toast the peaks and troughs of Her Majesty’s speech with a tayberry-scented taste of England from Hampshire’s hills expertly interpreted by a colourful French winemaker. Crafted entirely from the clear juice of red grapes, expect a little raciness and tension, tension being something families brought together after a long hiatus may by now be experiencing at this point in the day.
While the name reads like an Irish numberplate, Bollinger pure Pinot Noir (PN) from the Verzenay (VZ) terroir, 2016 harvest is acutely impressive – mere descriptions don’t do justice to the complexity and harmony of this wine.
Billecart-Salmon Coffret Carafe Brut Sous Bois
Unusually entirely vinified in wood, the handsome Brut Sous Bois is one of the boldest styles from Champagne, which flourishes when it meets oxygen, hence the beautifully made accompanying carafe. Pour the wine gently in to tease forth the notes of creme patisserie and cigar box.
Dom Perignon x Lady Gaga Limited Edition 2010
Another limited edition, mesmerisingly adorned by two of the world’s most inventive personalities: Lady Gaga and fashion director and editor, Nicola Formichetti. The 2010 vintage of Dom Pérignon offers melon, orange zest and just a hint of struck match.
Leclerc Briant Abyss Brut Zero ‘15
Aged in the cool, dark waters below Brittany’s Bay of Stiff for a year, this fleshy, pomelo, plum and pineapple-scented Champagne bears only a slightly hint of salt. It is organic, biodynamic and “bioenergetic”, according to its soulful maker, Hervé Jestin, who refuses to let journalists near his barrels for fear their negative energy might impact the liquid within.
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame x Yayoi Kusama 2012
This edition of the often admired Veuve (4) is adorned with the signature polka dot motif of Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. The contents too are bewitching and beguiling, ranging from jasmine to frangipane.
Save it for New Year’s Eve
José Pizarro Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2016
The chef-restaurateur known as the UK’s Godfather of Spanish cooking loves wine, hence his pilgrimages to the Feria de Jerez. Available via his restaurant mini empire and online, Pizarro’s selection is a well-aged, slightly woody Cava with no added sugar and comes from 140-year-old producer, Gramona. Say sí.
Domaine Carneros Brut 2016
In another nod to the Taittinger family, Domaine Carneros is the embodiment of Claude Taittinger’s dream to make world-class sparkling wines in California’s cooler Carneros. Built in 1987, the estate features a cellar door inspired by the Louis Quinze Château de la Marquetterie, Tattinger’s home.
Domaine Giachino Don Giachino Mousseux 2018
Hope spreads from strife: this organic vineyard high in the Chartreuse Hills of France’s Savoie is planted on the site of a landslide which wiped out several villages back in 1248. Featuring local hero grapes, Jacquere and Mondeuse, this is a delicious, floral, buttery aperitif.
Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Edizione 43
The region of Franciacorta in Lombardy provides the sparkling wines served to the glitterati at Milan Fashion week. This example (5) from Ca’ del Bosco represents the art-rich estate’s forty-third interpretation of their multi-vintage label, drawing on no fewer than 189 vineyard plots over three different vintages. Assured and charmingly tailored.
From a sustainably certified single vineyard estate just north of Henley comes a particularly juicy new English rosé which celebrates its vegan credentials. Drolly depicting the deer which hungrily look onto the vines, the award-winning label is by founder, Amy Duckett, who studied at London College of Fashion.