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Christmas 2017


Thing is, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Now don’t go blaming us for that. We’re definitely not the first to move on this: the Christmas lights go on across Perthshire tomorrow evening and those cuddly adverts from the UK’s big retailers are interrupting our viewing schedules already.

Whatever you make of Christmas and the New Year, we know you enjoy your Christmas wines. Many of our customers know exactly what they want and their orders are, we note, starting to arrive already. For those that would like a little guidance or recommendation, we’ve created our Christmas list below. And great fun it has been too: a sort of Desert Island Wines of all of: our favourites, your favourites, our big-sellers of 2017 and (some of) the big tips from Decanter. Many, of course, are all of these.

We’ve created a list of 32 of our best, from across the world, grape types, wine styles and prices. We’d be pretty disappointed if there wasn’t something here for just-about everyone. You’ll find, on each of the product pages, a suggestion or two of what else we recommend from the same producer, style or grape.

Now, a wee word for those looking for

- discount codes or

- flashing banners advertising special deals with outrageous percentages off all our Christmas range.

You’ll not find these. It’s just not what we do. That’s not because we don’t want you to have these wines at the best prices in the UK (because, to be clear, that’s what you’re getting). It’s just that we decide to make our best discounts, all the time, right from the off. Our non-Scottish customers may not know that drinks legislation here – much a talking point this week – prevents us from discounting on the basis of volumes sold. So, not for us the “10% off a case”, BOGOFs, free bottles etc. Instead, shaped by this, we chose to be(come) the UK-best-priced on many of the world’s best wines – especially in the £10-to-£30 range – and you can see that below. We can only apologise to those who would like even greater discounts. We just can’t take any more off and still feed our families and pets this Christmas. Even we Scottish wine merchants have to “pick a pocket or two”.

Many are available for next-day delivery (do check the individual product pages for stock and availability), and even the hardest-to-obtain won’t take any more than 10 days to be with you (we do suggest early ordering and/or checking with us, if unsure). Most orders will be with you inside a week. Although we will probably be able to supply most wines until later, the cut-off date for products to be guaranteed (ie we can get exactly what you want) is 9am on the Friday 15th December. Last orders for posting out, even of overnight items, must be with us by noon on Thursday 21st December.

We hope you enjoy our suggestions. Of course, there’s another 3,000 wines you can choose beyond these, using the filters and Decanter recommendations as you will. Evelyn and Mark are right here to recommend further on communications@exelwines.co.uk.

It feels a little early to say it, but have a great Christmas. With some great wines, obviously. 

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Pierre Bertrand Brut Premier Cru Champagne NV(1x75cl)

Awarded 98 points and ultra-rare Exceptional status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their July 2017 edition review of Grower Champagne (see blue links below).

Champagne Pierre Bertrand Brut Premier Cru NV - July 2017 Decanter review

Decanter review - individual reviewers' comments

It's on our Christmas List because.... it's been our biggest-seller of 2017: all wines, all categories. Simple as that. It's a Champagne of a quality twice its price. Decanter, as you can see, went mad for it. We've laid in big stocks and are ready for you.

This is quite some Champagne and remarkable for the price. The varietal mix is equal thirds of the classic trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Grapes are grown only on vineyards of Premier Cru villages (you'd easily clear £30 a bottle for this privilege normally) on the Coteaux de Cumières and Hautvillers in the Marne Valley, yielding great intensity and concentration. 

One expects exhilarating acidity and and citrus zing in almost any Champagne - this does these in spades - but what makes it really stand out are both the ripeness of fruit flavours and the delicate florality of the nose. Pierre Bertrand see that fruitiness as “damson and pear” while we at Exel thought more “peach and nectarine”; either way, this is one seriously fruity mouthful. Florally, the makers go with “hawthorn flower” and we are not botanically inclined to disagree. At 7g/l of dosage/residual sugar, this is a drier Brut, but the fruit ripeness adds an exciting extra sensation of sweetness. Finally, Pierre Bertrand are rightly proud of their mousse onctueuse – smooth mousse – and we concur: it makes for a truly delicious Champagne experience.


Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Quartese DOCG (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because.... this is a seriously classy, high-quality Prosecco at a tremendous price. It's a Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, and most definitely not your average supermarket tat. If Champagne is not for you, this is a Prosecco you can serve with pride, while die-hard Prosecco fans will love the extra flavour.

See here for a review of the Quartese and a mention of the differences of higher-quality Prosecco.

Ruggeri, established by Giustino Bisol in 1950, is now run by his son, Paolo, and grandchildren Giustino and Isabella. This winery’s collection of Proseccos – many bottled as top-quality Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG – are among the finest to be found in the region.

And don’t be misled: Ruggeri may only have been established in 1950 (and it moved to its current home in Valdobbiadene as recently as the early 1990s), but this is a family synonymous with the history of the region. The place name ‘Case Bisoi’ – houses of the Bisols – is found on the area’s oldest maps, and the family has been cultivating grapes here for centuries.

This Prosecco is slightly greenish, brilliant and streaked with a persistent perlage of minute bubbles. The bouquet is fruity and intense, yet elegant. Clear scents of golden apples come through a floral background. It is dry wine, fresh and lean, soft and rounded, with good length and pleasantly fruity finish.

Traditionally served as an aperitif, this Brut Prosecco is also ideal with fish and shellfish.


Grange Des Rocs Picpoul de Pinet 2016 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because.... Picpoul remains all rage and it's a firm hit at the restarants we supply across Perthshire. At not even £9, it's tremendous value and a must with any Christmas shellfish. Budget-conscous shellfish fans will also enjoy the Chateau de Coing Muscadet listed below.

Picpoul is an ancient white-wine grape variety of the traditional and prolific Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in southern France. The name Pique-poul translates literally as "stings the lip", and is a reference to the grape's mouthwateringly high acidity.

The Grange des Rocs range is produced from vineyards located along the Mediterranean coast of southern France. Low yields and a ruthless approach to quality control means that behind the label lie some of the best value wines in the Languedoc. They use a cultivation method know as lutte raisonee which means that while they follow many of the principles followed by organic growers they do not wish to be bound by all the restrictions that this can bring.

The grapes for this wine are harvested by hand. Fermentation takes place over 12 - 15 days using a temperature controlled environment in stainless steel vats using carefully selected yeasts. It is then left on its fine lees for 8 months before filtration and fining take place prior to bottling.  While sulphur is used during the bottling process it is not used during the winemaking process.

This wine has a light delicate fragrance with floral and fruit aromas as well as a hint of minerality. It is a dry wine which has light and subtle flavours and is best served with seafood and fish or is perfect as an aperitif.

This wine is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans as it was fined using bentonite.


Umani Ronchi Pecorino Golden Fleece 2016 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because... it's been one of our surprise hits of 2017. We sold some off cheaply, and everyone went mad for it. Everyone who tried it has loved it: we never expected that. It's almost everything in a glass for a tenner... acidity, body, huge bouquet, intensity, you name it.

The Umani Ronchi story is one of ancient vines, land and people. Seasons waxing and waning. Harvests changing. Wines coming into being. Today Umani Ronchi is the wine estate owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti family, who since 1959 have been making superb-quality crafted wines. All of their vineyards are farmed organically.

The name of Pecorino grape variety, also known as “grape of the sheep”, derives from the strong connection between sheep farming and agriculture.

After a light pressing, the must is rapidly cooled and then goes through static decantation. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 16-18°C for about 10/15 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine rests in stainless steel tanks for about 4 months, in contact with its own yeasts.

Bright straw yellow in colour, it presents intense aromas of fruit and flowers to the nose, with very clear mineral notes that are intense and persistent. On the palate it shows a good structure and a pleasant freshness, with ripe fruit and zesty hints.

This wine''s fresh acidity makes it perfect on its own. However, the freshness of structure is also the perfect arena for fish, salads, soft cheeses and - yes - even Pecorino...

The Umani Ronchi story is one of ancient vines, land and people. Seasons waxing and waning. Harvests changing. Wines coming into being. Today Umani Ronchi is the wine estate owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti family, who since 1959 have been making superb-quality crafted wines. All of their vineyards are farmed organically.

The name of Pecorino grape variety, also known as “grape of the sheep”, derives from the strong connection between sheep farming and agriculture.

After a light pressing, the must is rapidly cooled and then goes through static decantation. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 16-18°C for about 10/15 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine rests in stainless steel tanks for about 4 months, in contact with its own yeasts.

Bright straw yellow in colour, it presents intense aromas of fruit and flowers to the nose, with very clear mineral notes that are intense and persistent. On the palate it shows a good structure and a pleasant freshness, with ripe fruit and zesty hints.

This wine's fresh acidity makes it perfect on its own. However, the freshness of structure is also the perfect arena for fish, salads, soft cheeses and - yes - even Pecorino...


Paul Jaboulet-Aine Cotes du Rhone Blanc Secret de Famille 2015 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas list because... there's an increasing market insistence on single-varietal white wines: finding a blend these days can be tricky. Obviously, we 'get' the whole notion of definition and purity... that's what's driving the single-varietal fascination. But some blends are excellent, and this Côtes du Rhone exemplifies that, especially at a price tag of £11. What's more, this is from Jaboulet, one of the truly great names of the Rhone and France overall. There are few opportunities to 'pick up a Jaboulet' at this price, we can tell you. It's got serious body and yet has all the attributes one typically expects from lighter wines - aroma, acidity, 'zing' and refreshment. There are few whites that do, but this really goes with everything. Jaboulet's two white Crozes Hermitage(s) - the Les Jalets and the famous Mule Blanche - are both excellent and are available to buy below.

The Côtes du Rhône area of France is more readily associated with red wines but this is a lovely example of the white wines it can offer. This wine is made from a blend of white local grape varieties including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Viognier. An elegant wine, it has floral aromas and flavours of citrus and peach. The Secret de Famille Blanc has a bright yellow colour, with lively pear, spice, white flower and stone fruit aromas on the nose, and fine citrus acidity on the palate to match itsfull, fruity character. The 2015 is medium-to-full-bodied, with a long refreshing sherbet and pear finish.

NB: fans of Jaboulet's Parallele 45 white may like to note that this is exactly the same wine under a different (off-trade) label: the same is true of the Parallele 45/Secret de Famille red CdR.


Pagos del Rey Pulpo Albarino Rías Baixas 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2017 edition review of 'Weekday Wines' (under £25) (see blue link below). We appreciate it is subjective, but we judge the current 2016 vintage (2015 has sold out!) to be of equal quality and drinkability!

Pagos del Rey, Pulpo Albarino Rias Baixas 2015 - June 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because... it's a Decanter-rated Albariño at a great price (for what is a pricey and trendy grape variety). We've yet to find a Rias Baixas of this quality at this price. For a bit more body in an Albariño, try the classic Martin Codax numbers (see below): the sobre lias (lees contact) version is unusual and very hard to find.

Pagos del Rey was started in 2002 with the aim of making quality wines in the most prestigious wine making regions in Spain, with wines with their own personality. The company has wineries in Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Rueda and Toro. All of them have a modern design that combines tradition and innovation and the latest technology in wine making.

Made from Albariño grapes grown in the Salnés Valley region of Rías Baixas, located close to the town of Cambados. Here, on undulating hills, the vineyards are planted on rocky and alluvial soils; they benefit from cooling influence of the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

Unoaked, the wine is a bright, pale lemon colour with hints of apple green. Aromas of white flowers, hints of peach and apricot lead to a fresh, fruity palate; it has a lovely intensity and an almost saline minerality.

This wine is perfect with seafood, grilled octopus (pulpo in Spanish), and other dishes based on seafood, oysters or mussels.


Costa & Pampa Chardonnay,Trapiche 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2017 edition review of Argentinian whites (see blue link below).

Trapiche Costa & Pampa Chardonnay 2016 - October 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because... it's a beautiful New World Chardonnay from an unexpected nation (albeit from a famous producer there). Decanter loved it, and it has the stamp of a wine twice its value. At similar price points, we have so many great New World Chardonnays. We'd draw you towards other New World Chardonnays from California (the De Loach Heritage and the delicious Morning Fog (see below). The two Decanter-hit Chardonnays from South Africa's Thelema are also wonderful. The Costa & Pampa Pinot Noir is also worthy of your time and/or turkey.

The history of Trapiche begins in 1883, in a small vineyard called El Trapiche, in the district of Godoy Cruz, Mendoza, where the grapes for the first fine wines were grown. With more than 130 years of experience, Trapiche has earned its place as a pioneering winery in the introduction of French vines, the production of varietal wines, the import of French oak barrels and the use of stainless steel tanks. True to its origins, today Trapiche is in a continuous quest for the latest best practices. Led by Daniel Pi, Director of Winemaking, Trapiche's winemaking team permanently strives to improve winemaking practices by exchanging experience and knowledge with winemakers from other wine producing countries such as France, the US, Australia and New Zealand

The grapes are hand harvested in the early hours of the morning, when the sea breeze still rests on the berries. The fruit is carefully selected from the vines that produce highly-concentrated grapes. The juice undergoes cold skin maceration for 24 hours followed by pneumatic pressing. Ageing takes place in French oak barrels for 7 months, achieving a more complex aromatic profile. The wine is clarified, stabilised, filtered and bottled.

An elegant wine, lemon in colour with slight greenish tones. It has notes of green apples, pear, citrus fruits and hints of nuts & broiche. Delicate on the palate with marked minerality and a long, delicious finish.


Domaine Louis Latour Chardonnay Grand Ardeche 2014 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because.... it's from a Burgundy producer of great fame and does everything that a fine, rich white Burgundy does without the cost. It's wonderfully rich and creamy: a "mock Mersault", if you will. If only a real white Burgundy will cut it for you, we suggest the excellent-value Rully from Ponsot or the Santenays from Antoine Olivier (see below). If super-value, pseudo-Burgundy is your thing, you can't go far wrong with the Les Mougeottes.

Maison Louis Latour is one of the most innovative producers in Burgundy whilst maintaining its traditional image. In 1979, with a view to expanding the business, the valley of the Ardèche river with its clay and limestone-based soils was chosen as the ideal location to produce top-quality Chardonnay wines.

The Grand Ardèche comes from the best vineyards, carefully selected every year when harvesting begins. The grapes are pressed and the must is placed immediately in oak barrels made by the cooperage at Latour, where the wine will age for approximately 10 months, like the great wines of Burgundy.

The Grand Ardeche is made traditionally in oak barrels and undergoes complete malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 8 to 10 months in oak barrels (20% new) which are from the Louis Latour cooperage, made of French oak and are medium toasted.

All the flavour and almost all the complexity of a Meursault for a third of the price! Oak-aged for 10 months, the wine has a clear, golden-yellow colour and a powerful, elegant bouquet of vanilla, exotic fruits, honey and subtle spices. Wonderfully rounded and fleshy on the palate, it displays honey and gingerbread flavours that persist in the mouth.



Pieropan Soave Classico 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2017 edition review of Soave (see blue link below).

Pieropan Soave Classico 2016 - May 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because... we know that Soave is not in fashion. And that's mainly because the world is awash with bad Soave. Good Soave is hard to find and hugely worthwhile when you find it. Nobody should be surprised that Pieroapan lie behind many of the very best Soaves and this, their workhorse, is delightful. with all the tightness and freshness that good Soave should have. At the price, it's terrific. Those who already know about it, or might be tempted to experiment, should definitely try Pieropan's luxury Soave, the La Rocca (shown below) - never again, after these, will you sniff at Soave....

Pieropan's estate covers 46 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, now work with him running the estate. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.

The soil is clay-basalt and volcanic in origin. Yields are low and the vines south facing. The fruit come from hillside vineyards (100- 300 m above sea level) in the heart of the Soave classico area. They grapes of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (no relation to its prolific Tuscan namesake) are grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals.

The 2016 season saw many similarities to 2015, with a cooler winter and abundant rainfall. The beginning of the vegetative cycle saw alternate dry and rainy periods, which allowed the plants to develop perfectly. The hot and dry summer that followed led to an abundant harvest of high quality grapes.

Grapes of Trebbiano di Soave are hand-picked starting from midSeptember while the Garganega grapes are picked later in October. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed with the free run juice fermented separately between 14-18°C in glass-lined cement tanks. The wine remains in glass-lined cement tanks on the fine lees for a period which varies according to the vintage. In the spring following the harvest the wine is bottled and then released after at least a further month in bottle.

A fresh and expressive Soave, with classic white flower, almond blossom and a touch of citrus. Rounded, ripe fruit is perfectly balanced by a fresh, clean acidity. Long and fragrant, it has a note of fine, almond pastry on the finish.


Auntsfield Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (1x75cl)

The previous 2016 vintage was awarded 98 points and ultra-rare Exceptional status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their August 2017 edition review of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (see blue links below). It has been one of our biggest sellers of 2017.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard SB 2016 - August 2017 Decanter review

Decanter review - individual reviewer comments

The big question is: is the new 2017 be as good as the 2016? We think so, but see also the link below for the word from Auntsfield themselves...

Auntsfield Single Vineyard SB 2017 - vintage release from Auntsfield - September 2017

... and the first word from the New Zealand reviewers...

Auntsfield Single Vineyard SB 2017 - Raymond Chan of NZ review - September 2017

It's on our Christmas list because... it's probaby the best NZ Sauvi Blanc we've tasted. Nothing else comes close for power and intensity. We've sold 1,000+ this year and there no signs of that stopping, for good reason. The Tinpot Hut scored the same 98 points with Decanter and is also superb, see our comparison here

A true cracker of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that simply bursts with both quality and flavour. 

Marlborough is famous for its two main river valleys, the Wairau and the Awatere, from where many of its great names hail. The Auntsfield plots lie directly between the two, in what is are known as the Southern Valleys. This is a sub-region where the climate is cooler and drier. With its mix of high-mineral Greywacke rock and old, low-fertility Loess clay soils, the Southern Valleys is regarded for its riper styles of wine with more structure, texture and minerality. The Auntsfield vineyard covers 65 hectares and is planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. 

This, the Single Vineyard SB, lies some way above Auntsfield's entry level and is made only from grapes grown on the main Estate. The style is aimed towards texture, complexity and length, balancing the typical Marlborough fruit spectrum and aromatics with richness and mouth feel. Unusually for an NZSB, although the majority of the wine was cool-fermented in stainless steel (standard), this was balanced by a portion of the fruit being subject to traditional winemaking practices: handpicked, whole-bunch-pressed and fermented in seasoned oak barrels, which very materially adds texture, body and length to the wine. 

On the nose, it has powerful aromas of fresh passionfruit, ripe citrus and lime, with lesser notes of dried herbs, lemongrass, jalapeno and blackcurrant. It's no exaggeration to say that we at Exel reckon this is one of the most deliciously aromatic NZSBs we have yet encountered.

On the palate, the Auntsfield is truly powerful and yet retains its elegance: it displays intense ripe fruit flavours of passionfruit and white peach, again with citrus notes of lime and mandarin. Minerality is a term all-too-often banded about in these tasting notes, yet there is a decided wet-stone twang here. Overally, the palate has intense concentration and generous weight, balanced by an underlying minerality and tight structure. All of which is to say: "glorious".


Urlar Organic Pinot Gris 2014 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because... it's a great example of a New World Pinot Gris, with oodles of flavour, from an ex-Perthshire acquaintance of ours. That, and because we struggled to put a Pinot Grigio on the list. For more Pinot Gris fun, we've the classic Reserve from Trimbach in Alsace, Tinpot Hut's excellent Marlborough version and Quealy's 94-pointer from Victoria (see below).

If farming is in the blood of ex-pat Scot Angus Thomson – he represents the fifth generation of Thomsons to work the land – then so too are wines and spirits. Both grandfathers were in the whisky business, but Angus broke new ground when he, along with wife Davina and their young family, sold the farm in Forres and started a new life in NZ. More than a decade later, the Thomsons have a 31-hectare vineyard at Gladstone, Wairarapa, on the southern coast of North Island, and a range of organic wines showing beautiful varietal expression. The guiding philosophy here is sustainability, in both the environmental and the economic sense, following organic and biodynamic principles in the vineyard. Aptly so, given that ‘Urlar’ means ‘the earth’ in Gaelic. There’s a reminder of home, too, in the herd of Highland cattle grazing the estate. These animals provide the manure for the Thomsons’ biodynamic Preparation 500 compost – and a link to Angus’ farming heritage. 

To preserve the delicate aromatics and fruit character of Pinot Gris, the grapes were hand-harvested in the cool of the early morning. Pressing was whole-bunch, with only the free-run juice and lightest of pressings used to minimise unattractive phenolics. Traditional 100% barrel fermentation in old French oak was employed, with extended lees contact and lees stirring to give the wine''s mid-palate weight, texture and complexity. After a period of 12 months in barrel, the wine was fined using natural products and carefully filtered for bottling.

An opulent dry-styled wine with aromas of sweet pear, honeysuckle and stonefruit overlaying a generous mouth feel of great weight and depth. The creamy texture on the palate from the lees stirring provides the backbone to a long and lingering finish. An elegant wine with a beautiful balance that will reward cellaring up to five years.


Skillogalee Riesling 2016 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas list because... it showed so well - and proved so popular - at our Skillogalee tasting. Dry, taut, intense... it's as good an Australian Riesling as we've found, doubly so at the price. Their Gewurztraminer (see below) proved to be every bit as good and arguably even more popular. 

When Dave and Diana Palmer left the UK, it was supposed to be a three-year stint in Papua New Guinea, where Dave had found a job. Six years later, work took them to Canberra until, three years further on, Dave resigned to set up his own business. By this point, Skillogalee had already entered their lives, mainly because they’d drunk plenty of it with the eldest son of the owners, and sold it at a festival. Then they heard that the winery was up for sale…so naturally they sold the house and the sports car, packed up the kids and the cat, and moved to South Australia.

What drew them to this small corner of the Clare Valley? Beyond the wines, it was possibly the mature, established vineyards, beautifully contoured and equipped to produce everything from aromatic Riesling and Gewürztraminer to full-flavoured Cabernet and Shiraz, plus lusciously sweet liqueur Muscat. But they were following in earlier English footsteps too. Skillogalee was given its name by Lancashire-born explorer John Horrocks after a troubled expedition into the Flinders Ranges when skillogalee – a Celtic name for a thin gruel – was all they had left to eat. Meanwhile, Trevarrick – Skillogalee’s finest Riesling – comes from the property’s original name, Trevarrick Farm, given to it in 1851 by Cornish miner John Trestrail – who built the stone cottage which still serves as Skillogalee’s cellar door.

The grapes for this dry Riesling were grown on low-yielding vines, on the highest slopes of the Skillogalee estate (about 500 metres above sea level). The family-owned vineyard is managed in accordance with sustainable farming practices. Despite it being a relatively dry and warm growing season, Riesling was again one of the highlights of the 2016 Clare Valley vintage.

The fruit was processed in a number of individual parcels, with each contour/block of vines picked as it reached its optimum ripeness and flavour. Each parcel was then fermented separately, allowing us to vary winemaking and processing techniques to suit the individual characteristics of each, and giving us the opportunity to enhance individual highlights, before blending immediately prior to bottling.

The wine is straw like in appearance, with a green tinge. The nose has a perfumed lift of white flowers, lime blossom and musk. The palate is full-flavoured with pronounced fruit weight and texture. Flavours of Tahitian lime zest and pith prevail, with hints of citrus spice and succulent, juicy acidity emerging thereafter. Structurally, this wine has impressive length, a lively natural acid backbone and a mouth-wateringly powerful finish.

Drink now with fish, seafood or white meat dishes, or cellar for up to 10 years.


Tinpot Hut McKee Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2015 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because... it's properly unusual and exciting. Austrian Gruner Veltliner isn't to everyone's liking, but this New World/NZ spin on it - from the ever-excellent team at Tinpot Hut in Marlborough - is wonderful: big and intense. Mark rates it as one of his his Three Favourite Whites of 2017. Yealands' take on Gruner (see below) is another version to try.

Tinpot Hut wines are made primarily from fruit grown on winemaker Fiona Turner's vineyard in Blind River. Fiona, who has worked with Matt Thomson for a number of years, supplements her own grapes with fruit from other growers in Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The tinpot hut that gave its name to Fiona's wines is an old mustering hut in the remote hills between the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. The huts were used as a base for musterers as they rounded up the sheep that had been in the hills from spring to autumn. The name links Marlborough's past as a sheep farming centre with its current state as one of the world's most dynamic wine regions. 

The 2015 growing season was characterised by a dry spring and summer. Lower yields due to cooler weather during flowering have produced wonderful fruit intensity.

The grapes for this single vineyard wine were grown by the McKee family in the Blind River sub-region of the Awatere Valley. Careful vineyard management during the growing season ensured the grapes were kept in balance to allow even and optimal ripening. Once the flavours of the grapes reached their peak whole bunches were hand-picked to minimise phenolics from the skins. A press cut was made early and the free run juice was fermented in tank to retain fruit character and freshness.

This wine has delicate aromas of orange blossom, citrus and stonefruit blended with hints of sweet floral honeysuckle. Grüner Veltliner is a very textural wine. Flavours of white peach mingle well with the subtle peppery spice notes. Mineral complexity, which is so reflective of the Blind River sub region, gives this wine a clean and crisp appeal. The balance of the fruit, acidity and phenolics work very well together and lead to a long dry finish. Perfect for enjoying now, the structure and weight of this wine will gain complexity for the next 4 years.

Enjoy with oily seafood such as salmon and tuna or, alternatively, roasted pork and duck.



Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin 2015 (1x75cl)

The previous 2014 vintage was awarded 95 points and rare Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2016 edition review of South African Chenin Blanc (see blue link below). The 2015 vintage has simply not been reviewed yet!

Ken Forrester FMC CB 2014 - Nov 2016 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas list because... it's amazing. Full stop, period, end of. See our Ken Forrester tasting blog for details. If £24 is a little rich for your blood, try Ken's Reserve Chenin. Away from Forrester, and for a fiver less, the Gabrielskloof Elodie 2015 clocked a huge 95-point review in the December Decanter (see below for both).

The pinnacle of what we consider to be the finest expression of the grapes of this varietal, an icon Chenin and a challenge to the world! Rich, layered with dried apricot, vanilla and honey. Will gain additional complexity with cellaring.


Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2013 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas list because... this is a beautiful Grand Cru Chablis - the state of Chablis art - from a famous producer - at a daftly good price (you'll not find most other UK outfits within £10 of this) and in prime drinking condition. At around  a tenner less, the domaine's three Premier Cru Chablis from 2014 (see below) are also wonderful drinking for Chablis fans.

Domaine Louis Michel currently works with 21 hectares of vineyards, many of them Premier and Grand Cru. Until as recently as the 80s, winemaker Jean-Loup Michel fermented and aged his wines in old oak barrels. Today, however, there is a more modern approach and all the wines are fermented in stainless steel with varying lengths of contact with the lees to add complexity. This protective approach allows for a much fresher expression of the Chardonnay grape, and crisper, cleaner wines throughout.

The Vaudésir Grand Cru parcelle/climat (land holding) is located in the lower part of the valley among the 7 famous Grands Crus. Wines produced from these vineyards are famously tight, with wonderful salinity and full body, and are even creamy on the palate: Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson (The World Atlas of Wine) note Vaudésir for its "definition and finesse".

Winemaking: no added yeast, long fermentation using indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled vats. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Matured for at least 18 months in stainless steel tanks, with the least possible handling. Long moderately cold stabilisation. Fining using bentonite whwre required. The wine is gently filtered once before bottling.

Clear straw colour, with fresh apple and mineral aroma notes, full and rich. Crisp, ripe, fine and elegant on the palate, fresh-fruit flavors follow the nose (rhubarb and acacia flower), clean and very long with buttery, brioche aromas, and a dominant hint of coconut. A seriously impressive wine. 

Cellaring potential is some 10 years from vintage (longer not advised), but this is drinking beautifully now.


Perez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best Chilean Red Bordeaux Varietals) at the Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).

Perez Cruz Reserva Cab Sauv 2015 - August 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because ... This wine received great acclaim from Decanter in their 2017 DWWAs ... but has only just arrived in the UK ... so this is your first chance to try it. Our many Berton Coonawarra fans may well like it as a lighter alternative. Perez Cruz's two other varietals are also worthy of your attention (see bottom of page).

Perez Cruz is a family owned boutique winery located in the Alto Maipo. Their estate covers 250 hectres of vines planted in one of the most sought-after areas for growing premium Cabernet Sauvignon. This red wine specialist also produces small parcels of Syrah, Cot (Malbec), Carmenère and Petit Verdot. From the first vintage in 2002, President Andres Perez Cruz has seen the estate's speciality red wine amass an impressive array of awards and gold medals. Their eco-friendly winery was built by award winning architect Jose Cruz Ovalle, to fulfil the technical objective of fine wine production. Its wooden roof and natural light allow thermal isolation and free air flow circulation, making it one of the most unique wineries in the world.

The Liguai Estate is located in the Maipo Andes sub-region and is nestled against the mountain foothills at between 1450 and 1700 feet elevation. Trained on Double Guyot systems with drip irrigation, the vines yield 3.12 tonnes per acre. The rocky soils are of both alluvial and colluvial origins. The cooling influences of the mountain air, along with the Pacific Ocean breezes ensure a long ripening season. Harvested by hand, the grapes are picked once they have reached the perfect ripeness of tannins and flavours.

The grapes were carefully selected. Each block was fermented individually so it could reveal its unique characteristics of every corner of the vineyard. The grapes were gently crushed and macerated at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The skins were pumped over the must during fermentation extracting colour, flavours and fine tannins providing structure in the final wine. The wine was then macerated for a period of 24 days. Ageing took place in American and French oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months.

Intense blackcurrant and eucalyptus scents on the nose are echoed on the palate, combined with rich jammy fruits, velvety smooth tannins and a long, intense finish.


Beronia Tempranillo Special Production Rioja 2014 (1 x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... this is a stunning, unusual, boutique-but-affordable Rioja made from 100% Tempranillo (rare in a Rioja, more the preserve of Riberas) that is full-bodied and fruit-packed with a lighter balance of oak.  We have also listed some of Beronia's other great Riojas at the foot of this page that we feel are equally worthy.

Bodegas Beronia is quintessentially Rioja. Its wines are defined by the region and the soils in which the vines are grown, and its name linked to the history of the land where the winery is found. In the 3rd Century BC the area known as Rioja today was inhabited by a celtic tribe called the ‘Berones’. The founding ethos of Beronia is strongly allied to the origins of La Rioja. Beronia was founded in 1973 by a group of businessmen, friends from the Basque country who would visit La Rioja on holiday. They decided, to produce their own wines to enjoy with the local cuisine,  specialising in Reserva and Gran Reserva style wines. Today Beronia is one of the most renowned Spanish wineries, producing traditional Rioja wines with personality and Beronia style.  

This unique wine undergoes double fermentation, both alcoholic and malolactic, in American oak barrels. The wine remains for a total of 9 months in the same barrels with periodic batonage. Bottled in March 2015 the wine will continue ageing for a minimum of 6 months before being released to the market.

Intense and deep cherry colour with high intensity. An unusual nose with red fruits and notes of chocolate, cocoa, liquorice and cinnamon from the American oak. Shows a harmonious palate with the cherry dominating. Well integrated oak after 9 months in barrel. Round and fresh, ideal for those looking for something different.

Perfect with smoked meats or fish, patés and cured meats. Recomended consumption over the next 5 years.


Domaine Louis Latour Pinot Noir Domaine du Valmoissine 2014 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... we love the accessible fruitiness of this Pinot Noir (far less austere than many French PNs) that makes it perfect for many festive dishes. We've also listed one of our favourite, ready-to-drink options from Burgundy - the Les Puillets Mercurey 2014 - that swept all before it at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards (see foot of page).

Although equipped with the most modern tools and equipment, the winemaking methods at Domaine Louis Latour remain simple and traditional. The Louis Latour style is an auspicious combination of the richness of nature and the skill of man's labour. They respect the natural rhythm of the vines and make wines in harmony with nature, with the aim of offering full expression to the elegance and the balance of the great terroirs of Burgundy. 

At Maison Louis Latour, we imprint each wine with an individual style that our customers can rediscover year after year.

Domaine de Valmoissine is located on the site of the ancient monastery and university of Valmoissine at 500 metres above sea-level. This guarantees sunshine during the summer months whilst remaining cool at night and limits the possibility of spring frosts. The vineyard's southern exposure gives the raisins perfect maturity at the same time as the Grands Crus of Corton. The yield is small in order to ensure perfect maturity and concentration of the grapes, the factors that create the best quality wines. This results in an elegant wine with remarkable finesse.

The Pinot Noir Domaine de Valmoissine is a fruity wine, offering a soft and silky palate with soft tannins.  It matches well with grilled red meat, cheese and red fruits.


Berton Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and rare Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2017 edition review of New World Cabernet Sauvignons (see blue link below) in which it emerged as the runaway Number One.

Berton Reserve 2014 - April 2017 Decanter review

It's on or Christmas List because ... you continue to love it (9 months since release), we love it and, as sales approach 2,000 bottles here this year, we just couldn't leave it out of our Christmas celebrations! Did you know they also do a cracking, DWWA-winning Reserve Shiraz in the same series (which we've listed it at the bottom of this page)? Alan, our Financial Director also has a penchant for Berton's (slightly cheaper!) Black Shiraz. which, at a tenner, is tip-top.

Sourced from vineyards in the prized Terra Rossa region of Coonawarra: here the warm days are moderated by offshore breezes and the rich red loam over well-draining limestone soils are the foundations for Coonawarra's justified reputation for producing premium-quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

This Coonawarra beauty (97% Cab Sauv) has an intense, ripe berry bouquet with hints of chocolate and liquorice. The palate is brimming with crushed blackcurrant fruit flavours enhanced by subtle eucalyptus and mint notes characteristic of this region and is beautifully complemented by elegant French oak notes.


Tornatore Etna Rosso 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2016 edition review of Etna Rosso (see blue link below).

Tornatore Etna Rosso 2014 - Dec 2016 Decanter review 

It's on our Christmas List because ... it's a real crowd-pleaser: big, smooth, gentle tannins, fruity... the very epitome of Etna Rosso. We've further Sicilian options from Planeta (particularly good, that Plumbago of theirs) and Zabu below.

One of the largest producers in the region, Tornatore owns 46 hectares of vineyards on the north side of Mount Etna, 1,000m above sea level. The estate was founded in 1865 and is still run by the third generation of the same family. One of the oldest and largest producers in Etna, Tornatore has 10 per cent of all production in the area.

After the grapes are harvested by hand in small crates they are quickly brought to the winery where they are manually selected on a belt-conveyor. Then they are destemmed and very lightly crushed, then sent to concrete tanks, where they macerate for about 10/12 days at a temperature of 22/25 °C. After fermentation, the grapes are left to macerate for a few days more, then wine is separated from grape skins, which are pressed with the traditional vertical press. The wine is aged for approximately one year in big wooden barrels followed by 3 months in bottle.

The Etna Rosso is ruby red with faint purple, typical of this variety which is light in colour. There are clear hints of red berries, morello cherry and black cherry on the nose. The taste is characterized by its typical balanced tannins and a surprising fullness, flavour and persistence.


Bodega Garzon Tannat Reserva 2015 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... this is an incredibly smooth wine that few have tried before... and those few invariably rave about it. Why not set your guests a challenge and ask them to guess where it is from?! There are more wines from unusual nations (Stobi from Macedonia and Kaya from Turkey - all genuinely excellent wines) at the bottom of this page!

The greatest wines of the world are produced where a grape varietal finds the ideal conditions to express itself in a natural and authentic way. At Bodega Garzón, they are guided by a philosophy to fully express their unique terroir with wines that are pure, have distinct tension, and a vitality that leads to delicious drinkability.

Bodega Garzón is close to Punta del Este, La Barra, and Jose Ignacio - Uruguayan Paradise at its best with mesmerizing landscapes. Located eleven miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the estate has more than 1,000 small vineyard blocks covering its hillside slopes that benefit from varying microclimates, different levels of humidity, and intense canopy management. These factors allow the vines to develop with maximum exposure to the sun providing rich, expressive fruit. The vineyards are surrounded by a lush forest, rocky soils, boulders, and palm trees.

Bodega Garzón’s Tannat Reserva 2015 undergoes a 12-to-16-month ripening process on its lees in 50 HL untoasted French oak barrels and casks, giving the wine subtle and gentle oak integration.

This Tannat Reserva is a juicy, full-bodied wine. It is rich purple in colour with very fresh aromas reminiscent of red and black fruits such as plums and raspberries along with a delicate spicy nose. In the mouth, it shows a strong personality. Its mature tannins and minerality transform it into a wine with great soil identity.

Roasted game is the ideal pairing for this Tannat. Another popular and traditional combination that goes well with this wine is slowly cooked leg of lamb flavoured with sage, mint, and garlic in olive oil. Why not try it with tasty blue cheese and toasted walnuts.



Barbi Morellino Di Scansano 2015 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas list because ... This is a powerful yet velvety-smooth Tuscan cracker - from a fabled Brunello producer - that lends itself to seasonal fare. The Merlot smoothes tames the power of the Sangiovese and affords you SuperTuscan flavours at a fraction of usual SuperTuscan prices!

Fattoria dei Barbi extends over 300 hectares (around 750 acres) at Montalcino and Scansano. Stefano Cinelli Colombini, heir of the ancient Sienese line that has been present in Montalcino since 1352, runs this family property.

This red wine comes from the southern part of Tuscany and it is made mostly with Sangiovese - which locally is called “Morellino” - and 15% Merlot. The vineyards are located on a hill at 250 metres on the sea level not far from the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a very particular microclimate: long, sunny and bright days, cooler nights freshened by the sea breeze. All these factors contribute to a well structured and balanced wine with soft tannins and a very lively acidity. Even if the making of Morellino goes back centuries, its approach is very modern and vibrant.

Has a brilliant and intense ruby red appearance and an ample, persistent bouquet with plum and red berry tones. The palate is full and generous, with velvety tannins and a long finish.

Morellino is ideal for well-seasoned meat dishes, roasts, the grilled wild boar meat typical of Mediterranean cooking, cured pork, and especially flavourful cheeses. This wine breaks the rules in its own way, since it is an excellent companion for fish soups and in general any type of fish cooked with spices and tomato sauce.


Zorzal Eggo Tinto de Tiza Gualtallary, Tupungato Malbec 2014 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2017 edition review of Argentine reds (Altamira and Gualtallary) (see blue link below).

Zorzal Eggo Tinto Tiza Malbec 2014 - October 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because ... this is perfect for lovers of full-bodied wines that are not unduly oaked. Argentine Malbec remains super-popular, but this one has gone down even better with our customers. Zorzal are one of South America's most innovative winemakers and their wines are hugely respected and award-winning. Why not try their equally popular and Decanter-acclaimed Cabernet Franc (see bottom of page)?

Zorzal is an Argentinian boutique winery which has been dedicated to the production of high quality wines since 2008 and is located at the highest point of the Uco Valley. Hailed as one of the most exclusive and well-regarded areas for viticulture in Argentina, the terroir is revealed in the Zorzal wines through a respectful, non invasive winemaking process that puts austerity before exuberance and fruit before wood. The wines have rapidly gained international recognition. Founded by the Michelini brothers, who are outstanding in their passionate leadership in the vineyards and winery, this winemaking duo have become renowned as the trendsetters of the Argentinian winemaking scene.

2014 saw a relatively cool harvest. However, the grapes perfectly fulfilled the maturity cycle, achieving high quality polyphenols and especially super-fine tannins. This resulted in fine wines of great texture and acidity.

Gualtallary is located in one of Argentina's most outstanding vine growing valleys: the Uco Valley and is situated at 1,350 metres above sea level. This is one of the highest vine growing zones in the Province of Mendoza, sitting at the foot of the Tupungato volcano - one of the highest peaks in the Andes. The zone is characterised by its combination of altitude, alluvial soils, sunny days, low rainfall and wide temperature ranges. The diurnal temperatures here oscillate between 35°C and 20°C, creating long, slow ripening periods, concentrating the flavours in the fruit. This combination of cool climate and very specific white chalky soil, gives the wine great structure and a delicious acidity.

The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations took place in egg-shaped containers made of cement. Their shape helps to keep the liquid to move constantly, so the temperature is more consistent and the lees remain constantly in suspension. The resulting wine achieves a greater character and volume on the palate. Following the fermentation, the wine was aged for 12 months in the same container, with a view to conserving its pure, authentic character, without interference from any other influence such oak from another terroir.

A deep, intense and complex example of a Gualtallary Malbec, with the typical aromas of chalk, flint, and mineral tones. Structured and voluminous on the palate with a silky texture, this is poised and direct, with a refreshing quality. This is a gastronomic wine which pairs beautifully with red meats, pasta and rabbit.


Mohua Pinot Noir Peregrine Wines 2014 (1 x 75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2016 edition review of New Zealand Pinot Noir (see blue link below). 

Mohua PN 2014 - Sept 2016 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because ... New Zealand Pinot Noir is wonderfully approachable and easy-drinking: Central Otago versions invariably bring an exciting intensity to that mix. It's a wine that can be drunk with or without food, so is perfect for any parties or gatherings that you are having over the festive season ... and also to keep the turkey company. If you like fruit-driven Pinot Noir, we have a few more suggestions below: the Richmond Plains and Ata Rangi Crimson, plus the excellent De Loach Heritage from Califiornia.

Peregrine Wines is named in honour of New Zealand’s endemic falcon, a bird without rival or fear. A bird that combines both power and finesse, the essence of Peregrine’s range of wines. The McLachlan family, headed by Lindsay, were one of the first to establish plantings in the Bendigo sub-region of Central Otago in 1999, and are now the largest organic vineyard holder in Central Otago. Farming operation plays an integral role in the organic management of the vineyards. Cattle assist with compost, goats and sheep are used for weed control in the winter, and chickens are rotated around the vineyard courtesy of a mobile chicken house, naturally dealing to a range of bugs.

The winery roof is modelled to replicate the exact rotation of the Peregrine falcon’s wing in flight. In London in 2004 the architect won the UK based AR+D Emerging Architecture awards for the Peregrine Winery building, and in 2005 received the “Supreme New Zealand Architecture” award from the NZ Institute of Architects.

Bursting with floral aromas and redcurrant perfume, this Pinot Noir is rich and juicy with delicious raspberry, hints of strawberry and spice flavours. If you want to match this with food we would suggest that lamb or duck would be good choices as well as any dish including salami or other cold meats.


Chateau Arnauton Grand Sol 2004 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... it is rare to find such a good quality Bordeaux at this price point which is also mature and ready to drink.  Its Merlot-driven softness is the perfect companion to Christmas lunch. It's not the only ready-to-go Bordeaux we recommend (see below): the Branaire-Ducru, Camensac and Petit Poujeaux (a rare 2005 still in circulation) create options at different price points.

Château Arnauton enjoys a unique and remarkable terroir, located on the southern slopes of the mound of the Château which dominates the entire Fronsac appellation. Benefitting from a unique clay and limestone soil, the wines of Chateau Arnauton are full bodied, elegant and have a subtle complexity achieved through ageing in French oak barrels for 12 months.  

This wine is mature and elegant with velvety, dark plum aromas and flavours with a hint of coffee and dark chocolate. The palate is smooth with soft tannins and good length. Good acidity and fine balance. It has the subtle complexity and elegance that is appropriate for a mature wine. Pairs well with soft cheeses (eg Camembert, Brie etc), game and red meats (beef, lamb, veal).


Chocolate Block - Boekenhoutskloof 2016 (1x75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because... it's a flavour-packed, New World superclassic (so good, it's the only survivor from last year's Christmas list). "Sumptuous" is definitely the word here. It's much beloved, The Chocolate Block, of the "luxury retailers", but this is the best price on this vintage anywhere in the UK. A slightly-more-affordable alternative South African superblend - The Work of Time - from the excellent Springfield winery - also appears at the foot of the page.

Marc Kent has built up an international reputation as one of South Africa's greatest winemakers. His small batch production ideology and passionate winemaking have created a demand for his wine that is the envy of his contemporaries. Based in Franschhoek, the estate has gained cult status because of the exquisitely balanced wines that reflect the varieties used as much as the soil they come from. Chocolate Block has carved out an impressive niche for itself with its deep complex character.

The 2016 Chocolate Block is a blend of Syrah (79%), Grenache Noir (11%), Cabernet Sauvignon (6%), Cinsault (3%) and Viognier (1%). Due to the looming drought conditions, yields were much lower, resulting in higher berry concentration and healthier grapes. Phenolic ripeness was easily achieved, with the harvesting of grapes taking place earlier, during the cooler stages of the harvest period. The increased volume of Grenache Noir in the blend enhances the flavour profile significantly, with Syrah being its structural backbone. The Grenache was matured in 600-litre barrels to retain its unmistakable fruity aromas and vibrancy. The wine matures in first-fill (all of the Cabernet Sauvignon), second-fill and third-fill French oak barrels as well as 2,500-litre French oak foudres for 16 months before it undergoes a light, egg-white fining and filtration.

The nose is exceptionally perfumed with an abundance of complex red and dark berry fruit, violets and intense aromas of white pepper. Dark brooding fruit follows through onto a structured, opulent palate with notes of cardamom, cumin, cloves and black pepper. The mid-palate is rich, textured and balanced with integrated acidity, cocoa powdery tannins and a definite cedarwood character derived from French oak. White pepper lingers on a smooth, lifted finish.


Paul Jaboulet-Aine Saint Joseph Le Grand Pompee 2014 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... we think that this is one of the best wines - at this price point - from the Rhone currently available. Jaboulet wines always show the Rhone at its best and will grace any dinner table. There two more excellent red Jaboulet suggestions below: the red Secret de Famille Cotes du Rhone and Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets.

The winery was originally founded in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet in the Northern Rhone Valley. This famous Rhone winery was bought by the Frey family in 2006. The Freys, owners of Chateau la Lagune in Bordeaux, saw the potential of the vineyards. They brought renewed energy to this corner of France. 

Since the takeover, Caroline Frey has successfully transformed the entire range, putting more emphasis on greater fruit expression and dramatically reducing the amount of new oak. The only way is up for this transformed domaine.

The grapes for this wine are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak vats before release.

The Le Grand Pompee is deep ruby red in colour with violet hues. It has a rich and concentrated nose of very ripe red fruits, sweet spices and finishes with some liquorice notes. It is a harmonious wine with rounded tannins.


Guerrieri Rizzardi 3 Cru Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best Amarone) at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).

Guerrieri Rizzardi 3 Cru Amarone 2012 - August 2017 DWWA17 review

It's on our Christmas List because ... it was recently awarded Best Amarone by Decanter in the 2017 DWWAs and is quite delicious.  Think velvet with soft tannins and ripe black fruits - perfect for warming up during the festive season! There are also a couple of other high-scoring Amarones from Alpha Zeta and La Giuva at the bottom of the page. If your budget doesn't quite stretch to genuine Amarone, try the Southern Italian passito-method Ca'Vittoria Appassimento Gold Release for just over a tenner, which is stunning in its own right.

Selected grapes from the three Cru vineyards (Calcarole, Pojega & Rovereti) make up the wine (hence the name). Barrels normally destined for the famed Calcarole and Villa Rizzardi wines - which were not bottled in 2012 - take up the majority of the blend. Grapes come from the 5-hectare, steep, rocky, terraced hillside vineyard of Calcarole as well as the gently sloping clay vineyards of Rovereti and Pojega in the heart of Negrar, the most celebrated of the communes in Valpolicella. Vine age is up to 36 years old.

Made from 100% dried grapes, that have been raisined in the drying room for 3½ months. Long, slow fermentation of one month (25°C - 30°C) followed by malolactic fermentation in oak. Maturation is 12 months in 2.25 hl oak barrels and 24 months in 25 hl oak barrels. Production is limited to 50,000 bottles.

The wine is a blend of 80% Corvina & Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and 10% Barbera.

Aromatic with ripe dark berried fruit alongside sweet spice, a ripe, rich style. The texture to is rich and round with abundant, ripe, dark berried fruit supported by fine oak. Well structured and maintaining good freshness, decant an hour before serving.


Branson Coach House Shiraz 2005 (1x 75cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... it is a hidden gem that we adore and this will possibly be your last chance to indulge in one of the Barossa Valley's greatest wines from this phenomenal vintage. It would be fair to say that, speaking collectively, it's our Favourite Red of the Year. We bought stock of this some time ago, knowing its potential: it has exceeded all of our expectations now that it's entered its peak condition/drinking window. It is well rounded and full bodied with superbly integrated tannins, black fruit character and a trademark hit of spice. It envelopes your tastebuds with its velvety texture and rich flavours - one glass simply isn't enough! If you want to treat/indulge yourself to something really special - and rare - this Christmas, you won't go wrong with Branson Coach House 2005. If you want a slightly more conservatively-priced but serious, big, ready-aged, Australian Shiraz, why not try the Shirvington Shiraz 2006?

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Branson Coach House 2005 - fiche technique

The small, intimate winery of Branson Coach House was established in 1998. Together with other investors, Richard Mintz and Michael Twelftree, of Two Hands Wines, purchased the vineyard and winery in 2001 with the sole aim of creating and establishing one of Australia's greatest estate grown and made wines. The winery and vineyard are located in the Western Barossa. The emphasis on single-vineyard, estate-grown wines drives Branson Coach House's philosophy: to keep yields low, and to practice "minimal intervention." This means that from the vineyard until bottling, the fruit is carefully monitored, but that the unique terroir of the region will be at the forefront of the wine.

Originally planted in 1990, the Branson Coach House vines thrive in the trademark, red clay soil of the Western Barossa. The results are truly phenomenal — power, intensity and the ability to age gracefully. The release of its first vintage, from 2002, led to quick admiration from influential wine enthusiasts. The emphasis on single-vineyard, estate-grown wines drives Branson Coach House's philosophy: to keep yields low, and to practice "minimal intervention." This means that from the vineyard until bottling, the fruit is carefully monitored, but that the unique terroir of the region will be at the forefront of the wine.

This is a stunning, single vineyard, Barossa Shiraz that spent 20 months maturing in French oak that would be a fanatstic addition to your cellar or wine rack. It is now a mature, thoroughly drinkable wine and is a stunning glass to enjoy with a special meal.

A simply outstanding Barossa Shiraz-Syrah. Really deep colour with a brown hue. Sweet blackberry, fresh morning coffee and toast with a hint of truffle rush to my nose. Dense, concentrated and savory on the palate. Soft tanins, complex layers of black fruits, spices and smoky flavours but still spectacular balance. A masterpiece, doubly so at this price.


Darenberg The Noble Wrinkled Riesling 2016 (1x37.5cl)

It's on our Christmas List because ... this surprisingly light and fruity dessert wine goes perfectly with fruit-based puddings such as the ubiquitous and rather legendary Christmas Trifle! Should trifle not be on your Christmas menu this year (why not?!!), it's also mighty fine with lemon meringue pie (and other citrussy puds) and is rather good with blue cheese! D'Arenberg's Noble Mud Pie and Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana are excellent desserts wines from other grape varieties to compare against, and the Seifried's celebrated Sweet Agnes Riesling is a stunning, cool-climate alternative from Nelson, NZ.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

D'Arenberg The Noble Wrinkled Riesling 2016 - fiche technique

One of the most significant wineries in McLaren Vale, d’Arenberg was established in 1912 when Joseph Osborn, a teetotaler and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, sold his stable of prize winning horses to purchase the property that now houses the winery. Today fourth- generation family member Chester makes distinctive wines using traditional methods both in the vineyard and the winery.

Minimal input viticulture is employed across d’Arenberg owned, leased and contracted vineyards to ensure grape quality and environmental responsibility. This includes minimal or no irrigation, no soil cultivation, minimal spraying and most importantly, no fertilization. All of d’Arenberg estate and their leased vineyards are NASAA Certified for both organic and biodynamic processes.

Grapes affected with Botrytis are small and wrinkly, inspiring the name of this wine, which was originally released in 1985 as The Noble Riesling. Botrytis cinerea, affectionately known as Noble Rot, weakens grape skins causing water to evaporate which results in sweet, concentrated flavours. These shrivelled berries are basket pressed before a long fermentation, resulting in a luscious wine with intense richness and viscosity.

100% Riesling for this vintage. Generous and decadent but zesty and fresh at the same time. Ripples of fresh lemon and lime, a whisper of candied ginger and a healthy dollop of honey and barley sugar. The palate is initially sweet and viscous but this opulence is countered by a tangy acidity that flashes through the core of the wine in dart like fashion. The combination of flavour and acidity linger almost eternally. In its youth this wine is crisp and provides versatility when matching to a wide range of desserts. It works particularly well with elements containing fresh tropical fruits. As it ages it will take on a deeper colour and the flavour will develop further into the dried fruit spectrum making it a sensational match to strong cheeses.


Quady Essensia Orange Muscat 2015 (1x37.5cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2017 edition review of Top 40 Californian Wines Under £40 (see blue link below).

Essensia Orange Muscat 2015 - Sept 2017 Decanter review

It's on our Christmas List because ... this wine is perfect as your Christmas pudding wine! It has a lovely, deep flavour which compliments many desserts ... but it is particularly well suited to the richer, heavier puds (and Christmas cake) that one tends to indulge in at this time of year! Quady also produce a superb red dessert wine -the Elysium Black Muscat (see below) which is another great choice  with Christmas fare (we respectfully suggest you compare and contrast) and also, unusually, with chocolate desserts.

Quady is the foremost American winery specialising entirely in dessert wines and continues to win medals worldwide. In 1980, Andrew Quady discovered a parcel of underused Orange Muscat grapes in Reedley, California, which led him to make a wine which celebrated the intense aromas and spicy fruit flavours of the grapes. In Italy, the variety is known as Moscato Fior d'Arancio: Orange Blossom Muscat.

Here in California, it is grown in well-drained, alluvial soils, in climatic conditions ideally suited to this variety. The grapes are harvested at optimal maturity once they have reached a very high 22 Brix. The grapes were crushed, chilled and allowed to macerate. Fermentation was arrested with neutral grape brandy, lightly fortifying the wine to 15% alcohol. This arrested fermentation preserves the delicate aromas of the fresh, ripe grapes. The wine was then aged for three months in used, predominantly French, oak barrels.

Luscious sweet oranges and apricots on the palate with bittersweet orange marmalade notes which balance well with the fresh lemony finish.  Excellent served chilled in small glasses with desserts consisting of peach, pear or apricot fruits or pumpkin pie.


Quinta Do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 2010 (1x37.5cl)

It's on our Christmas List because... NBV Port represents, in our view, the best quality-for-value of all Port. This 2010 from Quinta do Crasto is particularly fine. QdC are more boutique among the port producers than the big names and this reflects in their wares. So popular has it been that only half-bottles are now available, although these make for great gifts and greater drinking flexibility over Christmas! A little further up the Port ladder, we recommend the excellent 2002 Single Quinta port, the Quinta de Vargellas, from Port legends Taylor's (see below).

The earliest records mentioning Quinta do Crasto and wine production date back to 1615. It later received Feitoria status (the highest vineyard classification of the time), together with the other noteworthy estates of the Douro Valley. Between 1758 and 1761, the Marquis of Pombal ordered the installation of 335 granite markers to delineate the first ever Demarcated Region in the world. One of these stone pillars, or marcos pombalinos can still be seen today at Quinta do Crasto. In the early 20th century, Quinta do Crasto was bought by Constantino de Almeida and it is now being run by the fourth generation of his family.

The grapes for the LBV port were harvested from old vines, then taken to the winery in plastic boxes. On arrival in the winery they were rigorously inspected on a sorting table. The grapes with their stems were then slightly crushed and transferred to a traditional stone tank (“lagar”) where they were foot trodden. After this, the grape spirit was added to stop the fermentation and fortify the wine.

The port was aged in large oak vats (9,000 litres) for about 4 years. It was then bottled without fining or filtration; a light sediment may form in the bottle over time so we would recommend that you decant this port if possible.

The Quinta Do Crasto LBV 2010 has a deep purple colour. Its aromas are pronounced with fresh notes of wild berry fruit and delicate hints of cocoa. The palate is elegant in the beginning then leads to a wine with a solid backbone of firm, finely-textured tannins that are beautifully combined with wild berry notes. This is an engaging wine that finishes with great freshness and persistence.

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