It’s official, we’re now in the Christmas party season and if you’re looking for great quality, crowd-pleasing wines that are friendly on the wallet, then read on.
We may be slowly winding down but this is a great opportunity for you to grab some genuine bargains and spread a little cheer amongst friends and family this festive season. All of these wines must go and once they’re gone, they won’t be re-stocked so don’t be shy in coming forward!
Here’s my pick of the bunch
The Italians are leaders when it comes to producing sparkling wines with elegant bubbles and a light, fruity, easy-drinking character. One of the region’s great Prosecco families is the Sacchetto’s who founded their winery 100 years ago. Today, the business is run by Filiberto (son of the founder) and his two children, who collectively produce a range of sparkling wines at all quality levels, including Prosecco.
Their Sacchetto Extra Dry Millesimato Vino Spumante (now £9.35/bt) might not be Prosecco in name, but the origin and style of this fabulous fizz is such that it can happily sit alongside many of the region’s best DOC wines that bear the famous name. A skilful blend of Glera (the main Prosecco grape), Verduzzo and Pinot Bianco, what really marks this out is the twist of exotic fruits along with a slightly drier and more refreshing feel on the palate – absolutely delicious!
South Africa has, for many years, been a great source of fruit-driven varietal wines that offer the consumer superb value. The Swartland and Wellington regions of the Western Cape are sub-regions that, for many years, were overlooked in favour of those closer to Cape Town like Stellenbosch, Paarl, Darling and Franschhoek. That’s all changed in the past 20 years and the great and the good are all clamouring to make wine here.
The Cape Heights Chardonnay (now £6.25/bt) is sourced from long-established vineyards on the Wellington/Swartland borders with vines grown on very poor and varied soils, ideal for high-quality fruit. This Chardonnay is unoaked and aged on the fine lees for as long as possible, which imparts a lovely texture to the wine. It’s packed with tangy stone fruit and lovely balancing acidity that keeps the wine fresh sip after sip.
If someone asked me to design a style of white wine to quench your thirst at the end of a busy day, that delivers a zingy, mouth-watering experience with tangy flavours, it would probably look pretty close to Sauvignon Blanc. France may be the spiritual home of this famous grape and New Zealand has certainly popularised it but there are other countries that have refined and tamed this wild and distinctive variety.
Argentina has a climate, geology and topography that makes it entirely unique and although we normally associate the country with Malbec (see further down), other grape varieties thrive here. Sauvignon being one of them. The Doña Paula ‘Paula’ Sauvignon Blanc (now £8.40/bt) is produced in the revered Uco Valley and offers terrific balance as well as a lovely intensity of citrus and tropical fruit flavours with that characteristic zingy finish. Outstanding value!
Once reserved exclusively for those long summer days, rosé wines are now enjoyed all year round. Nowadays, you’re equally as likely to see groups of guys drinking rosé as you are women, which is another welcomed shift change. The past ten years has seen Provence rosé steal the limelight and now you can find countless emulators from all over the world hoping to get a slice of the action.
The La Vie en Rose (now £7.00/bt) from southern France’s Pays d’Oc region is one such emulator that does it authentically and at a fraction of the price. Based primarily on Cinsault with a little added Grenache and Syrah, this pale pink beauty has the refreshing subtle fruitiness of a Provence rosé at twice the price and comes complete with stylish packaging. Guaranteed to add a touch of glamour to any party.
I’ve already alluded to South Africa’s ability to make delicious varietal wines, and that applies as much to their red wines as it does to their whites. Pinotage is the Cape’s signature red variety and was born out of a crossing between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. It’s a grape that grows very well in the semi-Mediterranean climate around Paarl, which is where my next choice hails from.
Hazy View Pinotage (now £6.50/bt) is made in a more medium-bodied style and is vinified in stainless steel tanks only, in order to preserve the wines fruity aromatics and freshness. This is a very drinkable style, perfect for parties where food may or may not be present. Lots of brambly fruit, a hint of mocha and some smoky tobacco hints on the finish associated with the grape and not oak as none was used.
If you want to give the party a Latin American pulse, an Argentinean Malbec will do just that. Argentina’s calling card continues to win over new imbibers and comes in a variety of guises from bright purple, relatively lightweight and gluggable through to inky black, fragrant and Herculean in structure. The party needs something closer to the former or it runs the risk of rendering everyone’s dancing legs useless!
The fun and distinctively-labelled Cinco Fincas Malbec (now £7.05/bt) has that deep purple hue and delivers a soft, fleshy, purple fruit-filled extravaganza – think blackberry, blueberry and plum – and finishes with soft rounded tannins thanks to the absence of oak. There’s just enough acidity to keep the wine lively which, in turn, will keep the conversation lively. With or without food, this little gem is a winner.
There are plenty of other options available if you are looking for something different or have an alternative budget so please get in touch with me.