Gourmet Red Wines
I start with my ultimate favourite, Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Port, Douro, Portugal 2001! When it comes to red wines, I am a fan of port. And you?
Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Port, Douro, Portugal 2001 (£25 reduced from £28 until 30 January, 2012, Majestic; £27.99, Uncorked; £28.40, Tanners)
Made in years when the port houses don’t make a vintage port, single-quinta (single-estate) ports are nonetheless very fine wines in their own right, and considerably cheaper. From Taylor’s best estate, this is a charming wine: aromatically floral on the nose with unfathomable depths of sweet dark fruit and a discreetly purring power.
Château Les Ormes de Pez, Cru Bourgeois, St-Estèphe, Bordeaux 1995 (£35, Majestic)
From the same stable as the very smart bordeaux-classed growth Château Lynch-Bages, this is a perfectly mature Christmas claret from a chateau that regularly outshines its relatively lowly cru bourgeois ranking. There’s some strikingly pure blackcurrant fruit alongside developed savoury notes, a touch of graphite and a mellow smoothness.
Cornas Domaine Clape, Rhône, France 2006 (£39.95, Yapp Bros)
STAR BUY A stunning wine, this, one of the best syrahs in the world, but at a much lower price than wines of comparable quality from more famous northern Rhône appellations or Australia. It’s still young, dark and concentrated with blackberry, liquorice and black pepper, plus a gorgeously supple, sinewy palate.
Domaine Joseph Roty Gevrey-Chambertin Champs-Chenys 2006 (£42.95, Roberson)
Red burgundy is the world’s most frustrating wine style, always expensive but offering as many misses as hits. When it works, however, it’s unbeatable for its grace and sensuous appeal, and this really does work: gorgeously scented with wild strawberry, the palate is graceful, impeccably balanced and silkily supple.
Gourmet White Wines
Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis, Piedmont, Italy 2010 (£21.17, Armit)
Bruno Giacosa is one of the finest exponents of the arneis variety in Piedmont, and here he’s fashioned a wine of fabulous purity, clarity and depth. There’s a touch of green herbs and spring blossom, some concentrated white peach and a general air of Italian sophistication.
La Bota de Manzanilla No. 22, Spain (£21.78, The Sampler; £24.99, Uncorked)
Selected and marketed by a group of Spanish sherry enthusiasts, this magnificent dry sherry is something of a cult in fine wine circles, and deservedly so. Concentrated and savoury, it has a bracingly briney, nutty character and a white burgundy-like smoothness of texture.
Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot, Burgundy, France 2007 (£38.95, H2Vin)
STAR BUY Chardonnay winemakers the world over still look to Burgundy as the gold standard of dry white winemaking, and with wines as good as this one, you can understand why. Thrilling, nervous acidity cuts through the concentrated nutty-edged fruit above a deep seam of mineral flavours.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, Joh. Jos Prüm, Mosel, Germany 2009 (£64.69, Corney & Barrow)
From one of the greats of German wine, this sweet riesling is concentrated and explosively vibrant, the marked, racy acidity carrying layers of finely drawn green apple, white flowers, a touch of tropical fruit, and the Prüm hallmark, dancing minerality. Lovely now, but it will age for decades.
Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne, France NV (from £25.95, Waitrose; Majestic; Lea & Sandeman; Uncorked; The Wine Society; slurp.co.uk )
If I were the sort of person who could afford to have a house champagne, then Roederer’s “basic” offering is the one I’d choose. It’s a brilliantly consistent, full-throated combination of thrillingly precise acidity with flavours of citrus, toast and patisserie. A reliably fine aperitif.
Jacquesson Cuvée No. 734, Champagne, France NV (£32.95, winedirect.co.uk; £34.45, Berry Bros & Rudd; £35, Hailsham Cellars; £42, Bottle Apostle)
The smaller house of Jacquesson makes a range of champagnes that are characterised by their stunning purity. This wine, which is based on the 2006 vintage with a little older wine blended in, is a great introduction to the Jacquesson style – clean, dry, teasingly rich and extremely refined.
Domaine Cédric Bouchard Val Vilaine Inflorescence Brut, Champagne, France NV (£36.80, Berry Brothers & Rudd; £34.20, vinetrail.co.uk)
Most grape growers in Champagne sell their grapes to the famous houses or co-operatives, but over the past couple of decades an increasing number are making wines themselves. The cultish Cédric Bouchard is one of the best, as this very dry, perfectly balanced, exhilarating and food-friendly wine shows.