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The Luxury Lifestyle Magazine Christmas Wine Guide for 2019

By James Lawrence on 14th December 2019

Let’s banish the stale cliché of Prosecco and Port at Christmas. Those two wonderful standbys, while always welcome, are the mere tip of a very large iceberg. Today, quality sparkling wine is produced all over the world, although I must confess a bias towards English fizz, which is going from strength to strength. But there are also excellent Champagne alternatives being made in northern Italy, while the selection of esoteric and off-piste wines in UK retailers has never been greater. Christmas, above all else, is a chance to push the boat out. Which the following mix of familiar classics and new favourites offer in abundance. Time to go upmarket.

Sparkling wine

Traditional

Bollinger Rose

Bollinger Rose

A gorgeous, majestic rose of epic proportions, Bollinger’s NV rose is among the best in its class. Aromas of red fruits, smoke, liquorice, almond and grilled nuts fill the glass. It manages to be both light and intensely flavoured at the same time. Wonderful.

RRP: £37.49
Where to buy: waitrosecellar.com

Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs NV

billecart-salmon-blanc-de-blancs-nv

Another excellent Champagne from venerable house Billecart-Salmon. It represents the very best in 100% Chardonnay expressions – rich, mineral-driven, full-bodied and toasty.

RRP: £68.95
Where to buy: thefinestbubble.com

Roger Goulart Gran Reserva Cava 2011

ROGER GOULART GRAN CUVEE GRAN RESERVA 2011

Cava remains the most sorely underrated premium sparkling wine style. Respected house Roger Goulart produces a good range of Cavas across all price points, but their top cuvee is truly exceptional. Expect complex, rich notes of citrus, fig, red fruits and honey. Sublime.

RRP: £16.98
Where to buy: drinksdirect.co.uk

New players

Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs

Is there an English sparkling wine producer that stands head and shoulders above the rest? Yes indeed – Gusbourne’s Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, made in Kent, isn’t cheap but is undoubtedly one of the finest in its class. There is considerable complexity and texture on the palate – expect citrus, almonds, vanilla and creaminess by the bucket load.

RRP: £59
Where to buy: gusbourne.com

Black Chalk Wild Rose 2016

Black Chalk Wild Rose £40 www.blackchalkwine

A relatively new player in the world of English fizz, Black Chalk is already making waves. A moreish alternative to the more famous brands out there, Black Chalk Wild Rose offers penetrating aromas of strawberry and cream, raspberry and red cherry. It slips down too easily I find, so you may need a few bottles.

RRP: £40
Where to buy: blackchalkwine.co.uk

Altemasi Trento Millesimato Brut

Altemasi_millesimato (002)

One of Italy’s star buys, Altemasi is most definitely not Champagne – it’s the Italian equivalent with just as much flair and style. Rich, toasty aromas fill the glass, while the palate is equally rich and weighty. Unbelievable value from Italy’s (largely) undiscovered sparkling wine region of Trentino.

RRP: £20
Where to buy: hangingditch.com

Franciacorta

Let’s explore the wonderful world of Franciacorta for a second – the ultimate Christmas day fizz with a difference. Getting the obvious out of the way, no it’s not as glamorous as Champagne, but the quality of the best producers is exceptional. It shares some similarities with Champagne, however. The grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc – are grown in the Brescia area of Lombardy, in extremely picturesque sloping vineyards near the beautiful lake Iseo. Compared to Champagne the region is small, about a tenth of the size of that famous French vineyard, but what Franciacorta lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality.

Historically, wine has been made here for centuries, but it was only in the 20th century that winemakers decided to experiment with making fizz. The man credited with kick-starting the trend was Franco Ziliani, a young upstart working for a traditional firm called Berlucchi. He was allowed to release a paltry 3,000 bottles in the 1960s; the demand for this new fizz rocketed and since then the number of producers has multiplied to about 100 today. Visionaries such as Maurizio Zanella and Vittorio Moretti were vital in building brand Franciacorta across Italy, helping to establish strict quality control regulations and ensuring that the wine was far more renowned that Champagne in the country.

But what can you expect from a typical bottle of Franciacorta? Like Champagne, several styles exist including one made from just white grapes, known as Saten, vintage releases, roses and deluxe, more expensive styles, given longer lees ageing and marketed as alternatives to the Dom Perignons of this world. Cuvee Anna-Maria Clementi, made by the respected producer Ca’ Del Bosco, is one example of just how amazing Franciacorta can be; not cheap but less expensive than more famous brands like Krug, it more than holds its own with gorgeous richness, complexity and depth of flavour. The following are the crème de la crème of Franciacorta.

2014 Bellavista Teatro La Scala

Teatro alla Scala Brut 2014

Bellavista are a star sparkling producer, crafting some of the best bubbly in the region. Their entire range is to be recommended, particularly the special cuvee created for the Teatro La Scala in Milan. A complex Franciacorta of breeding and finesse. Can age for 20 years plus!

RRP: £44.02
Where to buy: tannico.co.uk

2009 Ca’ del Bosco Cuvee Anna-Maria Clementi

Annamaria Clementi 2009

One of the finest producers in the region today, Ca’ del Bosco produce the most lauded Franciacorta in the entire region – Cuvee Anna-Maria Clementi. The results of their exceptional terroir and prowess in the winery speak for themselves: the wine shows incredible complexity, finesse and depth. Champagne prices, and Champagne quality.

RRP: (for case of 6) £596.58
Where to buy: uk.cruworldwine.com

2012 Barone Pizzini Brut Nature

Another standout Franciacorta, Barone Pizzini’s excellent example is one for the health conscious: it contains no sugar. It is, thus far, the finest zero dosage Franciacorta I have ever sampled in my life: ethereal, complex, very aromatic and totally distinctive. A Franciacorta to rival any top Champagne!

RRP: £32
Where to buy: callmewine.com

Monte Rossa Cabochon Brut Riserva 2008

Cabochon ALTA

A brilliant, and excellent value prestige sparkling wine made by boutique house Monte Rossa. It displays lovely, honeyed red fruit characteristics and a long finish. Delicious and available for under £60.

RRP: £55.53
Where to buy: winebuyers.com

Red

European fine wine classics

Damilano Cannubi Barolo 2015 Barolo

Damilano_Barolo Cannubi 2015

Ethereal, complex and beautifully scented, Damilano’s spectacular Barolo is everything that this wonderful wine should be. 100% Nebbiolo grown on the famous Cannubi terroir gives a wine of incomparable finesse and structure.

RRP: 409.67 (case of 6)
Where to buy: uk.cruworldwine.com

2017 Saffredi

Saffredi 2017 30th Anniversary

Saffredi is a seminal Super Tuscan, created by Elisabetta Geppetti in Maremma, southern Tuscany. It is a remarkable 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot wine, with reserves of flavour beyond imagination.

RRP: £807.43 (Imperial)
Where to buy: laywheeler.com

2013 Giodo Brunello di Montalcino

Giodo_Brunello di Montalcino

Velvety, complex, structured and effortlessly drinkable, Giodo’s Brunellos are among the best in Tuscany. The 2013 and 2014 are both standout vintages – perfect with Christmas Day duck.

RRP: 89.95
Where to buy: leaandsandeman.co.uk

San Leonardo 2014

San Leonardo

An exquisite Bordeaux blend from the sorely underrated region of Trentino, San Leonardo produce one of Italy’s finest reds. There is great poise and elegance, sublime red fruit and polished, silky tannins. Excellent!

RRP: 240 (case of 6 bottles)
Where to buy: jeroboams.co.uk

Roda Rioja Reserva 2013

RODA Reserva 2013

It needs little introduction to Rioja fans; Roda is one of the region’s most sought-after wines. A marvel of Riojan terroir, this Tempranillo-dominant wine is exquisite, offering a complex smoky nose full of black fruit, red fruit and spices.

RRP: £27.99
Where to buy: harveynichols.com

A little more esoteric – reds and whites

Ashbourne Pinotage 2016

Ashbourne_Pinotage 2016

Is this South Africa’s finest Pinotage? Undeniably yes: it silences the naysayers who suggest that you cannot coax class and refinement out of this maligned grape variety. The nose is reminiscent of a great Medoc – Ashbourne Pinotage is a wine to be sipped and savoured, not gulped.

RRP: £45
Where to buy: laywheeler.com

Turkey Flat Grenache 2017

Turkey_Flat_Grenache_NV

Absolutely first-class Grenache from respected Antipodean producer Turkey Flat. Ideal with roast turkey, as it happens.

RRP: £24
Where to buy: thegeneralwine.co.uk

Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2017

22751_KC_Metis_Sauvignon_Blanc_2017_R2

Is this South Africa’s finest Sauvignon Blanc? It is certainly a close contender –the estate is legendary, being one of the nation’s oldest. They produce a creamy, highly aromatic expression of Sauvignon Blanc that invokes the best white wines of Bordeaux.

RRP: £23
Where to buy: harveynichols.com

Journey’s End Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

IMG_3933 Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Low Res

Majestic Caberent Sauvignon grown in Walker Bay in the Western Cape. Ripe, opulent and lush fruit is counterbalanced by enough acidity and freshness to prevent overkill.

RRP: £10.99
Where to buy: waitrosecellar.com

Queen Bee Viognier 2019

IMG_3285 Queen Bee Viognier 2018 Low Res

Aromatic refinement be thy name. This Viognier is one of the finest in the Cape, bursting with tropical fruit and a gorgeous, almost unctuous textural quality.

RRP: £12.99
Where to buy: laithwaites.co.uk

CVNE Crianza 2016

Founded in 1879 by two brothers, Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa, CVNE has remained in family hands, now in their fifth generation. Their entire range of Riojas is to be recommended, and this 2016 Crianza offers incredible value at under £12. Red fruit and creaminess fit for a king.

RRP: £10.75
Where to buy: majestic.co.uk

2017 Wild Horseshoe Sauvignon Blanc, Diemersdal, Durbanville

Another of South Africa’s best Sauvignon Blancs, this particular expression from Diemersdal is somewhat ‘funky’, benefiting from lees and skin contact. The results are astonishing.

RRP: £20.95
Where to buy: jeroboams.co.uk