Cheers: drink up and don’t break the bank

Spread your vi­nous hori­zons this Christ­mas and you will find buy­ing wines at com­pet­i­tive prices can be a real treat, says Giles Kime

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Food & Drink -

Thanks to the re­cent strides in qual­ity achieved by wine mak­ers, par­tic­u­larly in France, Italy and Spain, fes­tive belt-tight­en­ing no longer has to mean re­sign­ing your­self to dull, in­sipid wines.

The se­cret lies in avoid­ing of­fers of bar­gain wines from Bor­deaux, Bur­gundy and Châteauneuf-du-Pape that are cheap but rarely cheer­ful. The name of a fa­mous re­gion might be a re­as­sur­ing pres­ence on a la­bel but when the wine tastes like bat­tery acid, it has a some­what hol­low ring. In­stead, use the credit crunch as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand your vi­nous hori­zons by ex­plor­ing styles of wine that are de­li­cious in their own right, rather than hav­ing ideas above their sta­tion.

In pre­vi­ous eco­nomic down­turns it was this prag­matic ap­proach that led to Bri­tish love af­fairs with Rioja, Chi­anti and Bul­gar­ian caber­net sau­vi­gnon. The re­sult is that not only will you sub­stan­tially cut your spending, you’ll also dis­cover new flavours and aro­mas. Claret There are plenty of wines that are pass­able sub­sti­tutes for the el­e­gant flavours and aro­mas of claret. Thirty years ago, a com­bi­na­tion of re­ces­sion and spi­ralling prices in Bor­deaux, pre­cip­i­tated a pas­sion for less ex­pen­sive Rioja that of­fers sim­i­larly del­i­cate, ma­ture flavours that go well with

WHITES Al­ter­na­tives to the clas­sics abound. They in­clude from the left, Tesco’s Gavi, the Reach Marl­bor­ough sau­vi­gnon blanc, Tesco Den­man sémil­lon, La Grille sau­vi­gnon blanc, De Bor­toli sémil­lon, Mon­caro Verdic­chio dei Castelli di Jesi, Colteren­zio pinot gri­gio, and Sains­bury’s white bur­gundy

fes­tive sta­ples such as turkey and roast beef. De­li­cious wines such as Olarra Clas­sico Rioja cri­anza 2005 (£5.99, Sains­bury’s) and Rioja “Sin­gle Vine­yard” 2006 (£7.99, as part of a case, Ma­jes­tic) mean that there’s a high chance that his­tory will re­peat it­self.

For those with a taste for the more forth­right, plum­mier flavours of youth­ful, sprightly claret, head south where wines such as Château de Surville 2006 (£7.99, Mark & Spencer) com­bines syrah with gre­nache to cre­ate rounded, sub­tle flavours that make the per­fect fes­tive red. For a lit­tle more sub­tlety try the En­c­los des Pins mer­lot 2007 (£5.99, Marks & Spencer).

Fur­ther afield, you’ll find glossy, berry­ish wines such as the ex­cel­lent Graf­figna mal­bec 2007 (£5.99, Sains­bury’s) from Ar­gentina. Red bur­gundy Those ac­cus­tomed to the sen­sual de­lights of a bot­tle of Nu­its-Saint-Ge­orges at Christ­mas might be tempted by its far flung rel­a­tive in New Zealand. But while New Zealand pinot noir is made from the same grape va­ri­ety, its full-on flavours might over­whelm the palate of any­one used to the more po­lite char­ac­ter of a de­cent red bur­gundy.

But you need look no fur­ther than Bur­gundy it­self for some pretty pass­able sub­sti­tutes such as the Bouchard Ainé et Fils pinot noir 2007 (£5.99, Sains­bury’s). Fur­ther west, in the Loire, of­ten over­looked reds such as the Les Nivières 2006/07 (£5.99, Waitrose) of­fers deep, damsony lay­ers of flavour, hard to find at this price.

Any­one who hasn’t re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced the berry­ish de­lights of north­ern Ital­ian reds should try the mouth­fill­ing Tesco Finest valpo­li­cella ri­passo 2005 (£5.99,

(De­can­ter.com) Tesco). An­other bur­gundy sub­sti­tute worth con­sid­er­ing is the easy-go­ing, peren­ni­ally de­li­cious Cono Sur pinot noir 2007 (£5.99, Sains­bury’s) from Chile. White bur­gundy Be­cause even premier cru white bur­gundy can be un­der­whelm­ing, the rea­sons for looking else­where aren’t purely eco­nomic. But be­fore you do, con­sider some of the more mod­est home grown bar­gains such as Sains­bury’s

white bur­gundy 2007 (£5.49, Sains­bury’s) that of­fers crisp, lemony flavours per­fect for those who love the aus­tere but re­fresh­ing whites. Palates of a sim­i­lar bent will en­joy the cheap Ital­ian whites such as the sim­ple but sat­is­fy­ing Mon­caro 2007 Verdic­chio dei Castelli di Jesi (£4.69, Waitrose) or the re­fresh­ing, sat­is­fy­ing flavours of new wave whites such as the Colteren­zio Alto Adige pinot gri­gio 2007 (£7.19, Tesco).

Aus­tralian sémil­lon is an­other white that de­liv­ers plenty of flavour. Tesco also has two ex­am­ples in dif­fer­ent styles; the su­per­charged De Bor­toli All Rounder sémil­lon 2002 (£7.19) and the more re­strained, nutty Tesco Finest Den­man Vine­yard Re­serve sémil­lon 2006 (£7.99). Rich, Rhône reds While it’s tempt­ing to sub­sti­tute the deep lay­ered flavours of a wine from

Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a full throt­tle Barossa Val­ley shi­raz, there is a dan­ger that it will swamp the sub­tle flavours. Wines such as Les Oris rouge 2007 (£7.99, Marks & Spencer), the Côtes du Rhône Vil­lages Mau­rice 2007 (£5.99, Marks & Spencer) and the Beaumes de Venise 2007, Cave de Saint De­sirat (£7.99, as part of a case, Ma­jes­tic) of­fer a re­strained, pep­pery char­ac­ter that is a more sym­pa­thetic part­ner to food. For a richer, glossier char­ac­ter, try Wine­mak­ers’ Lot car­menère “Puemo Lot 32” (£8.99, as part of a case, Ma­jes­tic).

Cham­pagne

Su­per­mar­kets might have cornered the mar­ket in mid­price cham­pagne, yet many tend to be a pale re­flec­tion of the clas­sic com­bi­na­tion of cit­russy fresh­ness and bis­cu­ity aro­mas of­fered by a glass of Pol Roger or Tait­tinger. When money is tight, it is wiser to steer clear of cham­pagne and em­brace the de­lights of prosecco, a sparkling wine with no higher as­pi­ra­tions than be­ing del­i­cate and pleas­ingly re­fresh­ing. Three great ex­am­ples are the La Marca NV prosecco (£6.99, Waitrose), the Tesco Finest prosecco di Val­dob­bi­adene brut (£8.99, Tesco) and Taste the Dif­fer­ence prosecco (£8.99 Sain­bury’s). For Vene­tian flair, add a dash of peach juice.

Cham­pagne snobs seem to be less sniffy about pink sparkling wine, so you could also try the re­fresh­ing, rasp­ber­ry­ish Codor­níu pinot noir rosé cava (£8.99, Sains­bury’s) which makes a palate-re­viv­ing part­ner to fruit-based pud­dings.

Loire whites

Those with a weak­ness for sancerre and pouilly-fumé will find them in abun­dance in south­ern hemi­sphere sau­vi­gnons such as the Reach Marl­bor­ough sau­vi­gnon blanc 2008 (£7.99, Tesco) from New Zealand and the Spring­field Es­tate spe­cial cu­vée sau­vi­gnon blanc 2008 (£8.99, Sains­bury’s). But if it’s grassy fresh­ness and min­er­al­ity that you love in a Loire sau­vi­gnon, the re­gion also of­fers its own bar­gains such as the La Grille clas­sic sau­vi­gnon blanc 2007 (£7.25, Waitrose). Al­ter­na­tively, en­joy the re­laxed, re­fresh­ing char­ac­ter of an Ital­ian white such the Tesco Finest Gavi 2007 (£6.99, Tesco). While there is no sub­sti­tute for the heady aro­mas and flavours of Laphroaig or Talisker, Bailie Ni­col Jarvie, pic­tured left, (£14.49, Waitrose) has 60 per cent of Spey­side, High­land and Is­lay malts. It’s the think­ing per­son’s blended whisky.

Sauternes

There are plenty of cheap and cheery al­ter­na­tives to ethe­real de­lights of Sauternes from the unc­tu­ous, grapey Lus­tau mosca­tel de chip­i­ona, pic­tured above, (£4.49, 50cl, Waitrose) to the fresh, vi­brant Con­cha y Toro late har­vest sau­vi­gnon blanc 2005 (£5.99, 37.5 cl, as part of a case, Ma­jes­tic). But the prize for best value must go to the hon­eyed Mus­cat de Saint Jean de Minervois (£3.99, 37.5cl, Sains­bury’s).

Port

While there are plenty of in­ex­pen­sive ports around few of­fer the sub­tlety of £30 bot­tle of vin­tage port. For sheer in­dul­gence, opt in­stead for the Taste The Dif­fer­ence 12 Year Pe­dro Ximenez (£7.19, 50cl, Sains­bury’s) best de­scribed as sticky tof­fee pud­ding in a bot­tle. Or dis­cover the de­lights of the Vin Santo del Chi­anti Ru­fina, Villa di Monte 1990 (£16.99, Marks & Spencer).

Sherry

Even top-of-the-range fino such as Tio Pepe is ar­guably one of the best value wines which makes Hildago La Gi­tana man­zanilla, pic­tured above, (£7.49, Waitrose) seem like a steal. Serve ice cold with toasted al­monds. It makes a great al­ter­na­tive to fes­tive fizz.

Malt whisky

De­li­cious wines need not cost a for­tune. Our choice in­cludes, from the left, Tesco valpo­li­cella ri­passo, Olarra Clas­sico Rioja cri­anza, Les Or­ris rouge, Rioja ‘Sin­gle Vine­yard’, Bouchard Ainé et Fils pinot noir, St Mau­rice Côtes du Rhône Vil­lages, Les Nivières sau­mur, Cave de Saint De­sirat Beaumes de Venise, Wine­maker’s Lot car­menère, Château de Surville and Cono Sur pinot noir

Wines that bub­ble with char­ac­ter in­clude, from the left, Codor­níu pinot noir rosé cava and pros­ec­cos from Waitrose, Sains­bury’s

and Tesco

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