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Top Red Wines for Christmas

Here are 10 top red wines, from a range of countries, that will grace any Christmas lunch table.

Following last week’s array of impressive sweeties and fortified wines, the spotlight for this, the second of our four reviews of top seasonal choices, goes on Christmas red wines.

I am guessing that selections need to be fairly traditional and, thus, there is an old-world inclination to the recommendations.

Nevertheless, being a season of indulgence, I imagine that folk are prepared to spend a little bit more.

However, to try to keep a lid on things – and focus on wine that is easily sourced – many of the wines featured are on a High Street near you.

Finally, while I feel that all the wines cited punch above their price point, I have given gold tinting to two I regard as especially good value for money.

Once again, pictures and hyperlinks are included where possible to make it easier to track down the wine in question.

Starting in Beaujolais

2020 Clos du Vieux Bourg Morgon (from £15.75 at Wickham Wine and 14% abv):

Some of the Crus of Beaujolais (and Morgon is one) are currently producing excellent wines with sophisticated depth and flavours.

That makes them good alternatives to the lighter Burgundies and this example certainly meets that need – and with a bit to spare..

Smooth with attractive peony aromas soft, it has warm well-defined cherry and raspberry flavours supported by good acidity and suggestions of cocoa and cloves. 

Onto Burgundy itself

2019 Edouard Delaunay ‘Septembre’ Pinot Noir (from £14.99 at Majestic and 13%):

Now back in family hands, Edouard Delaunay wines are recovering their exalted position in the Burgundy hierarchy with impressive wines like this.

Aided possibly by experience making wines in other parts of France, the producer here has created wine with a keen price yet which still meets many of the classic pinot noir criteria.

Full but with mild tannin, it brings us textured plum and cherry flavours accompanied by vanilla, chocolate and allspice elements.

Some stores may still be on the 2018 vintage.

Heading to Italy now

2020 Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG (£11.50 at The Wine Society) and 13.5%):

I have written before about the joys of the Frappato grape when in experienced hands and this Sicilian blend (with nero d’avola) illustrates the point well.

Here a gifted winemaker has added some dried grapes into the mix to provide extra depth and an increased flavour range.

Dark with limited aromas, the result delivers smooth but distinctive black cherry, pomegranate and blackcurrant flavours embellished with menthol, clove and chocolate elements and lively acidity – but modest tannin.   

But moving further north

2018 Taste the Difference Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (£12 at Sainsbury’s and 13.5%):

This is from Montepulciano – the place – and is not connected to the grape variety of the same name.

Predictably for Tuscany, this is largely from sangiovese grapes and has been crafted by the Cecchi operation – who are especially adroit at making approachable wines with that grape.

Medium bodied with a vague nuttiness, it contains mulberry, tomato and cherry flavours along with a smoky mineral and dried herb edge, a little tannin and good acidity.

Off to the southern hemisphere

2017 Fable Mountain Vineyards Mourvedre (from £18.99 at Laithwaites and 13%):

Fantastic examples that use the Spanish name (monastrell) are inspiring a debate whether France or Spain uses the grape best – well here is a third option.

From South Africa’s Tulbagh (to the north of the country’s main wine areas) this is made by a producer of biodynamic wines and is a great illustration of mourvedre as a winter (and especially Christmas) wine.  

Dense but with lavender aromas, it exhibits mint and sage charged plum and blackberry flavours supplemented by good acidity, mild tannin and a game influenced savoury background.   

Two to Decant Next

2019 Giné Giné Priorat (£18 at The Wine Society and 15%)

Give this air to breathe, and you will be rewarded with the joys of a great Spanish cariñena and garnacha blend from the curious slate-soil of the Priorat enclave inland from Tarragona.

It will work perfectly with any dish that needs a little fruit based contrast to bring out its full potential.

Juicy with an expressive soft fruit nose, it offers us dark coloured raspberry, cherry and prune flavours coupled with mild tannin but nippy acidity and touches of chocolate, liquorice and prune.

On to the Rhone Valley

2012 Rasteau Les Hauts Du Village (£15.99 at Waitrose and 14.5%):

Rasteau is a long-standing Rhone Valley producer of vins doux naturels but also acquired an appellation for its dry wines in 2010 and here offers us a classic and skilfully aged GSM blend.

So, for a polar opposite of the fruit elements of the Priorat, seek out the rustic, earthy and roast meat constituents of this nicely configured savoury wine.

Its orange peel acidity but (still, after 10 years) firm tannin teams up here with smooth cherry, prune and fig favours and traces of mocha, thyme and black olives.  

Onto to Bordeaux now

2018 Sirius Bordeaux (£8.99 – instead of £11.99 until 29 November – at Waitrose and 14%):

Presentable claret for reasonable money is hard to source so full marks to Waitrose for unearthing this kindly priced blend.

It uses 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon to create red wine with many of the hallmarks that make the region so special.

Surprisingly youthfully purple in colour, it displays strawberry, red plum and cherry flavours married here to firm tannin (but good acidity) and touches of graphite, charcoal and the sweeter spices too.

And it’s that grape again but different hemisphere

2019 The Society’s Exhibition Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (£16.50 at The Wine Society and 14%):

Let’s consider now a 100% cabernet sauvignon made by one of the pioneers of grape (and especially cabernet) production in that part of Western Australia – Vasse Felix.

This example shows off Australia’s fingerprints when applied to this variety and turns up the volume on its fruit elements but offers less of the savoury contrast than, say, versions from Bordeaux.

Juicy and full, it contains minty blackcurrant and prune flavours partnered by good acidity, soft tannin and hints of cocoa, vanilla, allspice and bell pepper.

This and the next wine are my top choices from this all-star collection.

Moving east along the coast.

2018 d’Arenberg d’Arry’s Original Grenache Shiraz (currently £10 – instead of £12 at Asda and 14.5%):

Thanks to the glorious Barossa Valley, South Australia is forever associated with shiraz in many wine drinkers’ minds … but read on.

Here the brilliant Chester Osborn has created a Rhone blend (but without mourvedre) from McLaren Vale (a little further south) that – with the previous wine – gets top marks from me.

Soft but with savoury slate elements too, it provides shrewdly balanced cherry, plum and loganberry flavours coupled with aniseed, mint and vanilla components.


Two reminders, folks, one is that the latest Co-op promotions end early next week.

Secondly, the Fine Wine deals at Majestic are also due to end next week but I am not sure when their Black Friday discounts come to an end.   

After today’s glimpse of more expensive wine, it’s back to budget (but great value) fare in Monday’s Top Tip selections.

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10 Responses

  1. Good call here Brian with some interesting bottles. I have one bottle left of a case I bought 8 years ago of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria …from Tesco then … I must admit that the 2010 has taken some time to ”get there” but maybe the 2020 will deliver now! But see, the Sainsbury’s Cecchi Vino Nobile’ and the Asda d’Arenburg’ can be even cheaper than their current shelf prices because as of today both their 25% off buy 6 offer, still run. It would make that Oz Grenache £7.50 instead of £12!!! That’s a merry Xmas…

  2. Majestic offer ( £8.99 Mix six) a brilliant modern Spanish garnacha made from old vines in Aragon.
    Salvaje del Moncayo La Garnacha is a smooth,fragrant red wine.Subdued tannins and red fruits with;, is it sweet paprika?A great wine for Xmas with a striking label.

  3. Thanks Eddie …. I felt that the tannin on the 2020 Santa Tresa was already quite soft while the flavours were shining through well now – but, no doubt, aging would make things even better. As for Sainsbury’s, I also noticed that their “25% off deals” had now been extended until Sunday 4 December. A merry Christmas indeed.

  4. Not caught up with that one yet – but will try to do so. Certainly, it seems to tick a lot of boxes – (a) garnacha, (b) old vines and (c) a region outside Rioja (to secure good value for money).

  5. Lovely to see your recommendation of the Sainsbury’s TtD Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Brian. Just bought it this week on the 25%-off 6 bottles along with Sainsbury’s other Cecchi Tuscan sangiovese-based red – the TtD Discovery Collection Morellino Di Scansano although have yet to open either. Sainsburys seem to be strengthening their Italian wine offer at the moment. Long may it continue, perhaps with a Frappato and a Susomaniello! Oh, and perhaps they could bring back the low-alcohol fizz Brachetto d’Aqui from Piedmont next summer.

  6. Hi all, spurred on by many recent comments and Sainsbury’s latest 6/25% offer dashed down earlier today to bag 6 xMorellino Di Scansano (now suitably room temp & aerated and drinking very nicely so thank you all ! ) but sadly the Maremma Toscana shelf was bare but more due in tonight hopefully. Penfolds Koonunga Hill double discounted to £6 saw the last 4 quickly in my trolley + a couple of extras to make the six.
    Brian – any tips for a hearty budget nice red to lay down for a year or two … ?
    Regards and seasonal greetings …

  7. Yes hard on the heels of big strides forward with Italian white wines (falinghina, pecorino etc), work seems under way to make reds more approachable – and to broaden the grape varieties used. Long may it continue; there are some underappreciated stars out there.

  8. Glad all those recommendations have proved helpful – and thanks to the subscribers who so helpfully supplement what I have discovered. Thank you, gents.
    Tipping inexpensive wines for aging is tricky. First, there are so many variables and, secondly, wines destined to be kept tend to be more expensive because it may be a long time before the producer gets his money.
    The best I can suggest is to select an area where prices are, traditionally, lower – Languedoc, inland California or Romania for instance. Then, look for producers there with wines that are several years old but are being well rated by critics now and, finally, seek out some of the same producer’s latest vintages.

  9. I have revisited a Garnacha wine I have actually laid down and remember you firmly suggesting to me that this grape is sometimes much more than a “blending” red wine grape. You are dead right Brian and glad I listened!

    I picked this up about 2 years ago bought a bottle, tried it and yes it was £3.99 and thought this is a 2015 from an unfashionable Spanish region, it’s very much old vines so it ticks boxes a,b and c of your rules above Brian.

    Way back in 2019 it won an IWC silver medal and 93/100 and it was no way ready and had 16% Alcohol so fill yer boots Chris and see what turns out! Well I assure you it has improved and it could despite all the odds still improve.

    In the glass it has a lovely strawberry jam nose, the colour is still black as the Ace of Spades. I don’t think the rim colour will ever start to be orangey far less red.

    The roots of perhaps a 100 year old vine are in slate rather than soil so expect minerality. The palate is massive, smoky, cherries and redcurrants. There is balance, still ample fruit under the complexity and it takes a few hours to open up fully.

    Has anyone else got this wine from “Slate” which is perfect for anyone from Wales or Scotland? Similar geology?

    OK it does not have the elegance of a top Bordeaux but I don’t have the resources to afford one.

  10. Those three hints often seem to work well so I am glad they were vindicated by the wines you laid down. As you say, Bordeaux does it well but bank managers (acting in their professional capacities) tend not to share our enthusiasm.

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