link if you want pictures of the bottles too. There's 10 whites, 10 reds, 10 sparkling and 10 pudding/after dinner drinks. And this gorgeous picture was taken by the very lovely Juliette Neel. Sadly, it wasn't used in the piece but she's kindly let me use it here instead. Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and New Year! Peace out, winos x
Chateau Talmont Bordeaux Blanc 2012, £5, Asda
Helen says: This is a brilliant wine, with a classic label (nice picture of chateau – check; curly writing – check). It’s also a classic white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. A drinkable crowd-pleaser with bright grapefruit flavours.
Best with: Crudités (ok, carrot sticks)
Bellingham Pear Tree White, £5.99, Sainsburys
Helen says: A gorgeous blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier grapes, with lots of melon and pineapple flavours (that’s the Chenin) and a dash of orange too (that’s the Viognier). Sadly it doesn’t come with a free partridge.
Best with: Puff pastry canapes
Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet £5.99 until 25th Dec (normally £7.99), Tesco
Helen says: Nicknamed the ‘lip-stinger’ thanks to its refreshing properties, this is a great party wine. It has the freshness of Sauvignon, but with gentler aromas and softer apple and pear flavours. From the Languedoc region in southern France, this’ll bring sunshine to your winter gatherings.
Best with: Thai crab cakes
The Wine Selection Langhorne Creek Chardonnay 2012, £4.98, Asda
Helen says: Australian Chardonnay has had something of a makeover in the last few years. The shouty ones of old have been replaced (mostly) with more restrained wines just like this one, with lots of ripe tropical fruit and a touch of vanilla from the oak.
Best with: Christmas dinner - the subtle flavours really complement poultry
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, £5.49 until 31st Dec (normally £10.99), Co-op
Helen says: I love this one. Made in New Zealand’s brilliant Marlborough region, this is super lively with bags of gooseberry and grapefruit flavours.
Best with: Salmon blinis
Exquisite Collection Limoux, £6.99, Aldi
Helen says: Chardonnay is a real chameleon of a grape, changing completely depending on where it is made. This is powerful stuff from the sun-soaked Languedoc region. Pineapple chunks and vanilla in liquid form.
Best with: Most things, even Twiglets
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2012, £9.99 (or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles), Majestic
Helen says: Viognier is the grape, and it has a tendency to go floral in a good way when turned into wine. This one’s all honeysuckle and candied fruit flavours; there’s a sprinkling of ginger too, which feels suitably festive.
Best with: Roasted meats
Cono Sur Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99, Waitrose
Helen says: The combination of cool evenings and foggy mornings make Chile’s Casablanca Valley a pretty smart place to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes as the grapes ripen slowly, preserving the natural fruit flavours. This is intensely flavoured with flashes of citrus and gooseberry.
Best with: Most seafood, especially prawns
Nicolas Potel Pouilly Fuisse 2011, £11.99 until 2nd Jan (normally £15.99), Waitrose
Helen says: Pouilly Fuisse is from the Macon region, where the house style is ripe and round. Nicolas Potel’s take on it is delicious with layered pear and grapefruit flavours, with a trace of freshly made toast.
Best with: Turkey and all the trimmings
Les Domaine Brocard Chablis 2010, £14.99, M&S
Helen says: This is just about as pure as Chablis gets, made from organic grapes and, like most of the wines from Chablis, completely oak-free. What we’ve got here is unadulterated Chardonnay, shaped by the region rather than the winemaker. An apple-flavoured, blissfully, buttery glass of festive happiness.
Best with: Mild turkey curries
La Moneda Reserve Malbec, £5, Asda
Helen says: The trick to a good party red is finding something that has got lots of flavour but isn’t too heavy or chewy. This Malbec from Chile is no shrinking violet, full of blackcurrant fruit flavours but soft and juicy with it.
Best with: Boxing Day ham
Tesco Finest Cotes Catalanes Carignan 2012, £6.99, Tesco
Helen says: This is full of squished (technical term) bramble fruits. Carignan is the grape, and it’s got a really warm, spicy character to it. Serve this at your party and the guests won’t leave. You have been warned.
Best with: Cocktail sausages and mustard
Nottage Hill Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2012, £6.49 until 6th Feb (normally £8.49), Morrisons
Helen says: I’ve met this wine at so many parties over the years, and it might not be the most complicated wine but is deliciously quaffable. Classic Aussie Cabernet Sauvingon and Shiraz grapes blend with spicy plum and blackcurrant fruits. Definitely no party bore.
Best with: Hot sausage rolls
Tesco Simply Cotes du Rhone Villages, £4.99, Tesco
Helen says: This might say ‘Simply’ on the label, but there’s nothing simple about it. It’s actually pretty serious for a wine that’s under a fiver. A blend of Syrah (that’s Shiraz, under a different name) and Grenache grapes, there’s a ton of herby, red fruit flavours in here.
Best with: Simple tomato-based pasta dishes
Benevenato Aglianico, £6.49, M&S
Helen says: Mostly found in southern Italy, the Aglianico grape has earned its wines a reputation as the Barolo of the south. This one is a little beast, with abundant black fruits and a savoury edge to it. Will warm up the coldest of carol singers.
Best with: Toad in the hole
Zalze Shiraz/Mourvedre/Viognier 2012, £7.99, Waitrose
Helen says: A wine that tastes far more expensive than it is. Loaded with juicy plum fruit flavours, spice and vanilla. The clever bit is the blend – two red grapes with a dash of white (it’s Viognier again). From the western Cape in South Africa, it’s joyous.
Best with: Roasted red meats
Cune Rioja Reserva 2009, £13.99 (or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles), Majestic
Helen says: If you have a Rioja fan to buy for, get them a bottle of this and they will love you forever. Even better, you might get to share it with them. From a really brilliant vintage this is rich, mellow and super smooth.
Best with: Slow-roasted lamb
Chocoholic Pinotage 2013, £11, Harvey Nichols
Helen says: From the aptly-named Darling Cellars, this is a South African Pinotage that’s been made using partially dried grapes (like Amarone). It adds a kind of cherry fruit liqueur character and a whiff of bittersweet chocolate.
Best with: Dark truffle chocolates
Chateauneuf du Pape 2012, £12.49, Lidl
Helen says: The wines from Chateauneuf du Pape can vary greatly in quality, hiding behind its famous name. But pick this one and you’ll look terribly wine savvy. It’s a baby too, so can be aged for a good few years before drinking.
Best with: Rib of beef
Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, £14.99, Waitrose
Helen says: Pinot Noir is the grape behind some of the most divine, and eye-wateringly expensive, wines in the world. Good red Burgundy is made from it. Even Champagne is made from it. But this one’s from the Mornington Peninsula just outside Melbourne and it’s soft, silky and all about the redcurrant and raspberry fruit. Keep the bottle at your end of the table.
Best with: Turkey or goose
Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Extra Dry, £7.29, Aldi
Helen says: The name ‘Valdobbiadene’ on the label shows that it comes from top quality vineyards in Italy’s Prosecco region. This is just as it should be: light, fresh and frothy, with pear fruit flavours. Brilliant party material as not too heavy and doesn’t need any more than nibbles.
Best with: Cheese straws
Babycham 4x200ml, £3.99, Tesco
Helen says: Babycham is 60 years old and looking pretty good on it. Honestly, our grannies were onto something, with the light, frothy fruit of perry. Made from pears and at just 6 per cent alcohol, it’s one for those who want to stay light. Saucer glasses obligatory.
Best with: Walnut and stilton bites
Taste The Difference Prosecco Magnum, £13.99, Sainsbury’s
Helen says: Simple economies of scale make this bottle a real bargain, plus you’ve got the added wow factor of serving it from a magnum. Lifting it will prove a good workout for the upper arms, too. More importantly, the quality is tip-top with crisp, clean citrus fruit flavours and a touch of lemon sherbet.
Best with: Pigs in blankets
The Co-operative Prosecco, £6.49 until 31st Dec (normally £9.99), Co-op
Helen says: There’s lots of okay-ish Prosecco around. The trick is finding the ones that have got real freshness and lightness. This one came out top in a recent Which? magazine tasting, and rightly so. Really smart for the price.
Best with: Parma ham and melon
Codorniu Vintage Cava 2011, £7.32 until 25th Dec (normally £10.99), Tesco
Helen says: From one of Cava’s most dependable brands, this is a classic blend of traditional Cava grapes from a single year. It’s ripe and round; and although it might not boast the complexity of Champagne, it does boast a far more affordable price tag.
Best with: Really salty posh crisps
Comte de Brismand Brut NV, £10, Lidl
Helen says: At this price I expected it to either strip the enamel from my teeth or fall flat on flavour. But it did none of those things! It’s an easy-going style with soft lemon flavours that are just on the right side of cheek-sucking.
Best with: Smoked salmon on toast
Tesco Finest Premier Cru Brut NV, £16.99 until 25th December (normally £19.99), Tesco
Helen says: Seriously sophisticated fizz, made by one of the best producers in the small Champagne village of Avize. It’s a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, and what sets it apart from the crowd is a brilliant, concentrated biscuit flavour, not unlike digestives.
Best with: More smoked salmon, but this time on blinis
Waitrose Brut NV, £19.99, Waitrose
Helen says: The whole Waitrose Champagne family is impressive, but this one is a particular favourite. With subliminally moreish brioche and grapefruit flavours, this is understated, confident and best of all, great value. It’s won a heap of awards, too.
Best with: Most seafood (and chips).
Bolney Estate Rose 2009, £24.99, www.bolneywineestate.com, Justerini & Brooks
Helen says: Not only is this English, but pink to boot and made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir grapes. Think of orchard apples but in a glass, with bubbles and alcohol. Then sip back and think of England.
Best with: Prawns in tempura
Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2005, £33.99, Waitrose
Helen says: This is the supermodel of Champagnes, made from only Chardonnay grapes grown in top quality-rated Grand Cru vineyards, from a single year. The flavours are delicate but precise: hazelnuts, citrus and toast.
Best with: Smart canapes or on its own, in the bath.
Brilliant Pudding & After Dinner Drinks
Extra Special Moscatel de Valencia, £4.50, Asda
Helen says: A real sweet treat, this is light, lemony and lush. Made from the Moscatel grape, grown on the east coast of Spain. It’s like a really light dessert wine, not at all sticky.
Best with: classic trifle
Dry Old Amontillado 37.5cl, £7.49, M&S
Helen says: This is a festive take on Fino sherry - it’s Fino or Manzanilla sherry that’s been aged longer, hence the amber colour. And the flavours are incredible! All oranges and toasted nuts. Very trendy.
Best with: Hard cheeses – parmesan, manchego, cheddar…
Chateau Sablines Monbazillac £8.99, Waitrose
Helen says: In southwest France is a little region where, if the grapes are affected by a fungus called noble rot, they can be labelled as Monbazillac. And despite sounding grim, noble rot concentrates the sugar in the grapes producing sweet, honeyed wines just like this one.
Best with: Pannetone
Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon 37.5cl, £6.79, Tesco
Helen says: Small but perfectly formed, this is a force of nature. Like the Monbazillac, noble rot has played a part concentrating the flavours and adding an intense sugar hit. Tastes of baked apricots. Sublime.
Best with: Actual baked apricots, or salty blue cheeses.
Seriously Plummy Maury 37.5cl, £10.99, Waitrose
Helen says: How funny that a region called Maury should produce a wine that is so terribly moreish. But that’s what it’s done here, creating a fig and plum explosion of flavours all wrapped in a chocolatey blanket. Like Port, only lighter.
Best with: Christmas pudding
Tesco Finest 10 year old Tawny Port, £12.50 until 25th Dec (normally £15.50), Tesco
Helen says: The colour of this is mesmeric, as are the flavours. It really is like Christmas in a glass – all dried fruits and nuts. And it really has mellowed with age. Don’t we all?
Best with: Mince pies.
Taste The Difference Vintage Port 1999, £19.99 until 1st Jan (normally £24.99), Sainsbury’s
Helen says: Made by a top Port producer, this is a real Christmas cracker. Manages to get the balance of boozy fruit, sweetness and tannins just right. Fiery and fabulous.
Best with: A wodge of Stilton.
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2008, £19.99, Majestic
Helen says: Another nobly rotted sweet wine, but this one can claim to be the oldest sweetie in the world. Hailing from Hungary, it manages to be both lusciously sweet and crisp, with marmalade and quince flavours.
Best with: A slice of Christmas cake
Mas Amiel 2010, £21.50, Lea & Sandman
Helen says: More Maury, from one of the best producers in the region. Made from Grenache grapes, the wine is fortified and aged in oak barrels, adding real punch to the cherry and fig-like flavours.
Best with: A tin of Quality Street
Sipsmith Vintage Sloe Gin 2012, Majestic, £22.50 (normally £26)
Helen says: This London-based distiller has taken its London Dry Gin and left it to rest on a bed of handpicked sloe berries for a time. The happy result is a velvety cherry-scented fruit bomb. Sip slowly, fireside.
Best with: A handful of festive nuts