IT SEEMS sad to me that Christmas is now dominated by presents, while its true meaning is all but ignored. It is not that I am against presents — indeed, I very much welcome them — but would it not be better if we adopted the Spanish habit of giving presents on the day of Los Tres Reyes, Epiphany, the day when the Magi brought gifts to Jesus?
As a move in that direction, I propose something along the lines of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, our true loves giving us an ever-increasing vinous present on each of the 12 days. After scouting the shelves, here are my suggestions for this Christmas, coming from all around the world.
On day one, I would like to receive the new eighth edition of The World Atlas of Wine (Mitchell Beazley, 2019), by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. This is a must for every wine lover, and, while the pleasure in a bottle of wine is evanescent, with a book you can return to it time after time. The cover price is £50, but it can be bought more cheaply from other websites, such as thebookpeople.co.uk, where it is on special offer for just £19.99: perhaps the best bargain available this season.
For day two, my choice is a Greek dessert wine with a difference. This is the NYX Mavrodaphne de Patras (Asda, £6.50). Almost the colour of antique furniture, its rich opulence will stand up to any leftover mince pies and Christmas pudding. My allocation of two bottles should see me through the year.
On day three, my camel will come from California, with the Apothic (Morrisons, £9.50). This is a complex blend of red grapes, which gives some ever-welcome warmth in the chill days of winter.
For my fourth bottle choice, I return to a wine I have mentioned in the past, the Hungarian Late Harvest Tokaji (Lidl £5.99 50cl.). Here botrytis-shrivelled grapes create a luscious dessert wine at a very reasonable price.
My true love has not had to travel far for day five. In complete contrast to previous wine is the bone-dry Exquisite Collection Lyme Block Bacchus 2018 from Dorset (Aldi, £8.99). This is bitingly crisp, and shows that English vineyards are capable of producing great still as well as sparkling wines.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my fancy turns to sparkling wine, and, rather than Champagne, I have chosen an old favourite from South Africa: Graham Beck Brut. I have chosen it on this day because, if you buy six bottles of it from Majestic, it is £13.99, a saving of £2 a bottle (or £11.99 if you agree to a set of conditions), and I would be happy to put it up against any Champagne.
Day seven: from the volcanic soils of Basilicata, in southern Italy, comes the full-bodied tannic red, the exotically named Aglianico del Vulture 2017 (Marks & Spencer, £11). This wine, with flavours of ripe plums and dark chocolate, will benefit from keeping, and I will put part of my allocation on one side for the future.
I am looking forward to the summer with my wine for day eight. From the steep banks of the Mosel comes Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2018 from the Dr Loosen estate (Waitrose, £15.99). Refreshingly light, a mere eight per cent, with a beautiful balance between fresh acidity and hints of sweetness, there is no wine that I enjoy drinking by itself more than this. One need have no fear of the morrow.
Regretfully, the final four wines selfishly reflect my personal tastes, and those of my true love. We both drink much more red wine than white; so, for days nine and ten, I have chosen two reds for everyday drinking. First, from the Co-op, Rabelo 2015 (£6), a full-bodied blend of Portuguese grapes, which, while the label does not specify their origin, it gives hints that they may come from the Douro Valley. Wherever they come from, the wine is an ideal match for hearty meat dishes, such as stews.
The same might be said of the Wine Society’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (£7.50). Here, really ripe fruit makes a wine that genuinely tastes of the grape variety from which it was made. It is a perfect partner for rare roast beef.
In the past, I have been disappointed by the wines on the shelves at Tesco. This year, however, there were several agreeable surprises, and I have selected D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2017 (£12) for day 11. This comes from the McLaren Vale in South Australia, and is made by the maverick winemaker Chester Osborne. His labels always read as well as his wines taste. They give the reason behind the name of the wine. His names include the Wild Pixie and the Thieving Magpie: they are just as colourful as the shirts that he wears.
My final choice, and I look forward to receiving a dozen bottles of this, is Clos De Los Siete 2016 (Sainsbury’s, £14.50, buy 6 and save 25 per cent). This comes from a winery in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina, and is the creation of Michel Rolland, perhaps the world’s best-known, and possibly most notorious, consultant winemaker. This wine is much admired by Laura Catena (from one of Argentina’s great wine families), who describes it as having “a spicy black fruit ‘tipicity’ of Tunuyan Malbec, and big lush tannins”. This is a great wine at a reasonable price.
On looking back over my selection, I see that I have not included a single bottle made from the Pinot Noir grape, which is perhaps my favourite. Ah, well, it leaves me scope to select a very different dozen next year. I hope that my “Twelve Days” bear fruit for you . . . as well as for me.
Prices and availability were accurate when we went to press, but change constantly at this time of year, so please check.