Wine

Christmas wines for under £15

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And lo: the three wise(ly-chosen) wines followed the ninja star back to the lowly house by the sea. Each bore a different gift, but which would be crowned the king of kings? I think that’s how the story starts anyway…

One of the benefits of wine blogging is that people trust you to choose the Christmas booze. Mine was a relatively small affair this year, so I set myself a budget of £50 to buy two reds and a white. I wanted to showcase a variety of styles, so I went for a white Burgundy, a Douro and an Australian Shiraz. Here’s what I thought of them (ordered from L-R in the picture).

1. Quinta Nova Douro, 2013. 14%. £13.

This came highly recommended by the owner of Brighton’s Seven Cellars wine shop, where I spent a few days working recently. Just after I was told about it, a well-known local music journalist (whose identity shall remain concealed) came in asking for a red that fit the same description. “My wife’ll kill me if I come back with anything else,” he said. Of course, it turned out to be the same Douro.

“If it’s good enough for him,” chipped in another customer, in an I’m Spartacus moment that set off a chain reaction of sales which I also got sucked into.

But did it justify the hype? Well… it reminded me of a Bordeaux: a bit tannic with a long finish. But interstingly, if you examined it hard enough, it also had undercurrents of bakewell tart; that’s to say almond, raspberry and cherry.

Verdict: I’d have liked the almond/fruit flavours to be more prominent, but this pairs very well with red meat. Good for fans of Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux.

2. Macon Davaye Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, 2014. 13.5%. £15 (actually £14.99 for any pedants out there, but I like to round things up).

This white Burgundy (like all white Burgundys, made from 100 per cent Chardonnay) has spent time on the lees, meaning it was aged in the bottle along with the dead yeast cells after fermentation. This gives it a yeasty, bready flavour – much like Champagne.

I’m not a huge Champagne lover, and this was a tad too yeasty for me. I prefer Chardonnays to be fruitier, ideally with subtle stone-fruit flavours. This tasted of apple, pear and – sounds unusual to say it but – grape.

Verdict: a solid white, especially suited to Champagne girls and yeastie boys.

3. Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz. 2014. 14.5%. £13.

This south Australian red was the only one of the three I’d had before. I needed a “safe bet”, and this is always a crowd pleaser.

The first thing you notice about it is a juggernaut of fruit smacking you in the nose; King Kong-sized hits of blackcurrent and blackberry make you feel like you’re being dunked (by aforementioned ape) in a bucket of Ribena. In a nice way.

The dark fruits and spice make this a perfect festive tipple – especially if you’re having dark meat for lunch. It’s also velvety smooth. No harsh tannins here.

Verdict: all bottles three went down well, but this was my favourite. The Lionheart retains its crown. It’ll be back next year to defend its title.

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