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MoneyWeek, 11 December 2009 – Six Christmas Wines

2005 Saumur-Champigny, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Filliatreau, Loire, France (£29.50, Magnum, Yapp Brothers Ltd tel. 01747 860 423 & www.yapp.co.uk). The 75cl version of this legendary wine is now on the 2007 vintage, and it is an undeniable beauty. Thankfully though the magnums have lagged behind a touch (as they tend to do) and so the fastest fingered of you can dial Yapp now and secure some of these spectacularly, rich and brooding monster bottles. Fred Filliatreau has a magical touch with his ancient vines and the result is a Cabernet Franc of the noblest form. In warm vintages like 2005, Loire reds can resemble some of the great Bordeaux in their shape, size and impact. This wine is one of the finest red Loires that I have ever tasted and to think that it costs less than thirty quid for a magnum is frankly staggering. Drink it with anything you please – every dish tastes great with this wine in your glass.

2007 Tempranillo, Mas Oliveras, Catalonia, Spain (£6.50, Corney & Barrow tel. 020 7265 2400 & www.corneyandbarrow.com). Check out this Christmas cracker. Mas Oliveras uses the superb Rioja grape, Tempranillo, to devastating effect with its mouth-watering strawberry and vanilla notes. This is a brilliant, budget wine for Christmas feasts, particularly if you love chipolatas, cranberry sauce, all manner of elaborate stuffings and Devils on horseback, because Tempranillo laps up fruitiness, gravy, herbs and stodge with alacrity. Cheap as chips and worth an awful lot more when you savour its complex nuances, make sure that you load up with a case or two today because this is one wine that will take care of all of your festive entertaining in one fell swoop and not trouble the credit card at all.

1998 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Nicolas-François, Champagne, France (£65.00, and £58.50 by the case, Berry Bros & Rudd tel. 0800 2802400). Back in June 2007, I wrote this wine up as a super-scoop. The 2000 vintage has now hit the shelves and it is a delicious creature, but there are still a few bottles of this absolutely incredible ’98 still around and you simply must track them down because it is drinking so well right now. With every bit as much, if not more, integrity, complexity and age-ability as every one of the mega-cuvées that you see in gift packs littering every department store this season (costing a small fortune), this wine is the real deal at a real price. Once bitten by Billecart, you are never quite the same. This house has a fanatical fan base and there is always room for a few more acolytes. You are also safe in the knowledge that you are a cut above the rest of the winey riffraff when you drink this wine.

2003 Graham’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal (£11.99, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose). The 2003 vintage was a warm one and this indomitable Port is accordingly stuffed with more monstrous, plumy, fruit and power than usual. Every year it is fascinating to taste all of the offerings from the top Port houses and I search for the best LBV, the top Single Quinta and the top Vintage wines of the year. This season Graham’s has taken the crown from Taylor’s for the first time in a few years because they have nailed a double hit in my notes with my recommended wine and also the superb 1998 Graham’s, Single Quinta Malvedos (£24.99, Sainsbury’s). LBV is inevitably the best value style of port to go for at Christmas in terms of sheer bang for your buck. ’03 Graham’s is the winner in this category by a furling this year, but if this bottle had been misplaced and put in the ‘vintage port’ pile I would still have given it a mighty score, such is the sheer bloody brilliance of this brew. Do not miss this wine.

1990 Lustau, Añada Rich Oloroso Sherry, Spain (£16.99, selected Waitrose & www.waitrosewine.com). It is difficult to put into words just how mind-blowing this wine is, but it is probably the ultimate fortified wine of the year across all categories and countries. Huge power and incredible beauty combine to make the most beguiling combination of fig, toffee, roasted nut and plum imaginable. Dry and refreshing, too, please take the plunge and reward all of your senses with this amazing creation. Chilled, severed before dinner in dainty glasses this is a wine that will signal to your guests that you are the commander of an intergalactic fleet of culinary wizards and that they are singularly privileged to be in your gastronomic aura. Served ‘cool’ after dinner with salted caramels from www.artisandechocolat.com you are assured of an instant knighthood.

2007 Penfolds, Reserve Bin 07A Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£28.00, Majestic Fine Wine Stores, Harrods, Selfridges, Hailsham Cellars). I recently judged the National Wine Show of Australia, in Canberra. This wine won a gold medal. The ‘08A, as yet unreleased, won the Trophy, the 06A and 05A also won golds. This is unprecedented. These wines are utterly mesmerising. At the same sort of price as a village Meursault from a half-hearted producer, you can drink Australia’s finest Chardonnay – which in flavour terms is up with the great Burgundian Premier Crus in terms of class and elegance. The fact that four vintages in a row (judged blind by some of the most revered palates in Australia, and me!) all managed to get scores of over 18.5/20 on average against all of the other great Chardonnays from Aus is absolutely gob-smacking. For a winery that is perhaps more famous for its reds, this is an achievement that will be remembered for years to come. I know the unassuming team that makes these wines and they are some of the most talented and perceptive people in the whole world of wine. They have my unending respect. This wine is the Chardonnay of the Year.

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