Christmas wines Part 4: Festive red wine to warm and hug you (if only it had arms)

red wine bauble festive red wines Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Hold on to your Christmas hats! If you love red wines with a bit of heart, depth, richness and ripe fruits which can comfort and hug, then I’m here for you. I won’t dilly dally with these festive red wine choices, as there’s lots to get through.

Three festive red wine choices from France

It would be wrong not to head to Bordeaux with a couple of wines that say “food, food, food”. Grand Plessis, Médoc, 2015 (£11, Marks & Spencer) is a smooth and fruity claret. It’s classy and elegant on the palate like a good French wine should be, with a lovely floral nose. There are hints of spice and liquorice beneath the blackberry fruit flavours.

Calvet Reserve, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, 2016 (Waitrose £9.39) is a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon and is ideal if roast beef is your Christmas Day roast of choice. But hey! This full-bodied red, lashed with dark fruits and pepper is also suitable for vegetarians so forget the beef and sip with your veggie option.

Where to go next? Well I’m spoilt for choice but I’ll stick with France because I Iove this wine Domaine Jones Fitou 2016 (£15.50, The Wine Society). I jealously guarded it when I was “tasting” it for your benefit. The challenges I face. It’s a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah and is full-bodied and rich and the essence of ripe, delicious, plummy dark and red fruits stunningly shine through. Main course? Yes. Cheese? Definitely.

… and now four more festive red wine choices 

I’m here waving a Christmas glass of Zalze Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier (RRP £8.79, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda) and thinking it’s a good match for a plate of all the Christmas dinner goodies, from turkey to parsnips, from sprouts to roasties. Shiraz takes centre stage in this blend, which has notes of brambly hedgerow fruits and cherry.

If a Spanish Rioja is more to your festive liking, then Marques De Caceres Gran Reserva 2009 (RRP £18.99, will be a good choice. It has been aged for over two years in oak, a process which leaves a legacy of vanilla, coffee, spice and bold red fruits. It’s a powerpack of a red wine and the flavours just keep on giving.

Clos de los Siete (RRP £17, Sainsbury) hails from Argentina. The country’s signature wine grape malbec takes the lead in a five-grape blend including merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. The flavours of red fruits, plums and spices dance a tango in your mouth and then linger temptingly. Sip and watch the Christmas episode of Strictly for the full effect.

Co-op Irresistible Chilean Carmenere 2017
Co-op Irresistible Chilean Carmenere 2017

A final choice, as I hate to leave you with a wine dilemma, is Co-op Irresistible Chilean Carménère 2017 (£7) which is a new wine in Co-op stores and was two years in the planning between the Co-op team and winemaker Diego Covarrubias. You’ll enjoy an easy-drinking, any-day kind of wine, full of black cherries. More than anything, you’ll love the label.

Read more of my Christmas 2018 wine thoughts

Champagne Taste Test 2018: We rate 10 supermarket champagnes
Prosecco Taste Test 2018: We rate 10 supermarket proseccos

Christmas 2018 wines Part 1: Fresh and fruity whites
Christmas 2018 wines Part 2: Six chardonnay wines 
Christmas 2018 wines Part 3: Six light, fruity, savoury, spicy reds

First published in over 30 regional newspapers including:
Hull Daily Mail – Leicester Mercury – Cambridge News – Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner
– The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Gazette 
Birmingham Mail – Coventry Telegraph  – Paisley Daily Express 

Cute doggie alert! (Oh, and taking the mystery out of Bordeaux wines)

bordeaux wines

One of the giddiest things I do when I’m visiting vineyards is to look for the winery doggie and then take as many photographs of the said doggie. I had a giddy moment a few weeks ago in France, while discovering Bordeaux wines.

Bordeaux wines - Eau de Vie Chateau Pitray
The beautiful Eau de Vie at Château Pitray

The most beautiful little bundle of fur called Eau de Vie was padding around her master Jean De Boigne at Château Pitray and I was mesmerised. I was also mesmerised by the château itself; it was veiled in fog, dew was on the ground and the gothic architecture was framed by grey skies and trees whose autumnal leaves were beginning to wilt and lazily drift to the ground.

Bordeaux wines Chateau Pitray

This, I thought, is pretty special. Surely the wines from here are going to be so out of my usual price bracket?  Well no, definitely not.

One of the misconceptions about Bordeaux wines is that the majority of prices are in the premier league; but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact only 5% of wines from Bordeaux are “exclusive”; the rest are very much affordable.

I recalled that moment this week because I’ve been asked two questions and each began with “what do you think of  ….”

The first question came as I was wriggling around two people wearing adult-sized cuddly animal costumes. In a moment of sanity I was asked: “What do you think of a merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend? Is it rare? Is it difficult to find?”

Well no, the blend IS NOT rare, it is at the heart of Bordeaux red wine and even better, the wines are SO EASY to find.

The second question came when I’d nipped out to buy tea bags and instead ended up in my local pub having a sneaky glass of wine. That old excuse.

“What do you think of claret?” I was asked. “We had a bad bottle of supermarket claret and we’ve never tried claret since,” I was told.

Oh dear, such a shame.  Claret is a traditional term to describe red Bordeaux wine and I can only assume that my lovely pub companions had picked up a bottle of generic supermarket-branded claret which had put them off this wonderful region.

Those two questions have taken me back to Château Pitray and my ponderings on the mystique of Bordeaux wines. Do people really think the wines are out of reach OF THEIR NORMAL LIFE both in price and availability? It actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you’ve never dipped your toe (or preferably your nose) into a Bordeaux red wine (a claret) then here’s some pointers.

Bordeaux wines: The reds

The red wines in Bordeaux are blended mainly from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc although some other regional grapes are allowed to make an appearance.

You might have heard of the terms right bank and left bank.  In left bank wines, cabernet sauvignon leads from the front. The wines are called left bank because the vineyards sit to the left of the Garonne River (imagine a map, and the left bank is in the west, next to the  Atlantic Ocean).

Look for names on the label such as Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Estèphe. The wines typically have notes of blackcurrant with leather, spice, wood and hedgerows.

If you prefer fruitier reds then right bank wines (vineyards are on the right of the River Dordogne) are probably for you. Here the softer merlot is the king of the blend. Look for Pomerol, Saint Emilion, Bourg, Blaye and Fronsac among others.  

Honestly, please give them a go.  To help lift this mystique around Bordeaux wines the team at  Bordeaux Wines UK has created an Everyday Bordeaux list which includes 175 wines found easily in many UK retailers. Head to to check out the wines (all priced between £6-20). You can follow @BordeauxWinesUK  on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Wines from Château de Pitray can be found at from around £8.50 a bottle and at Majestic for about £12.99 a bottle.

Think of little Eau de Vie should you sip one.

Find out more about Château de Pitray here