Wines to top up the festive spirit

Helen McGinn of The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club chooses her favourite bottles to gift this Christmas and New Year

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By Helen McGinn on

A well-chosen bottle will make a great present for wine lovers everywhere – but with so much choice, picking the right one could leave you with a headache. Is that cut-price prosecco really any good? Which bottles look – and taste – far more expensive than they actually are? Whether you need a pressie for a party host or are buying for a hard-to-please connoisseur, here’s my current pick of the best-value bottles guaranteed to bring genuine festive cheer.


In a sea of prosecco, this one stands out – and not just because it’s organic. Drink too much and it will still give you a headache (alcohol has a habit of doing that), but the fact that it’s made from organically grown grapes adds extra oomph to this light, fresh, frothy pear and citrus Italian fizz. In-store only.


Chenin Blanc is not as Marmite as sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay can be, so it’s a safe bet for a boozy present. This ripe South African white is made from old bush vines in the Swartland region; think fresh grapefruit and nectarine flavours. It’s a properly brilliant wine for the price.



Last-minute panic-buying in the corner shop doesn’t often end well, wine-wise. But find this on the shelves in your local Spar and you’ve struck lucky. Awarded this year’s Which? Best Buy in their recent Christmas wine tasting, it’s made from a classic southern French blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. In-store only.



Crémant is made in the same way as Champagne but is not from the champagne region, and this tastes pretty similar to the real thing but at a fraction of the cost. It’s slightly fruitier with soft bubbles and plenty of crisp citrus fruits. Smartly packaged, too, which gives it extra bonus points.

The quality of “grower Champagnes” varies enormously, but this one, made only from the Champagne grape, is a real find: light, slightly floral and with a reassuring whiff of just-crushed digestive biscuits, it’s better than many that are twice the price.



The brilliant thing about Italian whites is their food-friendliness. This one, made from the Cortese grape, will work with the flavours of turkey, ham and whatever else is piled on the plate over Christmas. It’s ripe and peachy with requisite freshness and this one is also vegan-friendly. In-store only.

Made by one of the big names in the Burgundy winemaking business, this is a blend of grapes sourced from the vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, among others. Fermented and aged in oak barrels, it’s powerful stuff, with orchard fruit flavours and a chalky, reassuringly expensive-tasting character to it.


Ask a wine buff what red to have with a traditional Christmas feast and most will point you in the direction of pinot noir from its spiritual homeland, Burgundy. But this one’s from Germany and is, in comparison, an absolute steal – all smoky and spicy with light redcurrant fruits.

For those who like their wines on the bigger side, this Rioja from a single estate winery is a great option with its velvet soft black cherry fruit and vanilla flavours. Just don’t be disappointed if they don’t offer to share it. In-store, or £150 for a case of 6.


This is an Australian wine made from raisin-like Muscat grapes, boosted with extra alcohol (much like port is made) and then aged in oak barrels. The result is, basically, Christmas pudding in a glass. It smells of prunes, figs, raisins and sweet spice, and tastes luxuriously sweet but not at all sickly.



This limited-edition gin from Suffolk-based brewer and distiller Adnams is as bright as the shiniest gold bauble on the tree, and works a treat splashed into a glass of fizz or topped up with tonic for a festive take on a G&T.

Pull this cracker and you get a miniature bottle of raspberry-infused Pinkster Gin, along with a little jar of gin jam for your morning toast or evening G&J (gin and jam) cocktail – way more useful than a paper hat.

Helen’s new book, Homemade Cocktails, is out now £10.99, Robinson. For more wine recommendations, visit Helen’s blog.

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