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Yuletide Card 2023

Yuletide drinking – a dozen wines for Christmas 2023

I hope you like my Yuletide card to you all!

Like last year, I remain mindful that living costs stay off the scale. However, unlike the previous year, there’s no overall price cap, but each category includes a “budget” wine. No compromises have been made regarding excellence and value in recommending any of these wines.

There are two sparkling wines, three white, two rosé, three red and two for desserts. The retail prices and UK stockists were correct when published and don’t include seasonal discounts or deals.

This Yuletide, why not fill your Yulehole with some of these gems?



L’Extra Langlois

Langlois-Chateau, L’Extra par Langlois, Crémant de Loire, France, NV. 12.5%

Organically certified, plus Terra Vitis sustainability from this large Crémant de Loire producer in Saumur. Using the classic method, they blend 60% Chenin Blanc and 40% Chardonnay, including ageing for twelve months on the lees in their superb caves. Langlois-Chateau has been owned by Bollinger since 1973, which should be enough of a recommendation.

Excellent apéritif for Christmas Day morning, opening presents, or starting the party.

Widely available, including Majestic £10.99.





Llopart Imperial Panoramic

Llopart Panoramic

Llopart,  Panoramic Imperial Brut, Corpinnat, Penedès, Spain, 2017. 12.5%

Terrific organically certified classic method fizz from Llopart, one of the founders of Corpinnat, a small group of high-quality producers that broke away from Cava in 2017 and created much stricter rules to drive up sparkling wine quality. This includes organic viticulture, a restricted geographical area, hand harvesting, lower yields, and extended bottle ageing. The three classic local white varieties are used, namely 50% Xarel-lo, 40% Macabeo and 10% Parellada, made by the traditional method and given more than 48 months of bottle ageing and hand-riddling.

Llopart is also one of my previous WOTY winners. Just don’t call it Cava.

Gourmet Hunters, £23.45.





Integro Verdeca

Integro, Verdeca, IGP Puglia, Italy. 2022. 12.5%

In Puglia, the ancient native Verdeca grape has been long associated with making cheap Vermouth rather than dry white wine. It also faces intense competition from the region’s famous reds. However, this organic example comes from near Brindisi and is produced by the Wine People. It demonstrates how good this grape variety can be.

Fresh and crisp, with distinctive herb and apple flavours. Try it with a prawn cocktail.

Booths, £10.50.



Cignoli Gabé

Cignoli Gabé

Cignoli, Gabé, IGP Pavia Bianco, Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardy, Italy, 2022. 12%

Oltrepò Pavese is a historic Italian wine region in southern Lombardy around Pavia. This region sits between the more famous Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna wine regions, and while often eclipsed by both in the past, its best wines rival them for excellence. This is a great example. Gabé is a local Pavian dialect word for blend. It’s Sauvignon Blanc leavened with Riesling Italico, making an unusual peachily aromatic blend that goes down a treat.

Try aperitivo, soups, and fish, and save some for cheese.

Provino, £13.00.



Tenuta Stella Ribolla Gialla

Tenuta Stella Ribolla Gialla

Tenuta Stella, Ribolla Gialla, DOC Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. 2021. 13%

Tenuta Stella is an organically certified winery in the Collio, in far eastern Italy, bordering Slovenia and near the Alps. This is where much of the best Ribolla Gialla is grown. After fermentation, 30% was matured in old French tonneaux for ten months, with the rest in stainless steel. While there are no overt wood effects, this maturation helps add distinctiveness to one of Italy’s great white wines. Green Apples and citrus, a touch of saffron, and a hint of white pepper before almonds come through on the finish.

Lobster and scallops make great partners. £23.50.






Santa Venere Cirò Rosato

Santa Venere, Cirò Rosato, DOP Cirò, Calabria, Italy  2020.  12.5%

I’m a big fan of Santa Venere, an organic mixed farm featured on last year’s Christmas list with their Cirò Rosso Classico. Made from the Gaglioppo grape variety, this retains much of the red fruit flavours of its bigger red brother and is nicely dry and fresh with a deep pink colour.

Try it with game birds, or perfect with Boxing Day leftovers, including a personal favourite, “bubble and squeak”.

The Wine Society, £12.50.







Abbatucci Faustine

Domaine Comte Abbatucci,  Faustine, Vielles Vignes, Vin de France, Ajaccio, Corsica, France, 2002. 12.5%

This Rosé pushes all my buttons: Demeter-certified Biodynamic, no sulphur, unfiltered, natural yeasts. It blends 90% Sciacarrellu ( a local variety identical to the Mammolo grape variety of Tuscany) with 10% Barbarossa (a Corsican rarity with possible Italian origins). As is typical of Corsican Rosé, it’s made in the elegant style of Provence. Hence, it’s bone dry and softly textured with fresh acidity, peach, and red berries. It’s a sophisticated and sleek wine capable of ageing, an unusual property for most rosé.

Not just a summer wine; there’s versatility here in any season: apéritif, grilled meats, seafood, green salads, and fruit salads.

Vinatis, £22.98.





Selección Especial

Selección Especial

Bodegas Ramõn Bilbao, Selección Especial, Rioja DOCa, Spain 2020. 14%

There is no doubt that Ramon Bilbao makes great wines at every level, from their vineyards in Rioja and elsewhere in Spain. This example is a modern expression of red Rioja, blending 50% Tempranillo with 50% Garnacha, then given eight months in US oak barrels. This retains fruit and freshness without big, oaky flavours. Lamb is the classic partner, but this wine takes a wide range of robust flavours in its stride. Made for what they call “everyday inspiration”, this wine is a year-round staple in my house, not just at Yuletide!

Ramõn Bilbao are leaders in sustainability, as their membership of the Wineries for Climate Protection group attests.

Widely available in the UK, including Booth’s £10.95.




Perrini Primitivo

Perrini, Primitivo Barrique, IGP Salento, Italy,  2020. 13.5%

Perrini, make this organic Primitivo a great partner for Christmas Dinner, as it can stand up to all the assertive flavours that come with the trimmings. Any meat matches well; perhaps surprisingly, Turkey is one of the best choices, as are chipolata sausages and pigs-in-blankets.

This may have matured for a year in barrique, but there are no significant wood effects, just a harmonious black and red fruited wine with some intriguing cinnamon and ginger spice that elevate it to a higher plane. Terrific elegance and balance, too.

White Fox Wines, £17.95.


Gauby Vieilles Vignes

Gauby Vieilles Vignes

Domaine Gauby,  Vieilles Vignes,  Terroirs de Calce,  IGP Côtes Catalans,  France, 2017.  13%

I’ve been a follower of Gérard Gauby since visiting some years ago. The winery and vineyards occupy the slopes of the rugged Agly valley in southern France. This wine blends old bush vines (up to 125 years old). The blend changes each year, but in 2017 Grenache Noir was 30%, Carignan 25%, Mourvèdre 5%, and Syrah 40%. This was matured for sixteen months in a mixture of old oak and concrete tanks before seven months of ageing in the bottle.

Capable of ageing for twenty years, this 2017 is now in its drinking window. The tannins are graceful, leaving pure blackberry fruit with garrigue, herbal, savoury, and earthy notes. There’s a moreish mineral streak on a persistent length. With a weightless elegance, this is truly memorable, so share it with someone special.

The Wine Society, £30.00 (younger vintages from 2020 and 2019 are also available – note the blend changes each vintage according to conditions and the wine is sometimes labelled as AC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages).


Dessert Wines


Monemvasia Malvasia

Monemvasia Winery, Vin Liastos, Monemvasia-Malvasia PDO, Peloponnese, Greece, 2012. 13.5%

A blend of sun-dried white Greek varieties: 60% Monemvasia, 20% Kydonitsa, 10% Assyrtiko and 10% Asproudes, with its own PDO since 2010. Here, somewhat confusingly, Malvasia doesn’t refer to a grape variety; instead, it’s a name for a historic sweet wine made from these four varieties. These are sun-dried before fermentation. This 2012 vintage was matured in small barriques, bottled in 2016 and has aged even further.

The vineyards were restored to their former glory by pioneer Giorgos Tsimpidis. This is only the second vintage of ancient wine, once traded by the Venetians as Malvasia but then destroyed by the Ottoman Empire 500 years ago.

Amber in colour, it features dried-quince complexity featuring caramel, nuts, and coconut, with a length that lasts minutes. The sweetness is cut with rapier acidity, perfect for fruit tarts and meringues.

Strictly wine, £31.45 (half bottle).





Fonseca Terra Prima

Fonseca,  Terra Prima,  Organic  Reserve  Ruby  Port,  NV.  19.5%

Founded in 1815, Fonseca established itself in London and Oporto and is now part of the Fladgate Partnership. Pioneers in sustainability, this Port was the first to be certified organic on launch in 2006. It’s not just the grapes that need to be organic; the fortifying spirit must also be. This wine is from Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franseca grapes, all vinified together, so there is no blending.

Smooth, yet not overly sweet, and retains primary fruit and fire. Food matching? It has to be Stilton or Stichelton, which is unpasteurised—alternatively, Christmas cake and Wensleydale cheese or dark chocolate. And not just at Yuletide!

Whisky Exchange, £19.50. Booths, £18.00. For more Port ideas, see this piece.


And Finally.

That’s it then for this year. Five wines are from Italy, three from France, two from Spain, one from Greece and one from Portugal. And 26 grape varieties.

So now all that remains is to wish you a merry, warm and peaceful Yuletide.

I’ll return with my WOTY (Wine of the Year) after Yuletide on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile:


Happy Christmas

Buon Natale


Joyeux Noël

Feliz Navidad

Frohe Weihnachten

Nollaig Shona


Feliz Natal

God Jul

Zalig Kerstfeest

Meri Kirihimete


Would you like to see previous Yuletide recommendations? I stand by all of them. Here’s 20222021, 2020, 2019,  2018,  2017 and 2016.

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