2020 festive recommendations – reds

Deep red wine in one Jancis Robinson glass

A shorter version of this article is published by the Financial Times. The image of red wine in a Jancis Robinson glass is by Jasper Johnstone.

These celebratory reds include many a classic but also hand-picked examples from some of the most exciting new wine regions. They should deliver pleasure and relative value.

There is quite a wide variation in alcohol levels but even the 15 percenters taste well balanced and appetising. Prices given are for single bottles but in most cases you can save money by ordering by the case, which may often be mixed.

Vicien Malbec 2017 Catamarca, Argentina 13.5%
£10.75 Stone, Vine & Sun

This organically farmed estate 1,600 m up in the Andes is so remote that in 2010 Hampshire wine merchant Simon Taylor was apparently only the second merchant or journalist who had ever visited it. Clear skies for 250+ days a year keep nights usefully cool. Time in bottle has imbued this with a hint of leather and a sweet, salty quality. Unusual to find a mature wine at this price.

Ch de Payre 2016 Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 13%
£10.95 The Wine Society
Good grip and savour on this Merlot-dominated wine from a great vintage in Bordeaux. Classic bordeaux structure and quite a bit of tannin but nothing excessive. It needs food but should satisfy many a household. It looks smart too. Great value.

Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes Xinomavro 2019 Náoussa, Greece 13%
£10.95 The Wine Society
Xinomavro is arguably Greece’s greatest red-wine grape and makes wines not unlike Barolo in character: pale, fresh and appetisingly chewy in youth. This young-vine version has exciting stony-sweet fruit with a very refreshing finish and lots of mineral character. It needs food but it would be lovely at virtually any temperature. Truly thrilling are the same producer’s single-vineyard 2017s such as Aftorizo (£69 Wine & Greene, £79 Theatre of Wine).

Plaimont, Black Edition 2015 St-Mont, south-west France 14%
£10.99 Adnams
Blend of Tannat, Pinenc and Cabernet Sauvignon designed to express the best terroirs of this part of Gascony. Typically tannic for this part of the world and a great-value alternative to Madiran. A very sincere local expression.

Bojador 2019 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal 14%
£12.50 Davy’s Wine Merchants
Blend of Tempranillo with Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira from a particularly dynamic producer. Chock-full of character with masses of fruit kept in check by some sour fruit acidity. More than just an easy fruity wine; there is structure here and real energy.

Dom du Joncier, L’O 2018 Vin de France, southern Rhône 13.5%
£13.50 Stone, Vine & Sun
Mainly 45-year-old certified organic Grenache with one-third Syrah. This latest vintage from a Lirac-based producer includes some bought-in fruit, also organically grown, from the Costières de Nîmes. Intense, nicely balanced, sweet and spicy nose. Very polished tannins and a hint of salty Syrah. Really rather luscious.

Piekenierskloof Wine Co Cinsault 2018 Piekenierskloof, South Africa 14%
£13.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
From 44-year-old vines, half aged in old oak. Juicy, distinctive red-cherry fruit – juiciness incarnate in fact, but with quite a grip of fine tannins too. Most Cinsault grows in the south of France but in South Africa it was a parent of Pinotage.

Vadio 2016 Bairrada, Portugal 13%
£13.95 The Wine Society
From a small family-owned estate in northern Portugal whose reds depend on the notably chewy local grape Baga. This is firm and stony with fabulously strong local Baga character but it’s really vital and ready now. Silly price for a four-year-old wine. Perfectly rounded.

Ch Les Anguilleys 2015 Médoc, Bordeaux 13%
£14.50 Stone, Vine & Sun
Les Anguilleys is a label of Château Vieux Robin in Bégadan in the northern Médoc. A 50:50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from vines averaging about 40 years old, it has proper left-bank structure but it’s ready to enjoy with food and is a great price. Bordeaux has so many bargains…

Ch des Estanilles, Vallongue 2017 Faugères, Languedoc 14%
£14.95 Yapp Bros
Brilliant value from the schistous foothills of the Cévennes. Lovely transparent fruit in which the Syrah seems to dominate. Long, satisfying and charming. Great for current drinking with real lift.

Springfontein, Terroir Selection Pinotage 2016 Walker Bay, South Africa 15%
£15.25 Private Cellar
Very sweet and vital but without any of the less desirable features once associated with Pinotage. Clean, fresh, intense and potent but amazingly well balanced. A very superior Pinotage. Organic.

Undurraga TH, Las Gaviotas Pinot Noir 2018 San Antonio, Chile 13.5%
£15.50 The Wine Society
TH stands for terroir hunter. This serious alternative to red burgundy is from a cool, coastal region near the Chilean capital. The majority was aged in fashionable concrete eggs rather than oak and you can taste a little of the grainy texture often associated with them.

Telmo Rodríguez, Corriente 2017 Rioja, Spain 14%
£16 The Sourcing Table
Rodriguez of Remelluri is a bit of a genius and this lightly oak-matured wine is inspired by the sort of pure, fruit-dominated riojas that locals would drink.

Frontonio, Cuevas de Arom As Ladieras 2016 Campo de Borja, Spain 14.5%
£16 The Wine Society (due in 30 December)
Fernando Mora was a mechanical engineer who qualified as a Master of Wine in record time because he decided his future lay with restoring value to the depopulated Aragon region through transforming old Garnacha vines into transparent wines like this. Serious wine with beautiful edgy, sweet fruit.

Ch Charmail 2012 Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 13%
£17 The Wine Society
A good price for an eight-year-old wine, although it is still quite youthful. Very fresh with some concentration.

Le Casematte, Peloro 2017 Terre Siciliane, Sicily 13%
£17.95 Lea & Sandeman
A stunning pair of wines from the north-east coast of Sicily based on the Etna grapes Nerello plus the local Nocera. This one is a real charmer, aged for six months in old oak, while Le Casematte 2017 Faro (£24.50 Lea & Sandeman) is a little more serious. Both are distinctively savoury, impressively persistent and reasonably priced for the quality.

Ch Grand Village 2016 Bordeaux Supérieur 15%
£19.68 Justerini & Brooks
From the home farm of the Guinaudeaus of star Pomerol Ch Lafleur. Massively ripe but not unappetising or heavy. It's a bit lighter than most serious Pomerols but is infinitely more interesting than any Bordeaux Supérieur I can readily think of.

I Fabbri, Lamole 2018 Chianti Classico 13%
£19.75 Stone, Vine & Sun
This organically farmed estate at 630 m above Greve is one of the highest in Chianti Classico. Unoaked 100% Sangiovese: the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit. Not rich, not heavy but ethereal. The fruit is halfway between sour plums and prunes. Clean as a mountain stream. But probably best served with food that's not too emphatic.

La Combe Saint Paul, L'Insoupçonné 2016 Languedoc-La Clape 14.5%
£19.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Unnecessarily heavy bottle. Very luxurious Syrah on the nose. Heady and rich with a leathery and liquorice finish. Pretty luxurious for the money. Not too hot on the end.

Jean-Louis Chave Sélection, Offerus 2017 St-Joseph, northern Rhône 14%
£19.98 Justerini & Brooks
From the most admired producer of Hermitage. Intense, meaty nose with spicy, treacly notes. Very fine for the money and relatively accessible. Lightly salty; hugely savoury. 

Colombera & Garella 2018 Coste della Sesia, northern Italy 13%
£20.60 The Sourcing Table
Charming Alto Piemontese blend based on Nebbiolo. Not concentrated but oh-so-appetising. Great lift and local character: a friendly Nebbiolo for fairly early consumption.

Black Slate, Gratallops 2017 Priorat, Spain 15%
£21.50 The Sourcing Table
Polished, charming, well-priced blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah that makes the taster conscious of the famous black slate soils of this hilly corner of Catalunya only at the very end. This would go especially well with something salty – ham, saucisson, salami or chorizo?

Ch Peyrabon 2009 Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 14%
£19.18 Justerini & Brooks, £22 The Wine Society
This is a no-brainer for a classic red bordeaux from a ripe vintage that’s at the peak of its powers. Both J&B and The Wine Society understandably went back for more. Lusciously ready.

Casa Emma, Vignalparco Riserva 2016 Chianti Classico 14%
£22 Private Cellar
Made from an organically cultivated vineyard weeded and fertilised by geese. Attractive evolution on the nose and incontrovertible Tuscan-hills character shooting out of the glass. Lots of fruit, finely etched tannins and refreshing acidity. Take me to that trattoria!

Bodegas Pinuaga 200 Cepas 2015 Tierra de Castilla, Spain 14.5%
£22.96 Private Cellar
From a small vineyard of 65-year-old Tempranillo bush vines south-east of Madrid. Lots of personality. A good price for such a subtle, mature wine.

Paulo Manzone, San Giuliano 2016 Barbaresco, Italy 14.5%
£22.99 Adnams
Piemontese Nebbiolo very traditionally made in Barolo’s twin commune. A certain dustiness and great life and engagement on the end even though the nose is a little low key. Already pleasing, and from a fine vintage.

Castello di Volpaia, Coltassala Gran Selezione 2016 Tuscany 14%
£32.99 Adnams
This reliable estate’s top wine. Intense, organically certified Sangiovese fruit – the product of a hot vintage but grown at an elevation that freshened up the vines overnight. Great vitality. Lovely wine.

Passopisciaro, Passorosso 2016 Etna, Sicily 14%
£34.50 Corney & Barrow
An ethereal blend from different ancient, lava-strewn vineyards on the flanks of the volcano from the Sicilian estate of Andrea Franchetti. A much lighter, fresher style of wine – an expression of the Nerello Mascalese grape – than the rich wines of his Tenuta di Trinoro estate in southern Tuscany. 

Kikones Limnio 2016 Thrace, Greece 14%
£38.95 Perfect Cellar
This wine made from an increasingly popular Greek island grape has more than a little in common with a Barolo. It’s like an energetic, transparent cocktail of tarmacadam and rose petals with a rich undertow of sweet fruit and appetising bite. I love it!

Dom du Cellier aux Moines, Clos du Cellier aux Moines Premier Cru 2017 Givry, Burgundy 13%
£42.75 Haynes Hanson & Clark

Organically grown grapes in an ancient walled vineyard, part of a recently revived 870-year-old monastic estate in the increasingly exciting Côte Chalonnaise. Like so many 2017s, this is already appealing – pure, accessible, sweet red burgundy. This would make lovely Christmas drinking.

Dom Thierry Mortet 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy 13%
£45.95 Lea & Sandeman
Certified organic. Fully mature red burgundy available by the single bottle. This is fresh and pretty rather than rich and rip-roaring. Neat and satisfying but not dramatic, and lighter than many a Gevrey. Could be a treat with turkey but may be overwhelmed by particularly sweet accompaniments.

International stockists on Wine-Searcher.com.