2020 festive recommendations – whites

white wine in Jancis Robinson glass

A version of this article is published by the Financial Times. Above, my handmade, dishwasher-proof wine glass save 10% by using the discount code JRCHRISTMAS10 at checkout on richardbrendon.com. Image by Jono Parker.

Here are 27 hand-picked dry whites (and a very pale rosé), from cool-as-a-mountain stream to a white wine that acts like a red. Prices below are for single bottles and inclusive of all taxes but delivery charges for single bottles can be punishing. Most retailers offer discounts for larger orders, and often for mixed dozens. Many fine wines, notably white burgundy, are offered in bond, so duty and VAT have to be paid on top of the quoted price. One rosé is included below.

Quinta do Crasto, Crasto Branco 2019 Douro, Portugal 13%
£10.99 Adnams
Almost miraculously, port country is now producing some stunningly lively dry white table wines from characterful local grape varieties, such as this one from so far up the Douro valley the vines are almost in Spain.

Ch Reynon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Bordeaux 12.5%
£11.50 The Wine Society
Brilliant value for a sophisticated, minerally Sauvignon with the subtlest of oak influences from the family of the late Professor Denis Dubourdieu, Bordeaux’s white-wine supremo.

Herbert Zillinger, Neuland Grüner Veltliner 2019 Lower Austria 11.5%
£13 The Real Wine Company
2019 was a great year for Austrian whites and this has remarkable concentration of pungent, spicy flavour and fruit for a wine with only 11.5% alcohol. Great value for a pure cocktail of flowers and white pepper.

Dom de l’Idylle, Vieille Vigne 2019 Savoie 11.5%
£13.50 Yapp Brothers
Light, fresh and just the right side of watery because there is so much delicate fruit, with a hint of alpine flowers. Pure Savoie. This would make a lovely aperitif and is relatively low in alcohol. 

Meulenhof, Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese feinherb 2019 Mosel 12.5%
£14.40 Tanners Wine Merchants
Screwcapped. Classic Mosel mineral lift and masses of fruit but with an almost dry finish. It seems surprisingly evolved for a one-year-old wine but it should already give pleasure.

Barta, Egy Kis Furmint 2019 Tokaj, Hungary 13.5%
£14.95 Corney & Barrow
Furmint is a great grape variety that makes smouldering wines that age beautifully. Racy, nutty, bone dry and with fine acidity. There’s no hurry to drink this beauty from Károly Barta’s recently rescued post-Communist vineyards.

Maturana, Naranjo Torontel 2019 Maule, Chile 13.5%
£15.25 Corney & Barrow
What a story! The Maturanas lost pretty much everything in the 2010 earthquake and have turned to making small-batch, thoroughly 21st-century wines such as this orange wine made from aromatic grapes macerated before fermentation so that the result is chock-full of flavour and a little chewy but not excessively so. This is a keenly priced orange wine you could take home to meet your mother. The 2018 was Julia's wine of the week a year ago.

Kolonics, Somlói Juhfark 2018 western Hungary 13%
£16 The Wine Society (soon to be restocked after my Instagram live recommendation of it)
Like Furmint, Juhfark is a grape native to Hungary though much rarer. Heady, pungent with great texture, this tastes like fireworks in a bottle. No hurry to drink it. A truly local wine with apple flavours, backbone and a future.

Heinrich, Naked trocken 2018 Austria 12.5%
£17.50 The Sourcing Table
Screwcapped ‘natural’ blend of mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc given a little skin contact. This wine, full of fruit and pizzazz, is fun and beautifully balanced. Someone here wanted to join the kids but kept a strict eye on what was happening in the (old) barrels.

Domaine des Dieux Chardonnay 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa 13.5%
£17.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Very smart cool-climate Chardonnay from vineyards at the very top of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. About 30% new oak. A perfect, rather luxurious but keenly priced alternative to white burgundy with a little bite on the end. Ambitious and refined. Great texture. Delicate.

Jean-Marc Brocard, Vignobles Ste-Claire Vieilles Vignes 2019 Chablis 13.5%
£18 The Wine Society
Just a whiff of this is enough to get the saliva really flowing. Lovely stuff. Juicy oyster shells with a good combo of fruit and acidity. Persistent. Quite forward but therefore already approachable. I’ve yet to encounter a disappointing Brocard Chablis.

Domaine des Forges, Le Clos du Papillon 2018 Savennières, Loire 14.7%
£18.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
This dry, powerful Chenin Blanc was a wine I kept going back to again and again and it seemed to last in my opened bottle for ages. Made from senior vines, it smells of almonds and tastes of honey but finishes pungent and dry. Thoroughly satisfying to drink with a wide range of foods. I could well imagine it with turkey.

Domaine René Lequin-Colin, Back to the Roots Chardonnay 2018 Bourgogne, Burgundy 12.5%
£19.50 Stone, Vine & Sun
Aged in barrel, 10% new, and crafted in a deliberately old-fashioned way (hence the name), with lots of lees-stirring. Organically certified (but not mentioned on the label as François Lequin wants the wine to sell on its own merits, not because it has an organic symbol).

Cedro do Noval 2019 Douro, Portugal 13.5%
£20 various independents
Part of AXA Millésimes and so a stablemate of several smart Bordeaux châteaux. It’s a sophisticated Portuguese dry white with a slightly French accent.

Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon 2018 Mâcon-Bussières, southern Burgundy 13%
£20.17 Justerini & Brooks
The Mâconnais outpost of the famous Meursault producers Comtes Lafon produces perhaps the best-value white burgundy of all. It’s for the table not the cellar but this one offers quite enough tension to offset the sunny southern Chardonnay fruit.

Dom de la Taille aux Loups, Rémus 2018 Montlouis, Loire 12.5%
£20.68 Lay & Wheeler, £24.20 Haynes Hanson & Clark

Jacky Blot is the genius of Montlouis who demonstrated how beautiful its Chenin Blanc could be as a dry, oaked wine. This is stunning wine. Really nervy and exciting with apple skins and beeswax and so much flavour packed in here but also with racy acidity. Reverberates on the palate. Just perfect! And underpriced. 

Salomon Undhof, Kögl Riesling 2019 Kremstal, Austria
£20.95 Lea & Sandeman
Thoroughly satisfying dry, full-bodied Riesling with notes of lime and flowers that would pair particularly well with fish, raw or smoked. A good price.

Luigi e Giovanna Barberani 2017 Orvieto Classico Superiore, Italy 12.5%
£21 The Wine Society
Hugely distinctive Umbrian white with broad waxy flavours and only just enough acidity but marvellous texture and personality. Edgy and really gorgeous.

Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Chablis, northern Burgundy 12.5%
£22.50 Tanners Wine Merchants
Gorgeous pure, expressive, aged Chablis at a great price. See also this producer’s very much more mature Vaillons Premier Cru (£30 Booths).

Eva Fricke Riesling trocken 2019 Rheingau, Germany 12%
£22.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
This dry wine tingles with life and is somehow reminiscent of wild flowers. A great tightrope of tingly fruit and acidity that is nicely judged. And this is her entry-level bottling …

Domaines Schlumberger, Saering Riesling 2017 Alsace Grand Cru 14%
£22.95–£27 Fareham Wine Cellar, Four Walls Wine Company, Noble Green
Real bone-dry Alsace Riesling. A very decent price for a mature wine with just a little softness on the finish and perfect poise. For those who can't afford Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune?

Cathar(tic), Rosé By Any Other Name 2019 IGP Côtes Catalanes 13.5%
£21.95 St Andrews Wine Company, £25 Quality Wines
Really unusual, ageworthy pink wine made from barrel-fermented Mourvèdre grapes by UK wine importer Richard Bray of GB Wine Shippers. Chock-full of fruit with a very appetising saline, smoky quality.

Mas Amiel, Altaïr 2018 Côtes du Roussillon 13.5%
£26.95 Perfect Cellar
Certified organic white from a producer transitioning to being a table-wine producer from an estate famous for its strong, sweet wines. From a 60-year-old field blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu. Rich, ripe, heady perfume that speaks initially of plump yellow plums but then on the palate there are really exciting pungent mineral notes and a little saltiness. This is serious wine. This would be a great white for the table, or for those who are seeking red-wine weight but 'don't drink red wine'.

Ferdinand, Albarino 2018 Lodi, California 13%
£24.95–£28.50 Vin Cognito, Thorne Wines, Nekter Wines 
Made by Evan Frazier, the assistant winemaker at Kongsgaard, from the most famous grape of north-west Spain, grown in Lodi. I can't see much relationship to the light, marine Albariños of Galicia but it's a lovely, sumptuous wine with length and well-judged opulence. Polished but with sufficient acidity – for now. Ferdinand’s Garnacha Blanca 2018 (£28.50 from Nekter Wines) is also worthwhile.

Trimbach, Sélection de Vieilles Vignes Riesling 2017/16 Alsace 13.5/13%
£28.50/29.50 The Great Wine Co
The 2017 is more concentrated, the 2016 more mature. Both are great-value alternatives to their world-famous Clos Ste Hune and are made from old vines. Drink with or without food. 

Vasse Felix, Heytesbury Chardonnay 2018 Margaret River, Western Australia 13.5%
£42 Specialist Cellars, £45.50 Fareham Wine Cellar
Winemaker Virginia Wilcox is devoted to fermenting each lot of grapes separately and with ambient, or wild, yeast rather than commercial yeast. She reckons this is one of the finest vintages but she has already won massive national acclaim for previous ones. I think there’s a whiff of the nearby Indian Ocean in this.

Ramey Chardonnay 2017 Russian River Valley, California 14.5%
£49 Berry Bros & Rudd

Full and flamboyant on the nose but with admirable leanness and finesse on the palate. Very tight and focused. Super-appetising and much drier than most California wines. I’d like to taste this blind alongside a similarly priced white burgundy.

Big Basin, Coastview Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 Monterey, California 13.7%
£55 Oxford Wine Company

From a limestone and granite vineyard at 700 m in the Gabilan Mountains south of Silicon Valley. Really California and really savoury at the same time with a hint of butterscotch reined in by dried herbs and fresh Monterey acidity. Rich but subtle.

International stockists on Wine-Searcher.com