Festive whites


Below are 32 dry white suggestions for drinking over the festive season. A version of this article is published by the Financial Times. See also recommendations in recent Saturday Free for all articles such as The world's great Chardonnays.

This is the first of four sets of my recommendations for drinking over the coming weeks, published in good time for ordering before Christmas. Below, in ascending price, are the dry white wines. Please bear in mind that many retailers, such as Lea & Sandeman, give further discounts when a dozen mixed bottles are bought, while others, such as Domaine Direct, require a minimum order of a mixed dozen.

La Colinas del Ebro Garnatxa Blanca 2017 Terra Alta, Spain
£9.25 Stone, Vine & Sun
Beautifully labelled full-bodied Catalan that is larded with personality and grip on the finish. This is rich enough to stand up to game. A real bargain. 14%

Vignerons Ardéchois, Grès du Trias Viognier 2017 Coteaux de l'Ardèche, France
£9.95 The Wine Society. £11.50 Yapp Bros
The Condrieu grape seems to thrive downriver on the sandstone of the Ardèche on the right bank of the Rhône. Dusty, smoky nose but a real undertow of spicy fruit. Unlike so many varietal Viogniers, this is more than a perfume. 14%

von Kesselstatt, Niedermenniger Riesling Kabinett 2016 Saar, Germany
£10.50 The Wine Society
Light as a feather from the world’s best hunting ground for max flavour and min alcohol. Lovely fruity purity. Brilliant refreshment and value. This may not come from the Saar’s most famous site but it’s a great tribute to the late Annegret Reh-Gartner, who ran von Kesselstatt with such aplomb. Could even be served at teatime. 9.5%

Corte Mainente, Cengelle 2017 Soave, Italy
£10.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Yes, good Soave is alive and well in this vaguely lemony wine that would make a charming, refreshing aperitif. 12.5%

Ch Beaumont, Les Perrières 2017 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France
£11.95 Lea & Sandeman
Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon all done up in a three-piece suit – or in this case, smart oak barrels. Smoky nose and lots of pungency and character. No hurry to drink this. Way underpriced. 14%

Vina Laguna, Festigia Malvasia 2016 Istria, Croatia
£11.95 Lea & Sandeman
From the northern reaches of Europe’s most stunning coastline. Malvasia, or rather Malvazija, is the local speciality and offers a winning combination of richness and precision. Lightly peachy flavours and great persistence but whistle-clean and refreshing. For drinking with or without food. 13.5%

Monte del Frà, Ca’ del Magro, Custoza Superiore 2016Veneto, Italy
£12.45 Field and Fawcett
One of several extremely well-chosen Italian dry whites currently on offer from Berrys. Some of us have memories of distinctly dull Bianco di Custoza but this is broad and rich with lots of spice. Great fruit and grip. 13%

Karma do Sil, Maga Godello 2017 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
£13.95 Lea & Sandeman
There was a time when the almost impossibly steep valley of the river Sil was terra incognita except to locals undertaking heroic viticulture. That time is coming to an end as the world discovers the quality of the Godello (and Mencia) grown here. Luscious but structured dry white that seems more Burgundian than Spanish. Excellent value. 13%

De Martino, Legado Chardonnay 2017 Limarí Valley, Chile
£13.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Absurdly fine copy of white burgundy from one of Chile’s Pacific-cooled newer wine regions and its most consistently innovative, striving, family-run wine producer with a particularly gifted winemaker who tours the world looking for inspiration. 13.5%

Dom Lyrarakis, Plytó 2017 Crete, Greece
£13.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Another brilliant winemaking family going their own way, this time on a Greek island whose wine industry is ripe for renaissance. Indigenous varieties are their speciality, such as the strangely fennel-scented Dafni at £13.25 and this aromatic, floral but firm Plytó. Both are very good value. 13%

Haskell, Dombeya Chardonnay 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa
£14.95 Lea & Sandeman
South African Chardonnay is generally underpriced but this extremely accomplished example, made by outstanding winemaker Rianie Strydom, even has some age on it. Ridiculously underpriced in a Burgundian context. Smoky fresh with a lively green streak enriched by a marzipan note. 13%

Dom Cordier, Clos du Four 2016 Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Burgundy, France
£14.95 The Wine Society
Christophe Cordier has changed tack and now picks particularly early. Wine buyer Toby Morrhall avers, ‘Milly-Lamartine is high and cool and this is very fresh and fine without being thin. You would not know global warming has occurred!’ This wine is certainly tense and lively, with a most attractive satin texture. But, unlike the Haskell, this would never be taken for a Côte d’Or white. 13%

Begude, Étoile Chardonnay 2017 Limoux, France
£14.99 Vinceremos
2018 was cruel to Limoux growers but this, an oaked blend of the fruit of the best plots from this high-elevation south-western Languedoc producer, is as reliable as ever. Crisp but with lots of personality and great balance. Not burgundy but definitely French with a note of orange peel. Fairly rich palate entry and definitely ready to drink. 14% 

Akrathos Assyrtiko 2016 Halkidiki, Greece
£14 House of Wine, £15 The Daily Drinker
Debut vintage of this well-balanced wine made in the Greek region of Macedonia from the top-quality grape more readily associated with the island of Santorini. Extremely accomplished and satisfying. Good core of fruit and crystalline structure. This would be a delightful aperitif but has quite enough extract to be served with food – oily fish? – too. Really very delicious. A little weightier than the average Santorini Assyrtiko.

Zanut, Rebula 2015 Goriska Brda, Slovenia
£15.50 Stone, Vine & Sun
Slovenian wine, especially Slovenian whites, are a well-kept secret, thanks to Slovenian thirst. They are tyically particularly pure varietal expressions. The Rebula grape, known as Ribolla Gialla across the Italian border in Friuli, is the local speciality. This example has the trademark suggestion of green vegetation but is agreeably delicate. 12.5% 

Dom Jean Teiller 2017 Menetou-Salon, Loire, France
£15.95 Yapp Bros
There are so many ordinary central Loire Sauvignon Blancs under the appellations Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and good examples tend to be pretty expensive. Split the price difference with this excellent, organic example from the outlying Menetou-Salon appellation. It has that blackcurrant-leaf perfume of Loire Sauvignon and then reaches into every corner of the palate. Very impressive. Neither too sweet nor too tart.The owners spent a year in New Zealand, apparently, which may help to explain all that fruit, but it tastes nothing like a Marlborough Sauvignon. 13%

Sybille Kuntz Riesling trocken 2016 Mosel, Germany
£16.63 Uncharted Wines, also Robert Rolls
Soaring, bright, concentrated fruit in this dry wine grown biodynamically on the steep slopes of the Mosel valley by the energetic Sybille Kuntz. To be drunk with or without food. Would make a great partner for smoked salmon. 12%

Rheingau Riesling, Selected By Eva Fricke 2016 Rheingau, Germany
£16.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Eva Fricke is a risen star of the Rheingau, having achieved international fame in a remarkably short time, based on her own vineyards in the less-than-famous village of Lorch. This is a zesty, dry, medium-bodied wine, typical of the sort of dry Riesling that is the norm in Germany today, evidence of Eva branching out from estate wines. 12%

Luisin, Vezza d’Alba Arneis 2016 Roero, Piemonte, Italy
£17.15 Berry Bros & Rudd
Arneis used to be planted with Nebbiolo in the vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco and then almost disappeared in the 1980s but is now a speciality of nearby Roero. It can be a vaguely pear-like aroma in search of an anchor but this particularly lively example has real drive and substance – and a light chewiness on the end. Excellent, a seriously put together wine by any measure. Not cheap but fair value for the money. Could be served as quite a serious first-course wine. 13.5%

Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2015 Alsace, France
£18 The Wine Society
An absolute classic from a vintage described by Jean Trimbach as ‘unparalleled’. The basic Riesling 2015 bottling from Alsace’s kings of Riesling is also a knockout, but this one will last for another 10 years at least, thanks to the ingredients from vines up to 50 years old, organically farmed just the same way as the grapes for the jewel in their crown, Clos Ste Hune Riesling. The small amount of residual sugar is drowned out by the seering acidity. Magnificent. Would be great with smoked salmon. 13.5%

Dominique Cornin 2015 Mâcon-Fuissé, Burgundy, France
£18.90 Domaine Direct
Another southern Burgundian that over-delivers. Lightly reductive nose. Mouthful of fresh but not fat fruit. Lots of chew on the end but quite enough bright fruit on the palate. Really vibrant and distinctively superior wine with a beginning, middle and end to it. 13%

René Lequin-Colin, Back to the Roots Chardonnay 2016 Bourgogne, France
£18.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Bone dry and savoury, in the classic Burgundian fashion, at a very fair price for a Côte d’Or wine. Racy and transparent. 12.5%

Rafael Palacios, Louro do Bolo 2017 Valdeorras, Spain
£19.95 Berry Bros & Rudd, Vin Cognito
Talking of white burgundy, here’s a wine that out-Pulignys Puligny. The great Godello grape, and slate soils, of Galicia – not to mention the gifted Rafa Palacios – are responsible for this marvel. Such freshness and direction with a minerally spine. This introductory level wine is as good as the first few vintages of As Sortes, the original top wine. Excellent value in an international context. 14%

Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne Oncle Vincent 2016 Bourgogne, France
£20 The Wine Society
Puligny-Montrachet négociant Olivier Leflaive’s Uncle Vincent was the famous animus behind the greater Leflaive family’s Domaine Leflaive. This wine comes from Olivier’s oldest vines classified as Bourgogne in a vineyard on the border of Puligny. Very respectable indeed, and comes with a story. 13%

Dom Guillemot-Michel, Quintaine 2016 Viré-Clessé, Burgundy, France
£21 The Wine Society
This is from one of the warmest corners of the Mâconnais and reminds me forcefully of the Jean Thévenet wines, being opulently rich but refreshingly tense too. Lots of layers going from golden syrup through honeysuckle to blossom yet with raciness. Maybe not for the very long term but this over-delivers in terms of pleasure. Long. 13%

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2016 Yarra Valley, Australia
£21.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Proof of Australia’s newfound competence with Chardonnay – not overblown, not austere, but just right. Big and rich initially but wonderfully delicate and racy on the finish. This is the stuff to challenge white burgundy! So clean but reasonably profound, too. Convincing chewiness on the finish. 13.9% 

Dom Borgeot, La Chaponnière 2016 Rully, Burgundy, France
£22 Tanners
Proof that the Côte Chalonnaise to the south of the famous Côte d’Or is catching up fast. Really aromatic and piercing with masses of ripe fruit and quite enough crisp acidity. Very satisfying with a lemon streak, and not at all rustic. Great balance. Persistent. 13%

Mullineux, Old Vines White 2017 Swartland, South Africa
£23.25 Berry Bros & Rudd
I have yet to be disappointed by a vintage of this wine, Andrea Mullineux’s arresting, ageworthy oak-aged blend of the fruit of Swartland’s ancient vines, mainly Chenin Blanc. Such class. It ages well, too. 13.5%

Savage, White 2017 Western Cape, South Africa
£30 The Good Wine Shop, Chiswick and Kew
Another superlative dry white blend from one of South Africa’s new generation of driven, gifted winemakers. Mainly Sauvignon Blanc this time – extremely tense and long-fermented in old oak. Builds towards a magnificent spread of flavours. 14%

Ebner-Ebenauer, Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2017 Niederrosterreich, Austria
£32 Roberson
Arrestingly intense wine from 60-year-old vines of Austria’s signature grape variety, picked very ripe and fermented to dryness. 13%

Stéphane Ogier, Les Vieilles Vignes de Jacques Vernay 2016 Condrieu, Rhône, France
£39 Lay & Wheeler
Manages to be both opulent and subtle – and really wants to impress, unlike some other famous 2016 Condrieus. But just 13%.

Dom Henri Germain 2015 Meursault, Burgundy, France
£45.60 Domaine Direct
Light, rather appealing struck-match quality on the nose. An unusually approachable posh white burgundy with a good balance between fruit and freshness, though it's not so concentrated that it promises a particularly long life. Great for short-term drinking and very clean. 13.5%

For fuller tasting notes, see our tasting notes database. More stockists from Wine-Searcher.com.

Next week – reds.