A slightly shorter version of this article is published by the Financial Times. See also my suggestions for reds, fizz and sweet and strong.
Over the next four weekends I will be sharing with you my strongest current recommendations for festive drinking and sharing. Today it’s the turn of dry white wines, ranging in price from £6 to £42 a bottle, but I don’t think any of them is overpriced. I have included a few wines from supermarkets and chains, but in general the most interesting wines are to found in the selections of independent retailers. The Wine Society and Lea & Sandeman feature strongly below, with good reason, as does South Africa. Take a look at wine-searcher.com to identify other stockists where you live. Full tasting notes on each of these wines can be found on Purple Pages, via the links below for some of them.
Wines are listed in ascending order of price per cl. Next week – reds.
Warwick, Cape Lady Chardonnay 2016 Western Cape 13%
From a widely admired private estate outside Stellenbosch. Lovely texture and star-bright fruit and freshness. This is an absolute steal. Run, don’t walk, to take advantage of this offer that runs to 2 January.
£6 (usually £8.50) Morrisons
Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne 2016 Maule 14%
Seriously underpriced and innovative white Rhône blend from southern Chile based mainly on the Condrieu grape Viognier. Headily aromatic but appetisingly tense.
£7.50 The Wine Society
Matetic, Corralillo Gewürztraminer 2016 San Antonio 13%
Another clever buy from The Wine Society’s Chilean buyer Toby Morrhall. Grown north of Santiago and almost within sight of the Pacific, this has the intensely floral nose of the grape more readily associated with Alsace but it tastes drier and fresher than many Alsatian examples.
£8.95 The Wine Society
Cellier de St-Jean 2015 Chablis 12.5%
Although it was bottled closer to Beaujolais country than to Chablis itself, this wine actually does taste like nervy, maturing Chablis – unoaked Chardonnay at its most classical – and is quite a bargain.
Haskell, Dombeya Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Stellenbosch 13.5%
A serious, attractively dry and grassy Sauvignon from South Africa. There’s no hurry to drink this – in fact it should age well in bottle.
£10.95 Lea & Sandeman
Rui Reguinga, Terrenus 2016 Vinho Regional Alentejano 12.5%
Thoroughly unusual wine made by one of Portugal’s most respected winemakers from old vines planted on granite close to the country’s eastern border with Spain. The blessed Arinto is the principal grape variety and this bone-dry wine has a strong stony character and somehow tastes cool. Portuguese whites deserve more attention.
£11.50 The Wine Society
Begude, Le Secret du Sud Gewurztraminer 2016 IGP Pays d'Oc 13.5%
Organically grown on the hills above Limoux with the view of the Pyrenees (in winter) shown above. Recognisably perfumed but with a dry finish and an attractive streak of lime. A deep gold, screwcapped white that could stand up to many foods more readily associated with red wine.
£11.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Turner Pageot, L'Existence des Choix 2016 Languedoc 14%
Ms Turner is the Australian winemaker at St-Jean de Bébian near Pézenas and this is her own project made from Marsanne with long skin contact before being blended and aged in barrel with Roussanne. Dried apricot and nutty notes. Very persistent. An underpriced one-off that needs food.
£11.95 The Wine Society
Quinta de Porrais 2015 Douro 12.5%
Pungent high-elevation blend that tastes, in the most appetising way, like fermented lemon sherbet. A great drink with or without food.
Kumeu River,Village Chardonnay 2016 Kumeu 14%
A suburb of Auckland is the place to go for those seeking bargain alternatives to white burgundy, even if the Brajkovich family can no longer afford the land prices there for vineyard expansion and are extending into Hawke's Bay on the east coast. Their single-vineyard bottlings are even more concentrated and ageworthy.
£12.50 Lea & Sandeman
Karma do Sil,Maga Godello 2016 Ribeira Sacra 13%
In the right hands, the Godello grape of Galicia can yield wines of Puligny-Montrachet-like purity and structure. This example, from the under-explored, precipitous Sil Valley (plagued by drought in 2017), is one of the good ones. Seek out any from Rafael Palacios too.
£12.95 Lea & Sandeman
La Crotta di Vegneron Petite Arvine 2016 Val d'Aosta 13.5%
The rare Petite Arvine is the indigenous grape of which French Swiss are most proud but this floral, quintessentially alpine wine was grown just over the border in Italy. When tasting this delicacy professionally, I could not bring myself to spit.
£12.95 The Wine Society
Ottavio Piersanti, Terre di Sampaolo 2016 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 13.5%
What a lot of flavour per penny is here. Savoury, marine and a testament to Italian white wine quality.
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough 13%
Much more serious and ageworthy than most New Zealand Sauvignons, cinematographer Michael Seresin’s biodynamically grown example is a relative antique but is still in great shape and offers real interest. Well worth the premium.
£14.75 Fareham Wine Cellar and other independents
Màquina & Tabla, Páramos de Nicasia Clarete 2016 Toro 13.5%
No, not a white wine but a rather riveting, rose-petal-scented, very satisfying, extremely versatile deep pink/pale red based on Garnacha grapes grown in north-west Spain. Check out too their flor-aged dry white Laderas de Leonila at £13.50.
£14.95 Lea & Sandeman
Eidos, Eidos de Padriñan Albariño 2016 Rías Baixas 13%
Another L&S find from north-west Spain. Albariño became so popular a few years ago that quality seemed to decline but this taste of the Atlantic has much more character than its peers, and even a hint of lime cordial. Made for seafood.
£15.50 Lea & Sandeman
Bamberger, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling trocken 2015 Nahe 12.5%
Quite a mouthful, and so is fine dry Riesling – nothing like the German wines of old. Emrich-Schönleber is the famed exponent of this vineyard but this is a steal in comparison.
£15.75 Lea & Sandeman
Josmeyer, Le Kottabe Riesling 2015 Alsace 12.5%
Another biodynamic product, this bone-dry, excitingly tense wine also has an extra layer of vitality. Tastes like a wild-flower cocktail. Chock full of flavour if not alcohol.
£18 The Wine Society
Serge Laloue, Cuvée Silex 2015 Sancerre 14%
I was planning to include this, another wine I found hard to spit out, even when I thought it was £36 a bottle, it’s so much more concentrated and interesting than most Sancerres. Subtle, juicy and minerally (the silex refers to the local flint in the soil), this wine goes on and on, with more than a hint of blackcurrant leaves.
£36 a magnum The Wine Society
Ch Guiraud, Le G 2015 Bordeaux 13.5%
There’s an interesting combination of richness and freshness in this slightly off-dry wine from a famous Sauternes estate. Too full to sip as an aperitif but it would be an interesting accompaniment to tarragon roast chicken and other white-meat dishes.
Montonale, Orestilla 2015 Lugana 13%
When Italian whites are good, they are so very, very good. This is a real find from the shores of Lake Garda. Perhaps partly thanks to the large old oak that a portion of these Verdicchio grapes were fermented in, it has real grip with hints of hazelnuts and citrus fruit as well as admirable structure to it with some energising bitterness on the finish. Great stuff!
£21.75 Berry Bros & Rudd
Dom du Clos Salomon, Premier Cru 2015 Montagny 13%
A superlative producer in an appellation that does not always deliver fireworks. Sophisticated rather than rustic southern white burgundy.
£23-£25 Richard Kihl, Taurus Wines, Secret Cellar
Lismore Chardonnay 2014 Greyton 13.5%
Californian Samantha O’Keefe has somehow ended up making wine way up in the cool hinterland of Hermanus on the south coast of South Africa, and very fine wine it is too. Another one to compare and contrast with fine white burgundy.
Grosset, Springvale Riesling 2016 Clare Valley 12.7%
A stunning vintage of an old Aussie favourite that is more approachable than Jeff Grosset’s flagship Polish Hill Riesling. Real breadth of flavour, a note of lime, and the tingle factor in spades. Drink with spicy dishes or on its own as a pick-me-up. Bone dry but not austere.
£25 M&S and many independents
Dalrymple, Pipers River Cave Block Chardonnay 2013 Tasmania 13.5%
Light years from the big Aussie Chardys of old, this is tight, tense and even slightly austere at the moment but is certainly very refreshing.
Rall, Rall White Blend 2015 Coastal Region 13%
Dominic Rall sources the majority of the fruit for this knockout blend of Chenin Blanc with Verdelho, Chardonnay and Viognier from fashionable Swartland but Stellenbosch plays a part too. Spicy nose on a broad, fruity, appealing palate, this hits the spot in every way. There is ocean in there as well as fruit.
£25.49 Noel Young
Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Ur Alte Reben, Riesling, Spätlese feinherb 2016 Mosel 12%
If this brilliant wine were made anywhere else, it would cost twice as much. Pungent, pure, featherlight and juicy with fruit and marked acidity in divine interplay. What a treat this would be at almost any time of day.
£25.50 Berry Bros & Rudd
David & Nadia, Aristargos 2016 Swartland 12%
Not alcoholic but hugely winning and satisfying, based on the produce of old vines. Lots of tingle. Very winning with many layers from increasingly admired young producers.
£27.50 Vincognito, £28.49 Noel Young
Dom Lafouge, Les Boutonniers 2015 Auxey-Duresses 13%
Head for the less famous Côte d’Or appellations for white burgundy bargains nowadays – especially in a year as ripe as 2015. A hint of spice but no heaviness; real lift and grace. Eloquent.
£28 Domaine Direct
Crystallum,Clay Shales Chardonnay 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge 14%
Peter-Allan Finlayson is a magician. This lures you in with initial richness and roundness and then tightens everything up on the palate with amazing energy. To be drunk with food.
£31.99 Noel Young
Dom Mouton, Côte Bonnette 2016 Condrieu 14%
Really opulent, true Condrieu flavours of mayblossom and warm apricots but with good freshness on the finish. Very good example of Viognier grown on granite in its homeland even if no bargain. Should appeal enormously even to neophytes.
£42 Berry Bros & Rudd