Good festive buys 2019 – whites

White wine in Jancis Robinson young wine decanter

A slightly shorter version of this article is published by the Financial Times.

After last week’s collection of hand-picked reds, here’s another selection of stunning wines listed in increasing price per centilitre and all chosen on the basis of value rather than price. Many of them, particularly the most youthful Chardonnays, may benefit from aeration before serving. Our picture, courtesy of @ateliernash, shows my young wine decanter, which has been expressly designed for this. White wine can look even more alluring in a decanter than red.

Fief Guérin 2018 Muscadet Sur Lie, Côtes de Grandlieu 
£8.49 Waitrose 
Delicate, saline, super-pure evidence of the rehabilitation of Muscadet. Anyone for oysters? 12%

Rainer Wess Grüner Veltliner 2018 Kremstal 
£20 per magnum The Wine Society
There are few wine bottles more handsome than a magnum of white – perfect for entertaining. This has Austria’s trademark grape’s signature white pepper and breadth of clean fruit. Broad and peachy. A please-all for Christmas entertaining? 12.5%

Turner Pageot, Le Blanc 2017 Coteaux du Languedoc
£12.50 The Wine Society
Marsanne grapes treated to some skin contact results in a spicily tangy wine with rich, honeyed fruit but real tension too. No hurry to drink this very serious, unusual wine for the price. A real find. 14%

Ch Rives-Blanques, Dédicace 2018 Limoux
£12.95 The Wine Society
The Panman family of Rives-Blanques were hit by hail and mildew in 2018 but their speciality oaked Chenin survived pretty well, albeit at very low yields. There’s admirable tension in this bone-dry, concentrated, versatile wine with a really attractive toastiness to it. To judge from a 2008 tasted recently (see How are France's 2008s now?), it should age far better than one expects for a wine at this price. It may seem potent but Chenin’s naturally high acidity maintains the wine’s refreshment value. 14.5% 

Santa Venere, Vescovado Guardavalle 2018 Calabria 
£12.95 The Wine Society
Guardavalle is a fashionably indigenous grape variety and The Wine Society add to the sales pitch by assuring us that the grapes ‘come from two organic vineyards overlooking the sea’. The wine has light, subtle nuttiness and a coolness that you would never associate with this far south in Italy. Really complete and fresh. Something to serve a wine nerd of your acquaintance? 13%

Ch Ksara Merwah 2018 Lebanon
£13.50 Vintriloquy, £14.99 Oakham Wines
There is massive interest in rediscovered indigenous grape varieties in this part of the world. Merwah was the grape with which the Jesuits founded Ch Ksara in the Bekaa Valley in 1857. This wine, with broad, candied lemon flavours, is based on 60-year-old vines planted as high as 1,500 m (4,920 ft) above the Mediterranean. 12.5%

Dom Fichet, Bourgogne Aligoté 2018 Bourgogne
£13.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Now that summers in Burgundy are so much warmer, the second-string Aligoté grape is no longer possibly tart but is responsible for a host of really exciting white burgundies that cost much less than their Chardonnay-based stablemates. This one is from Olivier Fichet of the Mâconnais. 12.5%

Dom Vincent Carême, Spring 2018 Vouvray Sec          
£14.99 Waitrose
This really does taste like essence of spring. The 2017 was a wine of the week quite recently. Vincent got to grips with Chenin in South Africa and has slowly built up his own modest but superbly run domaine in his native Loire Valley. With its tangy acidity, meaty intensity and pure undertow of wild flowers and apple skins, it would make a lovely aperitif. Residual sugar (just 4.5 g/l) is negligible. Artisanal wine in a supermarket – a rare beast. 12.5% 

Dom Goisot 2017 Bourgogne Aligoté 
£15 Domaine Direct 
Another delightfully ripe Aligoté, this one from Goisot, over-achiever of St-Bris near Chablis, so a tad crisper than the Fichet wine described above. Certified biodynamic, too. 12.5%

Lenton Brae Semillon/Sauvignon 2018 Margaret River
£15.50 Private Cellar
How does this small wine region in the far south-west corner of Australia do it? It manages to make superb Chardonnay, sumptuous Cabernet and this local speciality, a combination of the two grapes of white bordeaux. If you came across this labelled Pessac-Léognan you’d be thrilled. There’s just a hint of oak and the wine manages to be both opulent and refreshing. A great food wine. Maybe smoked salmon? 13.5%

Begude, Étoile Chardonnay 2018 Limoux
£15.99 Majestic (bolder 2017 is £16.95 Stone, Vine & Sun)
Here’s a racy alternative to white burgundy from the hills of the Languedoc, made with care by British émigrés. Certified organic with all the extra care that involves, it’s a blend of the best fashionably large oak casks of Chardonnay in the cellar. Limoux has long been a great-value source of crisp, lightly oaked Chardonnay. 13.5%

Zanut, Zakaj 2016 Brda
£16.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Grown in Slovenia just over the border from Italy, and based on Friulano grapes. Slovenia and Croatia are treasure troves of characterful white wines. This one both smells and feels a little like apple skins and is substantial enough to serve with a main course – turkey? 13.5%

Quinta de la Rosa, Reserva Branco 2017 Douro
Portugal’s whites are fast catching up with the reds. This serious, full-bodied blend of 60% Voisinho with a mix of local port varieties is aged in French barriques and is unlike any other white wine. Drink with or without food. 13%

Treloar, La Terre Promise 2017 Côtes Catalanes
£17.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants, The Good Wine Shop
Beautiful, distinctive Roussillon blend of old-vine Grenache Gris (which always seems much livelier than Grenache Blanc) with Macabeu and a little bit of Carignan Blanc. Yields were barely a quarter of what is usually considered profitable; this wine is underpriced. The wine was fermented and aged in oak but the effect is on its tight structure rather than leaving any oaky flavour. Spicy fruit on the palate goes on and on in the aftertaste. Serve this with food. It would be just the job for white wine drinkers with the turkey. 

Cave de Hunawihr, Rosacker Riesling 2018 Alsace Grand Cru 
£18.25 Exel Wines, £21.99 Noel Young
Stupendous, dense, dry, ageworthy Riesling grown a stone’s throw from the world-famous Clos Ste-Hune that costs many times more. Vinified by the well-run local co-op. 14%

Dom Jean Chartron, Clos de la Combe 2015 Bourgogne 
£19.33 Private Cellar
Classic white burgundy at a decent price. Ideal for a traditional dinner party. At peak now. 12.5%

Botanica, Mary Delany Chenin Blanc 2017 Citrusdal Mountain 
£22 Wine Society
From old bush vines on a mixed farm way up the west coast of South Africa; arguably the country’s most distinctive sort of wine. Very dense nose with some richness (as opposed to sweetness) on the palate. Made with a particularly sensitive hand. Should age well too. So complex it deserves a decanter and to be served not too cold. 14%

Berthier, Terre de Marne 2017 Coteaux du Giennois
£22.45 Amathus
Clément and Florian Berthier produce small lots of super-precise northern Loire Sauvignon Blanc from different terroirs, this one from Kimmeridgian marl with small oyster fossils. Opulent yet tense, and so much better than many a Sancerre. 12.5%

Pandolfi Price, Los Patricios Chardonnay 2014 Itata
£22.95 Stone, Vine & Sun
Fabulous southern Chilean answer to Meursault. Elegantly packaged and now fully mature, it doesn’t taste nearly as potent as the label suggests. 15%

Hofmann, Appenheimer Steinberg Chardonnay trocken 2017 Rheinhessen
£22.95 Yapp Brothers
Yapp used to be known for Rhône and Loire but here is evidence of just how far they have branched out: a German Chardonnay raised in new oak but not too obviously so. Very outré, very charming in a sort of structured sweetcorn way. Excellent balance. A particularly friendly alternative to white burgundy. Just 13%

Mac Forbes Chardonnay 2017 Yarra Valley 
£24.50 Tanners
Compared with the Agnès Paquet Auxey-Duresses at about the same price, described below, this is pretty good with the same delicacy – just a little more sweetness. From one of the most thoughtful and cosmopolitan of the younger winemakers of the Yarra Valley outside Melbourne. 12.5%

Argyros, Monsignori 2017 Santorini
£24.95 Wine & Greene, also Noel Young, Clark Foyster, Butlers Wine Cellar, Bottle Apostle, Highbury Vintners
Greece is the place to look for really fine, distinctive dry whites. Enormous elegance in this underpriced wine made from Assyrtiko vines up to 200 years old. The grape variety is so obviously superior and resistant to summer heat that it’s been imported into South Australia. 14%

Neudorf, Rosie’s Block Chardonnay 2017 Nelson
New Zealand wines always have particularly crisp acidity but this one, certified organic, is already friendly and approachable – and whistle-clean. A great product from a difficult vintage. Named after the daughter of the founders, who is now a member of the Neudorf team. 13.5%

David & Nadia, Aristargos 2017 Swartland 
£25.95 Vincognito
David & Nadia Sadie (unrelated to the Sadie Family) have built up the most brilliant operation from scratch. This is a beautiful blend of six different grape varieties, typically from old vines, with some subtle skin contact though. Grab any wine you can find, although most of their UK allocation is available only by the case in bond from Justerini & Brooks. Grrr. 13%

Dom Agnès Paquet 2017 Auxey-Duresses
£27.75 Haynes Hanson & Clark
Racy and delicate. Complete and everything absolutely in the right place. Obviously Côte d’Or with savour but very pure and open already. Not a bad price in a Burgundian context. 12.5%

Dom Coche-Bizouard 2015 Auxey-Duresses
£28 The Wine Society
To find affordable burgundy you have to concentrate on the less famous appellations such as this one that is richer and more evolved than the Agnès Paquet 2017. There is even a suggestion of lemon syrup. Very good drinking at the moment. 13.5%

Savage White 2018 Western Cape 
£28.99 Handford, £29 Swig, £30.50 The Good Wine Shop 
Duncan Savage is one of the most skilled of the pack of ambitious, motivated, young(ish) South African winemakers. After a glorious career at Cape Point, whose Sauvignon Blancs were South Africa’s best, he now has his own cellar in Cape Town in which to work his magic on wines such as this entrancing, ageworthy, sappy blend of fruit from hand-picked parcels of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Chenin Blanc. Worth every penny. 14%

Novum Chardonnay 2017 Marlborough
£31.95 The Vinorium, Kent
Debut vintage of a personal project of the winemaker at the admirable Fromm winery in Marlborough. This impressive wine is not cheap, and it’s packaged in an unnecessarily heavy, carbon-positive bottle, but the wine itself is hugely promising. Crystalline, complex and clearly able to improve in bottle but it’s already a charmer. 14%

Dom Henri Germain 2016 Meursault 
£45 Domaine Direct 
Germain’s Meursaults rarely disappoint. This, from a classic white burgundy vintage, really delivers. Very lightly reductive with a light smokiness, this has accessible, charming fruit that has power but no heaviness. 13%

Dom Bernard Moreau, Morgeot Premier Cru 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet 
£53.50 Lay & Wheeler
Alex Moreau is doing a great job at his family domaine in Chassagne. This is based on 30- to 90-year-old densely planted vines. It’s still pretty tense and should be decanted and aerated well before serving if you can’t wait before opening it, though it would benefit from several years’ ageing in bottle. Very classy. 13%  

Tasting notes on all these wines in our tasting notes database. International stockists from