With wine required for so many occasions, and as gifts, Newcastle Wine School owner David Harker shares his advice to make it through the festive season in style
Wine plays an important role in many of our festivities – whether to toast a celebration, as the centre piece of a family dinner, or to just say thank you. So which wine to choose? Something a bit special, something out of the ordinary, or a safe bet? Here are my suggestions to cover most occasions…
Champagne is the ultimate celebratory fizz. Deutz is smaller and less well known than some other brands, but as a founding member of Champagne’s prestigious Grandes Marques, the house has almost 200 years of history and remains family-run.
For a good quality, affordable fizz in a snazzy bottle, look to Cava Vilarnau. The Vilarnau Gaudi bottle is dressed in a pretty sleeve inspired by the colourful Catalan designs of tiny fragments of broken ceramic tiles. The wine inside is pretty too.
If you want to celebrate good times, then pop a pét-nat. Camillo Donati is a family-owned estate in Emilia Romagna, Italy. Pét-nat, short for pétillant naturel, is bottled before fermentation is completed, leaving a light sparkle in the wine. The Trebbiano Secco is natural, biodynamic, unfiltered, savoury and refreshingly bone dry.
The big meal suggests a wine with a big reputation.
Wines from Burgundy carry a big reputation with price tags to match. The 2019 Givry from Joseph Drouhin has the concentrated red cherry and subtle spice that you expect from Burgundy and is the best value red Burgundy that I have come across – get it while you can.
Red Bordeaux is reassuringly familiar and versatile enough to cope with most food. A good measure of a traditional wine merchant is the quality of their house claret. Boncoeur Classic Claret, 2016 is made by the team behind Château Gloria to produce this approachable red from an outstanding vintage.
Something less familiar is the Saperavi grape from Georgia. Bedoba Saperavi is partly matured in qvevri, the traditional amphora of the region. The result is a brooding, bruising, beast of a wine.
Think Sauvignon Blanc, think New Zealand – yet the grape’s home is Bordeaux. Sauvignon-based wines from Graves are among the finest on earth. Across the Garonne River from Graves is Entre-Deux-Mers, a region with a reputation for good value white wines. Château Buisson-Redon 2020, Bordeaux Blanc is a tangy, crowd-pleasing 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
If you wanted to be a little, well actually a lot, more daring then go orange. Origine Bianco I.G.T. Terre Siciliane 2016 is an extraordinary wine. Grillo and Zibibbo grapes go through a production process that takes almost four years including two years ageing in chestnut casks and six months in bottle, the use of some dried grapes, and partial fermentation in amphora. The result is complex and satisfying. Off dry with aromas of orange, dried apricot, quince, wild herbs, honey and almonds, this will take on the most challenging food pairings. It also looks good, coming wrapped in a paper map.
If not orange, try pink. Bellet is one of the last great urban vineyards. Perched on the hillsides overlooking Nice – a short, but in my experience treacherous, car ride away. Here they produce gastronomic rosés made from the local Braquet Noir grape – a refreshing choice with cold cuts.
The perfect present
We tend to gift what we want to receive, and I would love a bottle of Agustí Torelló Mata Kripta Gran Reserva Cava. From one of the most prestigious sparkling wine producers in Spain, Kripta is a cava like no other. What Krug is to Champagne, Kripta is to cava. The amphorae shape bottle may be impractical, but it adds to the wine’s distinction. Premium cava, its age is reflected in its golden colour and complex aromas of baked apple, caramel and toast.
The wine list
Deutz Brut Classic, Champagne – Gosforth Traders, £52.99
Vilarnau Gaudi Organic Cava Brut Reserva, Penedès – Majestic, £13.99
Camillo Donati, Trebbiano Secco 2022 – KORK Wine and Deli, £21
Agustí Torelló Mata Kripta Gran Reserva Cava 2013 – La Casa Delicatessen, £57
Château Buisson-Redon 2020, Bordeaux Blanc Sauvignon – Guest Wines, £10.75
Origine Bianco I.G.T. Terre Siciliane 2016 – The Rare Drop, £24
Domaine De La Source Rosé, Bellet – VIN, £27.50
Bourgogne Givry, Joseph Drouhin 2019 – The French Quarter, £29.99
Boncoeur Classic Claret 2016 – Boncoeur Fine Wines, £14.23
Bedoba Saperavi 2020, Georgia – Carruthers & Kent, £18
David Harker’s journey in wine has seen him progress from complete novice to a Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma-certified wine educator, accredited Bordeaux and Sherry wine educator, Spanish Wine Scholar and – in a We Bought a Zoo moment – wine school owner. To explore Newcastle Wine School’s events, tastings and courses visit www.localwineschool.com/newcastle