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Xmas Wine Tips #3 - For Fireside

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Xmas Wine Tips #3 - For Fireside

Tristan Darby


Despite what the Daily Mail might tell us, we'll probably not get a white Christmas this year (surprise), it might not even be that cold - but that won't stop most of us from donning a naff woolly jumper, popping a few logs on the fire, and settling down for a spot of well-earned seasonal relaxation.

So for today's tips, I'm choosing a few of my favourite wines with a bit more warmth, depth and all round palate-hugging nom-ness to help you relax and self-congratulate on the past twelve months hard slog.

Go-on. You've earned it!


Howard Park, Miamup Chardonnay 2014

Howard Park, Margaret River, Australia
£15.95 at
 Great Western Wine

I love oaked chardonnay when it's done well. The oak adds a lovely depth and complexity to the wine with lots of textural and sometimes warming nuances. The problem is, there's not always a good balance struck in oaked wines, and you often have to pay quite a few quid to find it.

Enter, Howard Park Miamup Chardonnay - the price point is spot-on, and so is the wine. One of my favourite Aussie Chardonnays this year, in fact.

This is a really cracking wine. Full flavoured, yes, but balanced and fresh. So very drinkable and just the right amount of French oak to give some creamy, toasty depth - perfect for fireside sipping.

A complex floral, brioche, citrus and slightly honeyed nose is followed by a rewarding mouthful of toasted, creamy, spiced-peach glory. Well balanced, with a lovely creamy and textured 'just eaten a handful of cashew nuts' after-feel in the mouth.

Grab yourself a little smorgasbord of cold white meat, perhaps some (mild-ish) cheddar, Gruyere or Comte (if you have some) and a creamy Wensleydale or Gorwydd Caerphilly (I love this cheese at the moment), and maybe even some chicken Pate - and supper is sorted!

Ken Forrester, The FMC 2014

Ken Forrester Wines, Stellenbosch, South Africa
 £25.00 at Great Western Wine

I was fortunate enough to host a masterclass alongside this giant of South African wine, Ken Forrester, earlier this year at GWW.

He was an absolute gentleman and it was a huge pleasure to talk with him about the wonderful wines coming out of SA at the moment, (it's a very exciting time for SA wines!) and his own wonderful range of wines.

The FMC is benchmark SA Chenin Blanc, and a true Icon, like the man himself. So I'll be raising a toast with a glass or two of this over the festive period.

A delicious, complex, rich, balanced and distinct wine with layer upon layer of flavour and spicy oak. Deep flavours of Apricots meet honey, spice, and creamy vanilla. One of the cheapest 'Great Wines' of the world, and worth much more.

This will be awesome with a variety of foods from Gammon to blue cheeses, and it can even take some spicy heat as well. Awesome, awesome wine.

Chateau Vieux Parc, 'La Selection' Corbieres 2013

Chateau Vieux Parc, Corbieres, Languedoc, France
£13.95 at Great Western Wine

Anyone who has been to enough of my tastings at GWW knows how much I love this wine, and for me, Christmas just wouldn't be the same without it.

The first red wines I truly fell in love with were from this neck of the woods in France's Languedoc, and the wines can offer a huge amount for a very reasonable price tag if you hunt around. Again, this is one of my favourites.

This wine is full-on, intense, complex and with a smokey spiced character - but it's just so well balanced and drinkable, it will have you under its spell in just one sip!

Let this open up in the bottle for an hour or so and you'll find aromas of Mediterranean herbs, a floral touch of violets, smoky black pepper, red and black fruits, liquorice, and a whiff of meaty richness - and that's just the nose!

The palate doesn't disappoint either, and is so soft and smooth for such a big buxom wine, with an elegance and freshness to counter the dark fruits and smouldering chocolatey richness on offer.

A top buy for the price. and it never lets me down at a tasting.

Grab your cold meats and aged cheeses, and thank me the next time I see you!

Vina Falernia, Carmenere Reserva 2014

Vina Falernia, Elqui Valley, Chile
£13.75 at
 Great Western Wine

Yes, we pro wine-types are lucky enough to get our laughing gear around some of the best, and sometimes rarest wines in the world (a very, very lucky breed we are indeed).

But the true pleasure for most of us is knowing that you don't have to spend silly money to discover some truly exceptional winemaking.

Falernia's Carmenere Reserva from Chile's Elqui Valley, 250 miles north of Santiago on the fringes of the Atacama Dessert, is simply astounding at the price. The closest comparison for this wine is a good Amarone from Veneto in Italy for which you would pay far more.

Handpicked (for quality) partially dried grapes (to concentrate flavour and sugars), from high altitude vines (to counter this with some freshness) and a very, very clever winemaker together make for one outstandingly good wine - for under £15!

I had this wine with my brother-in-law one Christmas Eve a few years ago, after everyone else had gone to bed (I'd decanted the wine for several hours previously which benefits the experience no end), and WOW!

Hedonistic, complex, rich, spiced, indulgent and velvety smooth black fruit heaven. One of those wines that you just don't need to talk about and dissect. You just sit there and smile. And sip. And sip.

Smouldering late night luxury personified.