Helena Nicklin’s Guide to Knockout Wines for Festive Feasting

2021 Guide to Knockout Festive Wines

We all deserve a treat this festive season and a chance to raise a glass to better times. Helena Nicklin picks six knockout wines made from classic grape varieties to elevate your festive feasting and boost your wine gifting game.

When you taste wine for a living as I do (I know, poor me), it’s rare for bottles to properly knock your socks off. All the wines below offer a drop of accessible, vinous luxury for the festive season, punching well above their weight for the price tags. I’ve picked some whites and reds from classic grape varieties as well as a sneaky pink – because it’s always a surprise hit on Christmas day! Enjoy.

The Chardonnay:

Kits Coty Chardonnay, Chapel Down, Kent, 2018

A bottle of Kits Coty Chardonnay

This wine has won so many awards I can’t keep up, and having tasted it recently, I can see why. The fact that it is from Kent also blows my mind! It is a stunning, single-vineyard Chardonnay, so pure and fresh with notes of ripe, tropical peach and melon balanced with subtle spice and a cool saline core. It is an absolute must-try for lovers of international Chardonnay.

Drink it with: Creamy risotto, chicken, scallops, white fish and nutty, hard cheeses.
£33 from Hawkins Bros

The Sauvignon Blanc:

Domaine Michel Thomas Sancerre ‘Silex’, 2020

A bottle of Domaine Michel Thomas Sancerre ‘Silex’, 2020 in the forest

Sancerre is the original home of the Sauvignon Blanc grape, loved for its elegance and understated notes of nettle, citrus and stone. Silex is known to be the topsoil site of the appellation, rich in a mix of flint, chalk, sand and a bit of slate. It gives grapes from here an incredibly mineral depth and a touch of smoke. Intense but understated, this is a complex wine that doesn’t shout too loudly as so many Sauvignons can. Elegant and classy.

Drink it with: Anything with fresh goat cheese, green salads and shellfish.
£21.99 from Laithwaites

The Pink:

Château Saint Maur, Côtes de Provence, Rosé Cru Classé Saint-M, 2020

A bottle of Château Saint Maur, Côtes de Provence, Rosé Cru Classé Saint-M

A Provençal pink at Christmas? I do it every year, and it goes down brilliantly. A decent, Provençal pink is my go-to rosé style here because it is so textured and versatile with food, especially at the front end of your meal with things like smoked salmon, cream cheese and anything pastry. With all the eating that happens, a splash of pink really perks things up, and it’s a winner with that leftover ham and sausages on boxing day, too, if there’s any left!

Drink it with: Just about anything, but especially ham, salmon and cheesy bites.
£22 from The Good Wine Shop

The Pinot Noir:

Hartford Court Russian River Pinot Noir, California, 2018

A bottle of Hartford Court Russian River Pinot Noir, California, 2018 on a white background

Pinot Noir is arguably the red grape to go with Christmas lunch as it’s not heavy enough to send you to sleep, but it is flavoursome enough to stand up to turkey with all the trimmings. Russian River in California has quickly cemented its reputation for top quality Pinot Noir in recent years thanks to its ideal combination of weather and soils. The Hartford Court is silky smooth and intensely perfumed with notes of spiced, dark cherry compote, marzipan and earth. Stunning.

Drink it with: Turkey with all the trimmings, duck and pork.
£53.90 from Vivino
£25.80 for a half bottle from Hedonism Wines

The Merlot:

Château des Laurets Baron, ‘Sélection Parcellaire’ Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Puisseguin Saint-Émilion, 2016

The wine with probably the longest name in the world

This wine, with the longest name in the world, is made by the famous Rothschild Family, with grapes from this estate’s top vineyards. It’s a 100% Merlot wine that showcases a concentrated, modern style of Bordeaux with intense notes of cedar, plum, morello cherry, a splash of soft, red fruit, a pleasing note of graphite and velvety tannins. For great Bordeaux, it’s truly excellent value, and it would make a great gift under the tree too. Drinking now but will keep another five years or so.

Drink it with: Beef, stews and hard, nutty cheeses.
£59.95 from The Oxford Wine Company

The Cabernet Sauvignon:

Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017

A bottle of Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017

One of the original producers of quintessential, Californian Cabernet, Kendall Jackson is a small, family-owned estate in the north of Napa Valley that makes fabulous wines that are incredibly well-priced and easy to drink. It’s an inky black, well-structured red with notes of damson, black cherry and cassis. Beautifully balanced and one that will sing with heavier meat dishes such as beef wellington or stews. Get it decanted to let it open up before drinking.

Drink it with: Beef, stews, mushrooms, truffle.
£21.90 from Vinvm

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Helena Nicklin's Guide to Knockout Wines for Festive Feasting 2


Helena Nicklin

Wine and Spirits Journalist

Helena Nicklin is a freelance wine and spirits writer, wine consultant, TV presenter and judge for various international wine awards. Most recently, she has co-produced and co-presented a global TV series for Amazon Prime called The Three Drinkers do Scotch Whisky.

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