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The Bath & Wiltshire Parent’s wine columnist, Ben Franks FRSA, shares his top picks for Christmas, from popping a novel bottle of fizz to indulging in the sweeter things.

Christmas is a time for celebration, especially after the year we’ve all had. Few things can start off that holiday feeling better than a glass of proper fizz. You might be tempted to opt for a bottle of Prosecco or treat yourself to the same brand of Champagne, but if you look beyond the classics there’s an even more exciting world of bubbles out there. 

St Donat ‘Magma’ Rose Brut 2019 (£21.99, Novel Wines) is Tamas Kovacs’ fruit-driven, creamy and dry traditional method sparkling wine. Made from fruit that’s hand-harvested on the Tihany peninsula in Lake Balaton, western Hungary, where a defunct volcano protrudes out of the lake. This volcanic soil forces the vines to deep root, giving the wine a rich complexity. Unlike Champagne, it’s all about the fruit – and unlike Prosecco, that fruit is delivered on a bed of soft brioche and spice. As far as fizz goes, this Novel option is bound to please.

If you’re a white wine drinker and you’re worried what fits the Christmas season when everyone’s banging on about red, don’t fret. There’s lots of full-bodied, winter warmer whites that don’t mean oak. Pegoes Colheita Seleccionada White 2020 (£9.99, Novel Wines) is a full, creamy white wine bursting with peach melba from the Peninsula de Setubal, just south of Lisbon, that’s a delight with a cheeseboard. There’s also the nutty, zingy and fruity Chateau Ksara Blanc de Blancs 2018 (£13.99, Novel Wines) that would be a treat with roast turkey. If you don’t want any of that creamy white vibe at all, the plush and fruity Gizella Furmint x Harslevelu Blend 2019 (£12.49, Novel Wines) is the one to go for. Absolutely mouth-watering!

Red wine fans might very easily go for something rich and full bodied, like the Bordeaux-inspired blend Heumann Terra Tartaro 2015 (£29.99, Novel Wines). That’s the kind of bottle that is a real treat and an automatic winter star.

Don Guerino ‘Vintage’ Malbec 2018

However, sometimes you can enjoy all the winter elements (spice, ripe fruit, soft tannins) without going too full-bodied. That means you can drink it alongside roast dinner or an indulgent afternoon tucking into chocolates and not be fast asleep by the early evening. Don Guerino ‘Vintage’ Malbec 2018 (£17.99, Novel Wines) is a Brazilian take on the Argentine classic and has more perfumed violet aromas on the nose, without compromising on the velvety smooth body. It’s fab with beef or lamb, but also won’t overshadow turkey or a nut roast. Domaine des Tourelles Red 2019 (£12.99, Novel Wines) is an unoaked, full-bodied Lebanese red that is my great value red wine buy this Christmas. Plummy and smooth, it’s bound to deliver.

Finally, if you’re after a sweetie this Christmas then it’s time for something extraordinary. The home-grown Blue Aurora Blueberry Ice Wine (£18.99, Novel Wines), made in Northamptonshire in England, is only 10.5% abv but it’s supple and sweet with tangy blueberry charm and an absolute zinger with chocolate tart or desserts. It’s only made in limited quantities and uses fruit that would otherwise be wasted due to the supermarket grading systems. Simon Day is the winemaker, which is always good news as he really knows his stuff. It’s the ideal sipping dessert wine if you’re after something special in 2021.

Whatever you decide to drink, I wish you the most wonderful of holidays and I hope you can enjoy it with loved ones this year. 

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