It’s that time of the year where we need no excuse to crack open the ‘good stuff’ and this year I’ve found quite the loot for your tipple exploration. Christmas is all about sharing special moments with special people, and what better way to spread the love and cheer than with a glass of something incredible. Here are the top finds from Aidy Smith, an award-winning drinks expert, writer, and presenter of The Three Drinkers TV Series on Amazon Prime.
Our select collection of champagne
Krug Grande Cuvée 170 éme Édition
As far as non-vintage champagnes go, it’s hard to beat Krug. This year's release is comprised of 51% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay and 11% Pinot Meunier. As always, there’s an immense complexity of notes and flavours. The nose offers a delightful bouquet of fresh seabreeze with cooked quince and a rich creamy lemon zest tart. Aged for 6 years on lees you can expect a powerhouse of texture which is why this champagne stands out so much from its counterparts. Soft warm fruits and cinnamon brioche make themselves known on each and every taste. This is a must-explore.
One of the most famous names in the world, bound with one of the most notable champagne houses. This triumphant release from Pol Roger is a nod to a relationship that began in 1945 when Winston Churchill tasted the champagne for the first time during a lunch with the British Ambassador in France. After meeting Odette Pol Roger (the Founder), he fell in love with the bubbles and the two became inseparable mates. Each year Madame Pol Roger would send Winston a case of their latest vintage until his death. Ten years later in tribute, they named their most prestigious cuvée after him. This vintage offers a medley of cooked orchard fruits and lemon alongside stick honey brioche, creamy apricot and French toast.
If you didn’t know Idris Elba had his own Champagne label, you do now. What’s more, it’s pretty damn good. It’s rare to find vintages this old for such a generous price, especially in Magnum, so I'd say grab it while it’s hot! A golden-yellow hue sits within the bottle offering notes and flavours of candied citrus, cherry, plum, apricot tart and marzipan. To be honest, it puts on just as much of a show as Idris himself!
Enclosed in what can only be described as the most expressive and dramatic case for a champagne, it’s as if Lady Gaga herself is bellowing lyrics from the bottle herself. There is so much character, personality and complexity to this champagne and each vintage showcases itself in a slightly different way. This year, raspberries, a distinct leafiness and a delicate perfume are found on the nose. Taking a sip will ignite your taste buds, giving you a combination of toasted almond sponge cake, alongside a subtle honey smoke and dollop of ripe strawberries. Year upon year I'm always blown away by this champagne.
Some of my favourite vintage champagnes are produced by Krug and over the past several releases, it’s the 2004 that takes the top spot for me. Furthermore, it sits at the perfect drinking window, making now the time to pop the cork. This particular vintage showcased fresh, black and white pepper with zesty lemon brioche, honeysuckle, quince and fresh plum. An almost equal blend of 39% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir and 24% Pinot Meunier meant each grape variety got to showcase its true self, making this a truly unforgettable vintage.
Another fantastic vintage for this fabulous producer. Over the years this Tattinger has become one of my go-to’s for the reliability of this emblem bottle. A concoction of festive aromas from gingerbread and meringue to baking spices and lemon curd come across. It only gets better on the palate; a smooth combination of peach, mandarin and apricot with a creamy white pepper texture. Utterly divine.
When I say Chardonnay, you’re probably expecting white Burgundy. However, one of the most stunning and terroir driven Chard’s I've ever tasted hails from the land of Malbec. Yes, Argentina. White bones is a spectacular representation of what this grape variety can do and I'd argue that this bottle knocks many Burgundy’s out of the park entirely. Ripe pear, dried apple, honeysuckle and nectarine tart are what you’ll find. Texture is key here and the mouthfeel is sublime. On the finish, a kiss of minerality with a long, elegant and harmonious lemon curd finale.
Here we have a wine that has been voted one of the best in the world, countless times. It’s not often you come across white wines with this much age and at this point there really can’t be that many bottles left. Hailing from vineyards planted in 1945, this is a wine that transcends time itself. It was bottled in 2014 after 20 years of aging in American oak casks and almost 6 years of settling in concrete tanks to allow the wine to ‘find itself’. Critics have hailed it one of the best they’ve tasted and I'm inclined to agree. An umami bouquet hits your nose with floral notes, jasmine tea and sherry soaked peaches. Take a sip and the length just continues to evolve over time - you’ll find smoky, flinty, umami undertones with an undeniable orange rind, caramel and toffee apple. This is one of the most surreal wines I've ever tasted and for all the right reasons.
While Napa Valley is typically known for its beautiful expressions of Chardonnay, Santa Barbara doesn’t often get as much praise. I can tell you wholeheartedly, this is one of the best Chardonnays coming out of California. Perched within the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Baraba, Brewer-Clifton has been producing world class wine since 1996. Over three decades they’ve perfected their craft which has led to this triumphant expression of one of the world’s most famous grape varieties. The ocean air brings a slight salinity, alongside lemon curd, minerals and a rich texture that hugs your tongue from the moment it greets your lips. Intense, complex and destined for greatness.
This is quite possibly one of the best wines I've had in my life. Viognier is exceptionally underrated as a grape variety and it’s quite rare to find it within Napa Valley too, which makes this encounter even more exciting. In true Viognier fashion with a distinct local twist, you’ll find an explosion of aromatic and floral notes leading into fresh fruits. From there it’s apple pie, jasmine and exotic mango meeting soft fleshy nectarines, apricot, kumquat and a thirst-quenching spicy peach and minerality on the finish.
I’ve long been a fan of white wine from Bordeaux, so it’s no surprise that one would find its way into this guide. This striking example of an 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon blend celebrates the 10th vintage of this wine. Lees aging takes place for 22 months in new oak foudres, so you can only begin to imagine the texture and complexity of the final result. A white pepper spice crosses stewed apricots, guava and lime cordial with a lemongrass, flint and salinity. Just as you reach the finish a marzipan and citrus marmalade jump out to surprise you. A truly spectacular vintage and must-discover white wine.
Only 362 cases of this Napa Valley delight were created, offering a glimpse into a smaller winery doing big things. Brenda’s Vineyard was named after the Founder’s Mother and gives a distinct mineral personality alongside those staple well-made Napa Cab notes. You can expect wild strawberry, ripe blackberry and blueberry jam alongside caramelised fig and spiced dates. A lively acidity and ripe tannins mean this wine will last for a long, long time!
BRAND Napa Valley is a 110-acre family owned estate that sits atop Pritchard Hill. Their Proprietary Blend is a stunning marriage of Cabernet Franc (63%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (37%) hitting all the right taste buds at all the right times. A deep and robust silky harmony of sandalwood, green tea, warm milk chocolate and dark meadow berry jam intertwines to create a taste sensation. They may be small, but they sure are mighty. Let this wonder breathe for a good while in a decanter before drinking.
It’s no surprise that Germany produces outstanding Pinot Noir (known as Spätburgunder), but this gem really is giving Burgundy a run for its money. In 2011, Daniel Twardowski purchased a 3 acre vineyard and ripped out every riesling vine in sight. While his neighbours looked on in horror, little did they know these soils would, in just a few years time, produce one of the best representations of Pinot Noir in the country due to the colossal amount of walnut shells from trees on the land. Chocolate caramel, strawberry, dense raspberry and a slight oak grace your nose with a smoky leather and forest floor covered in sticky brambles on the palate. Shining with elegance from the very first sip.
This has to be one of my top finds of 2022. Produced from a 15-acre parcel of rolling hills this wine is driven from clones of the world renowned Pommard amongst other incredibly rare vineyards. It’s like a love affair between Burgundy and Sonoma with a distinct Santa Barabara twist. Expect ripe cherry, rhubarb, cola nut, black berry, allspice and black tea all wrapped up in a refined, savoury and textured treat.
As one of Napa Valley’s most prized wineries, Cardinale has been creating a storm of wonder since its first vintage release. This wine encapsulates everything that is extraordinary about this region and leaves me wanting more every time I taste it. The hefty Bordeaux blend showcases 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot with 22 months in French oak barrels. The result? A dollop of 70% dark cocoa, rounded out by blackberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, tobacco, cedar oak and a kiss of rose petal on the finish.
This is the pinnacle release for one of the most exciting wineries in Tuscany. While Sangiovese is what you’d expect from this area, Tenuta Di Arceno have taken an evolutionary spin on one of the world’s most famous winemaking regions. Cabernet Franc is placed in the spotlight, creating a wine that is so beautifully unique to this region. Innovation meets heritage as the two worlds intertwine, resulting in a ripe dark plum, mint, sage and thyme nose. The palate is explosive with black cherries, white pepper, truffle, strawberries and licorice. Cedar oak jumps out with burnt toast and a delicate raspberry lingers on the finish.
This top shelf Cabernet Shiraz blend which was produced in 2013 from some of the wineries top vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Wrattonbully and Clare Valley. 24 months in French oak barrels have allowed a strikingly elegant ink bomb to develop over time. You’ll experience chocolate, black meadow fruits and cedar oak all wrapped up in a velvety texture. A wonderful Cab-Shiraz blend that showcases the very best of what this winery can do at the top end.