Wines of The Month December

Wine expert Joanna Simon presents her picks of the month, featuring the perfect Sunday lunch claret and a rioja that can be enjoyed now with creamy dishes or added to your own cellar collection


Viñas de Gain Artadi Rioja Blanco 2010, Rioja, Spain

I'm always surprised how many Rioja drinkers - and there are a lot in Britain - only ever drink red Rioja. Far less white is produced, but that's no reason to leave it on the shelf. Very broadly, it comes in two styles: aged in oak barrels or without oak. I like it with some oak. Artadi was fermented in French oak, but not matured in it. Instead it was kept in large tanks for two years - a long time - and with the lees (dead fermentation yeasts). It might sound counter-intuitive but ageing on lees keeps the wine fresh, while making it richer in texture. The result is a supple, complex, buttered-cinnamon-toast of a wine with yellow plum, nectarine and citrus flavours and spicy, slightly ozony freshness. You can drink it now - with, for example, pork, poultry, cheese or creamy dishes - or keep it (in cellar conditions) for four or five more years. Normally it's £19.95, but it's £2 off until December 24.

£17.95, Jeroboams shops in London and


Tanners Super Claret 2012, Haut-Médoc, France 

The name may sound a tad old school, but the wine, I'm happy to say, is not. It's claret for sure, aka red Bordeaux, but it's not the old-fashioned, weedy, thin sort that use to fuel gentleman's clubs at lunchtime (and may still do, for all I know). It's a supple, rounded blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in barrels for a year to give a spicy oak softness to the mulberry and blueberry fruit, graphite and green pepper flavours. It's ready for drinking - Sunday lunch would be a good start - but you could put it away for a couple of years if you have a cellar or equivalent. It's made for Tanners by the team at Château Clément-Pichon in the Haut-Médoc.

£14.95, Tanners,


Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Aconcagua Valley, Chile

Shimmering brilliance and seamless layers of flavour - beautifully expressive Sauvignon from a vineyard less than eight miles from the Pacific Ocean. Maybe it's auto-suggestion but I find a sea-salty tang beneath the vibrant citrus, greengage and smoky, flinty flavours. Errazuriz's more everyday Sauvignons are reliably good value, but this is more than the equal of a good Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé - and great value at the current offer price. It's not in all stores, but Waitrose's entire range is available online. Try it with shellfish, white fish, mild Vietnamese or Thai curries, vegetable dishes, or on its own as a reviving aperitif.

£8.99, down from £11.99, until 6 December, Waitrose, and ; £12.58, Corking Wines


Elephant Hill Syrah 2015, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 

This was the first Elephant Hill wine I'd come across when I tasted it a few months ago and I was bowled over. I tasted it again earlier this month with Steve Skinner, the winemaker, and was again bowled over by its combination of velvety richness, freshness and elegance and by the crunchy black fruit, peppery spice and sheen of polished oak. All the more impressive is the fact that this is the cheapest of Elephant Hill's three Syrahs. There's also a Reserve and a top Syrah called Airavata, both of which I highly recommend. I recommend the winery's other wines too, all of which I tasted alongside classic wines from some of France's foremost estates. The wines are all made from Elephant Hill's own three vineyards in Hawkes Bay on the North Island (specifically in Te Awanga, Gimblett Gravels and the Bridge Pa Triangle), which Skinner says gives him complete control, and all are made by Skinner without any assistants. As I say, impressive. Drink this Syrah with game birds, duck or red meat or with baked or casseroled vegetable dishes. 

£19, ; £19.49, ; £19.95, ; £21.30,

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