The best red wines to buy for Christmas 2020

Our wine expert tips the marvellous malbecs, spicy syrahs and fabulously fruity clarets that deserve a place at your table

best red wines christmas 2020
Festive reds to suit every palate  Credit: Haarala Hamilton and Valerie Berry

Last week we published my selection of white and sparkling wines; now here come the reds. I know Telegraph readers like buying online because you tell me so and last week the white burgundy I picked from the Wine Society sold out on the day of publication. So while you’ll find a spread of bottles from supermarkets and local merchants on this list I have also thought of readers who want enough recommendations from a single source to enable them to mix a case and buy online.

You will find a concentration of bottles from three places: Lea & Sandeman, The Wine Society – and Tesco. You can add more from last week. Lea & Sandeman and The Wine Society will come as no surprise.

Tesco has some lovely wines this season, but get in quick – the supermarket is running a 25 per cent off when you buy six or more bottles deal until Tuesday.

I didn’t have space for it below but I also loved Château des Fougères Clos Montesquieu La Raison Graves 2011 Bordeaux, France (14%, Tesco, £15) from a Graves estate that once belonged to the political philosopher Charles Montesquieu. At 70 per cent merlot and 30 per cent cabernet it’s a lovely mature claret.

Give it a bit of air and it becomes truffly and mushroomy. Not too much though – it won’t last overnight.

From left: Specially Selected Costières de Nîmes 2019; Terrenal Garnacha NV, Cariñena; Domaine les Yeuses La Petite Syrah 2019; Cidade Branca Alentejo Red 2019; Morrisons The Best Cahors Malbec 2018

Best red wines for Christmas 2020

Specially Selected Costières de Nîmes 2019

France (14%, Aldi, £5.99)

Costières de Nîmes is spread across Europe’s largest river delta, the place where the Rhône meets the Mediterranean. Based on syrah and grenache, its reds are warming and robust. This one’s good value and the raised glass crest on the bottle makes it look more expensive than it is.

Terrenal Garnacha NV, Cariñena

Spain (14.5%, M&S, £6)

If you’re looking for decent, cheap wine then Spain is a brilliant hunting ground at the moment. Made from garnacha (grenache, in France) grown in the Cariñena region this one is smooth and brightly juicy – a strawberry coulis of a wine.

Domaine les Yeuses La Petite Syrah 2019

Pays d’Oc, France (13%, Lea & Sandeman, £7.95/£8.50 mixed case/single bottle price)

Syrah is responsible for the deep and wild wines of the northern Rhône and its aristocracy shines out in this humble Languedoc incarnation. There’s no oak here, but you do feel a touch of spice amidst the dark fruit. Excellent.

Cidade Branca Alentejo Red 2019

Portugal (14%, Morrisons, £8)

A tremendously easygoing red blend based on the excellent touriga nacional grape. It’s made in the Alentejo, in the south of Portugal, and has a warm, shaggy vibe. Very appealing.

Morrisons The Best Cahors Malbec 2018

France (13.5%, Morrisons, £6 down from £8 until Dec 1)

Argentina has made malbec its own but the southern French region of Cahors is fighting back with modern, drink-immediately, wines like this. Juicy and redolent of stewed damsons but with just a touch of underlying earthiness.

From left: Mitravelas Red on Black Agiorgitiko 2019; Finest with Julie Rouffignac Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019; Le Ralle Aglianico del Vulture 2017; Luna Beberide Mencía Bierzo 2019; Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2016

Mitravelas Red on Black Agiorgitiko 2019

Greece (14%, The Wine Society, £7.95)

A red that tastes like the sour cherries of Italy have met the robustness of Portugal. The grape here is agiorgitiko and it’s grown in Nemea, in the north-east of the Peloponnese. Full-bodied but tangy, with no oak and a hint of violets among all those black cherries.

Finest with Julie Rouffignac Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019

France (14.5%, Tesco, £8)

If you think that supermarkets don’t sell good quality wines then try this Côtes du Rhône Villages. Rich, textured and reminiscent of homemade raspberry jelly and brambles, it blew me away when I tasted it.

Le Ralle Aglianico del Vulture 2017

Italy (13%, The Wine Society, £8.95)

Aglianico can be a beast – acidic, tannic, monumental and as unyielding as granite. That’s what I like about it but it can make it hard to drink. This is a surprisingly approachable version, elegant for aglianico and redolent of fig wheel and black cherries.

Luna Beberide Mencía Bierzo 2019

Spain (13.5%, The Wine Society, £9.50)

Mencía is a black grape grown in north-west Spain that typically makes light to medium bodied wines with savoury, earthy flavours, a hint of nutmeg, and a dark floral quality. This is a brilliant version.

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2016

Italy (13.5%, Waitrose, £10 down from £13.99 from 2 to 15 December)

An absolute steal at a tenner, this is an evocative Chianti Classico, made from 100% sangiovese and aged in Slavonian oak. 2016 was an epic vintage as well. This would be gorgeous with fricassee of sprouts, pecorino and pasta with amatriciana sauce.

From left: Luigi Bosca Selección de Vistalba Malbec 2018; Ring-Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018; Waitrose & Partners No 1. Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico 2018; Lea & Sandeman Bordeaux 2016; Bodegas Viñaguareña Munia Roble 8 Meses 2018 

Luigi Bosca Selección de Vistalba Malbec 2018

Mendoza, Argentina (14%, Waitrose, £10 down from £16.99 from 2-15 December)

Another one of Waitrose’s amazing value 10 for £10 wines, here’s a lovely, oak-aged malbec. With notes of wood, spice, roasted plums, coffee and earth. Smooth and bold.

Ring-Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Margaret River, Australia (14%, Tesco, £10)

An extraordinary wine for the price: a plush, cushioned cabernet sauvignon that is rich and blackcurranty, almost like cassis, with a hint of forest floor and tobacco. Try this instead of claret.

Waitrose & Partners No 1. Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico 2018

Italy (14.5%, Waitrose, £10.49 down from £13.99 until 1 December)

Valpolicella is the vibrant, light-bodied red from the Veneto. When it’s passed over the skins of partially dried grapes used to make Amarone, you get Ripasso – a wine that still has cherry-brightness but also more complexity and body. Deliciously Christmassy, and great with leftovers.

Lea & Sandeman Bordeaux 2016

France (13%, Lea & Sandeman, £10.50/£11.95, mixed case/single bottle price)

Meet your house claret for the winter. “That’s good!” was my response when I reached this in a tasting line-up. And it is – a single-estate claret from the Entre-Deux-Mers, from a cracking vintage (and it shows) with a cedary nose and a soft nap of fruit.

Bodegas Viñaguareña Munia Roble 8 Meses 2018

Toro, Spain (14.5%, Lea & Sandeman, £10.75/£11.95 mixed case/single bottle price)

From the Spanish region of Toro, which sits on the Duero river close to the Portuguese border, a spicy and warming red. There’s oak here, a suggestion of autumn leaves, licorice root and roasted fruits, almost cinnamon and the effect is fragrant not sticky.

From left: Fable Mountain Vineyards ‘The Raptor Post’ Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache 2017; Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend 2018; the dot Austrian Cherry Zweigelt 2019; Berry Bros & Rudd Côtes du Rhône by Rémi Pouizin 2019; Château de Beaulieu Côtes du Marmandais 2008

Fable Mountain Vineyards ‘The Raptor Post’ Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache 2017

Swartland, South Africa (13%, Majestic, £10.99/£12.99 mix six/single bottle price)

Fable Mountain Vineyards (formerly Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards) is remote, perched high on the steep slopes of the Witzenberg Mountains. This Rhône blend isn’t the dense, inky wine you might expect of a Cape red but medium-bodied, with a translucency and a scent of wild straw­berries and white and black pepper.

Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend 2018

South Africa (14%, Tesco, £11)

An impressive red that tastes like St Julien in Bordeaux-meets-South Africa. A blend of pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot that smells of dried tobacco, leather, and dark and red berries with a whiff of coffee grounds.

the dot Austrian Cherry Zweigelt 2019

Austria (13%, Martinez in Ilkley, £11.19 down from £13.99; harrisandco.uk in Castle Douglas, £11.99; South Downs Cellars in West Sussex, £13.95)

Zweigelt is an Austrian grape created in 1922 – a cross between blaufränkisch and st Laurent. Here it makes a beautifully sleek red that does, as the name suggests, taste of cherries. Medium-bodied, with a savoury-and-cranberry vibe, I like the thought of it with pork pie or turkey leftovers.

Berry Bros & Rudd Côtes du Rhône by Rémi Pouizin 2019

France (14%, Berry Bros & Rudd, £11.95)

Berry Bros & Rudd’s own-label claret is the wine everyone knows but for my money this is a much better bet – a very suave Côtes du Rhône that mingles notes of white stone with fruit and a gently suedey texture.

STAR BUY Château de Beaulieu Côtes du Marmandais 2008

France (13%; Aitken Wines in Dundee, £11.95; Auriol Wines in Hampshire, £13.95; Al Ponte Deli in Cardiff, £12.45)

Situated to the south-west of Bergerac and to the west of Cahors, the Côtes du Marmandais makes wines that resembles claret in structure but which have an exotic touch of the south-west. The grapes here are merlot, syrah, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc and there’s a lovely maturity. A point right now.

From left: Château Tanunda Barossa Blend Shiraz 2019; E H Booth & Co Gran Norte Rioja Reserva 2015; Gougenheim Blue Melosa (Malbec) Flores del Valle 2015; Château Beaumont 2016; Thymiopoulos Vineyards Naoussa Alta Xinomavro 2017

Château Tanunda Barossa Blend Shiraz 2019

Australia (14.5%, M&S, £12)

Here’s a glorious shiraz forged in the glaring heat of Australia’s Barossa. Sumptuous, dense and flavour-saturated yet with a texture that gives it great drinkability, it’s a bear hug in a glass for a cold winter night.

E H Booth & Co Gran Norte Rioja Reserva 2015

Spain (14.5%, Booths, £13.50)

If you live near a Booths supermarket you’ve probably already sussed that their own-label range is almost uniformly excellent and this rioja is a jewel in that crown. Think tobacco, subtle sweet vanilla, mulching leaves and mellow fruits. A smasher.

Gougenheim Blue Melosa (Malbec) Flores del Valle 2015

Mendoza, Argentina (14%, Tanners, £15.80)

Gougenheim Winery lies in Mendoza’s Uco Valley, in the foothills of the Andes, and its 100 acres of vineyards are at altitude, some as high as 1000 feet. This is a juicy malbec, with flavours of licorice root and blueberries.

Château Beaumont 2016

Haut-Médoc, France (13.5%, Co-op, £16)

Another claret from the superb 2016 vintage. This one is young and will reward decanting (or saving for another Christmas, but only if you keep it in a cool, dark place). The blend is 50% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot and 3% petit verdot.

STAR BUY Thymiopoulos Vineyards Naoussa Alta Xinomavro 2017

Greece (12.5%; roberson.com, £17.99 down from £20 until Dec 28; vincognito.co.uk, £19.95; Jeroboams, £19.95)

Like the finest Barolo crossed with a silky red Burgundy, this is so fragrant – all wild strawberries, redcurrants and rose petals, with an earthy and herbaceous side to it as well. The grapes are grown at altitude, hence the name and the result is very elegant. Exquisite.

From left: Berry Bros & Rudd Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir by Benjamin Leroux 2018; Fortnum & Mason Crozes Hermitage 2019; Cune Imperial Rioja Reserva 2016; Finest with Ch Boyd Cantenac Margaux de Boyd 2014; Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas 2016

Berry Bros & Rudd Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir by Benjamin Leroux 2018

France (13%, Berry Bros & Rudd, £18.95)

Benjamin Leroux worked at Comte Armand before establishing his own label. This Bourgogne Rouge is gleaming and supple and scented with red berry flavours.

Fortnum & Mason Crozes Hermitage 2019

France (14%, Fortnum & Mason, £19.50)

Made for F&M by Domaine Fayolle, a small family producer that is run by a brother and sister. Lovely, inky northern Rhone syrah with a touch of sticky liquorice. A bottle that would also make a good Christmas present.

Cune Imperial Rioja Reserva 2016

Spain (14%, Co-op 122 stores, £19.75)

A majestic and deeply satisfying rioja. Aged in a combination of French and American oak, with a perfume that weaves scents of tobacco, autumn leaves and strawberry pie. Bring out the roast pork or the slow-cooked artichoke and tomato rice.

Finest with Ch Boyd Cantenac Margaux de Boyd 2014

Bordeaux, France (13.5%, Tesco, £22)

Actually a super wine – quite upright but not too unapproachable, although my bottle did taste better the next day (I didn’t decant it). Less on the Margaux florals and more savoury, with a hint of star anise and tobacco.

Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas 2016

France (15%, The Wine Society, £22)

Perfumed and hedonistic, carrying the scent of wild red berries, dried garrigue herbs and hot wind through olive trees with a faint texture of pumice, for me this southern Rhône blend is a Christmas classic.

From left: Pauillac Ulysse 2016; Cigliuti Langhe Nebbiolo 2019; BB&R Pinot Noir by Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County 2018; Ginestreto Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino 2017; Magnum of Château Angludet 2012

Pauillac Ulysse 2016

Bordeaux, France (13%, The Wine Society, £22.50)

A well-connected left bank claret that is very impressive for the price: firm and dark-fruited. 2016 was an immaculate vintage and while this is still very young it already tastes good and will open up further on decanting.

Cigliuti Langhe Nebbiolo 2019

Italy (14.5%, Lea & Sandeman, £22.75/£24.75 mixed case/single bottle price)

Charles Lea was horrified when I asked to taste this – “It’s so young, it’ll be – “ he squeaked and did one of his full-body horrified tasting notes. It IS young but 2019 seems to be a generous vintage and this nebbiolo is also fruity and wonderfully perfumed. I liked it; Charles liked it.

BB&R Pinot Noir by Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County 2018

California, USA (13.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, £25.95)

Pinot noir is super with beef, brilliant with turkey and all the bits and pieces – a brilliant wine for Christmas (OK, for any time). Made by Californian star Au Bon Climat, this one’s supple, juicy and beautifully silky.

Ginestreto Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino 2017

Italy (14%, Lea & Sandeman, £26.95/”29.95 mixed case/single bottle price)

Fuligni makes very evocative wines. In this, a rich tapestry of flavours from old saddle leather to red and black cherries and dusts recalls Tuscany with every sip. You don’t need to bring in the rib of beef to enjoy it; a glass of this will make a feast of a bowl of pasta.

Magnum of Château Angludet 2012

Margaux, Bordeaux, France (13%, The Wine Society, £55 for a magnum)

Dare we buy magnums this year? If so this is a brilliant option: a fragrant and easygoing Margaux that has enough softness to drink now. There’s 12% of petit verdot in the blend which contributes to the violet-like scent.