Fiona Beckett is talking about Beaujolais, not the "banana and bubble gum-scented nouveau" that will be hitting our shelves on Thursday, but the much-lauded 2009 vintage.
She's says she's happy to drink something bright and breezy such as Asda's own-brand 2009 Beaujolais which at £4.47 is "terrific value" and perfect with a brie- or saucisson-stuffed baguette. For a touch more finesse, Beckett recommends La Reine de L'Arenite's Fleurie La Madone 2009 (£9.99, virginwines.co.uk). If anyone is still sceptical about Beaujolais, then she says to opt for Marcel Lapierre's unfiltered, unsulphured Morgon 2009 (£17.99, Bibendum). "This could well be the bottle we drink with our Christmas turkey this year."
Olly Smith is surprised how many people he meets that declare they despise Californian wines. It's surprising for two reasons - firstly because of the huge output of big brands such as Gallo, Echo Falls and Turning Leaf and secondly because there are some excellent boutique wines from California, he says. With regard to grape varieties he thinks Chardonnay rules the roost and advises to look out for its Sauvignon Blanc, which is sometimes oaked and labelled ‘Fumé', as in the case of Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 2007 (£14.99, Majestic). For Smith what really shines is its reds. Cabernet Sauvignon can be outstanding and you can also find decent Syrah and some interesting Pinot Noir. But the big bad grape that California has claimed for itself is red Zinfandel. He recomemnds Ravenswood Vintner's Blend as a great introduction to the grape.
Powerful table wines have crept on us slowly but surely says Susy Atkins. Take ‘light' dry whites, it used to be about Bordeaux, Germany and Loire Sauvignon Blanc, at about 11% abv. Now it's more likely to be New Zealand, Australian and Chilean labels, at nearer 13.5%. As for reds, Atkins says she trawled through a set of new South Americans the other day and not one was below 14%. The main reason many wines have bigger alcohol volumes is because they're sourced from relatively hot places. That said, not all powerful wines are bad news, they generally don't make good party wines, but served with the right kind of food they can come into their own. She recommends Tabali Encantado Reserva Syrah 2008, Limari, Chile (Waitrose, £10.99). "A year in French oak has added toasty, spicy notes to this complex Syrah with 14.5% alcohol."
Last June when Bordeaux second growth Château Cos d'Estournel announced the opening price for its 2009 vintage of €150 a bottle, Jancis Robinson MW, visited Adrien Tramier owner of the more modest Château St-Saturnin, less than 10 miles away. His average price per bottle from the cellars is under €10 and he was sure that he would not be asking more than €15 even for the most sought-after vintage ever, the 2009, says Robinson. His property looks more like a hillbilly encampment than a conventional wine château, she adds, "but there are certainly precedents for excellent wine emerging from such unsophisticated settings". Robinson recommends Château Lafitte-Tramier, see wine-searcher.com.
Anthony Rose recommends wines "under a tenner". From Asda he plumps for its 2009 Marsanne, Vin De Pays D'Oc, France, which he says is attractively floral scented, with lots of juicy, ripe stonefruit characters and a palate-pleasing freshness at a price that makes it an unbeatable Christmas party dry white. (£3.47, reduced from £3.98). For a red the 2009 Morrisons Chianti, Tuscany is not immensely complex he says. But for less than a fiver, it's attractively textured, cherryish fruit is complemented by a typically savoury Italian freshness and the suitably dry and rustic aftertaste that is just the ticket for washing down pasta of the bolognese or puttanesca kind. (Morrisons, £4.99).