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Martin Higginson selects bottles to try this festive season with help from Waitrose wine experts
If you’ve shopped at Waitrose in Bury St Edmunds over the last couple of months you will have seen that the store is getting a makeover, and the big news is that their wine department has
expanded, with their selection growing too. Just in time, we think, with December being the busiest time of year for wine buying.
So rather than me suggesting some Waitrose wines for Christmas, we decided to ask two of the young guys working in the wine department, James Farrow (job title ‘Wine Specialist’) and ‘new boy’ Henry Jackson Wells, what they would recommend as good festive buys. We asked for three wines each, no conditions other than wines which represent good value and a good match for seasonal foods, and what a fine, varied selection they came up with.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without some fizz, a must when entertaining visitors, or just to celebrate getting through the past 18 months or so. Champagne is usually the first thought, but as we’ve said before, even with the recent budget windfall of a tax cut on sparkling wine (a saving of 64p per bottle, cheers Rishi), Champagne in our opinion is still overpriced, with a decent-tasting bottle of one of the famous names getting little change for £35. So I agree with James’s recommendation of trying fizz from a different, albeit still French, region instead. Crémant is a wine made using the same traditional method as Champagne, that is where the secondary fermentation (the one that creates the bubbles) takes place in the bottle, enabling the biscuity, bread-yeasty flavours that come from the wine laying on the lees to develop. That’s unlike Prosecco where
the secondary fermentation occurs in huge stainless steel vats (known as the Charmant method).
Most wine producing regions of France produce their own versions of Crémant, often using local grapes as well as the usual Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used in Champagne. Waitrose stock Crémant from the Loire, Limoux in the south of France, and Bourgogne in Burgundy, but James’s choice is Cave de Turckheim Crémant d’Alsace (£13.49) from France’s most northernly wine producing region Alsace. Turckheim are a famous name in Alsace and this wine, produced from the local Pinot Gris grape, is a frothy, creamy delight, certainly different than Champagne, but so much better value, and would be a great way to start Christmas morning, a party, or any festive meal.
Henry’s first choice may be a bit off-the-wall for some people as it’s a rosé wine, something most people regard as a summer outdoor drink, but his choice is spot on for those who prefer a fresh, fruity wine without the bubbles. The Pale Rosé (£13.99) is made by the so- called ‘King of Rosé’ Sacha Lichene, creator of the more-famous Whispering Angel Provencal wine. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes, and with a lovely Art Nouveau/Belle Epoch label, Henry admits it may not be the first choice of many for a winter wine, but he’s going to buck the trend by drinking it this Christmas.
For his white wine choice James moves to the Abruzzo region of Italy with Fenaroli Pecorino Superiore (£9.99), a wine that I was introduced to a few months ago and have been enjoying since. Its minerally, crispy acidity is
“Its minerally, crispy acidity is
off-set with exotic fruit flavours while still having a lovely floral aroma.”

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