Top Ten Wines in the £6 and Under category of 2018 this week. And in the remaining weekly columns in the run up to Christmas they'll also be the Top Ten Whites plus the Top Ten Reds of 2018. An essential list of ten wines that'll match all tastes and foods for Christmas Day will be provided too. But let's start with a summary of how the wine retailers and supermarkets have done this year.

Tesco made a strong come back from a low starting point. Their vastly improved wine offerings are in the Top Tens - Aldi and Lidl have a new rival in the lower spend end of the market.

Majestic Wine is still providing good wines but the really good ones are hard to distinguish among the masses. However they do now allow you to buy just a bottle if that's all you want, rather than the previous requirement of six bottle minimum purchase.

SPAR’s new wine ranges are excellent and great value in the £5-7 range. SPAR really have come on the last few years and totally changed their focus on their wines. Where previously the range was, at best, described as the kind of stuff you'd buy at a petrol station, their new look and new emphasis has pushed them into the noticeable league.

Co-op wine range is still going strong and has remained in the Top Ten continually for several years. While Morrisons wines seemed to have withered on the vine somewhat. Local independents and small chains are still strong in the £10+ area. Other supermarkets are doing okay and haven't really changed much this year.

Of course I don't get to taste every single bottle of wine out there, so these Top Ten lists are based on the extensive ranges I have sampled. And it's just for you folks! [cough]

PG Top Ten Wines at £6 and Under of 2018

In ascending price:

1

Med Red Rouge 2017, France
£4.39 Aldi
One of the few wines that can still be bought in the UK at under £5. So get them while you can before price increases make this category disappear. Simple and tasty: plum.

2

Tesco Italian Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2017, white
£3.95 Tesco
A delicate white with flavours of light apple and pear. Versatile so quoff with any type of nosh.

3

This...Loves...Spanish Monastrell-Petit Verdot 2017, red
£4.79 Aldi
A really sophisticated red with flavours of creamy plum, cherry and a touch of parma violet sweets.

4

Aniumus Portuguese Douro 2016, red
£4.99 Aldi
A wine that is excellent value. Expect flavours of plum, violets, chocolate and an edge of crab apple type tannins. Juicy.

5

Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc French Cotes de Gascogne 2017, white
£4.99 Lidl
This wine has increased 60p a bottle over the year but it's still a great bargain. Juicy and refreshing – it tastes of pineapple chunks.

6

SPAR Bold Red, Spain
£5 SPAR
A real rival to a more expensive Argentinean Malbec or a Bordeaux red, this plum and black pepper tasting wine is good value and great pizza plonk.

7

Shorn USA Pinot Grigio, 1.5 litre pouch, white
£5.50 equivalent bottle price (£11 for 1.5litres) Tesco
Fruity. Nice. Tinned pears.

8

Escudo Real Portuguese Vinho Verde 2017, white
£5.99 Co-op
As usual with Vinho Verde, the wine has a slight sparkle (or 'spritz') and a low alcohol level (9.5% abv). Food-friendly flavours of biscuit, celery and grapefruit.

9

El Macho Reserva 2013, Spain, red
£6 Iceland
Fruity red with flavours of damson, cherry and chocolate. Creamy too. Now we know why certain genders go to Iceland.

10

SPAR 'PG' Italian Pinot Grigio 2016, white
£6 SPAR
Quite a flavourful example of a grape variety that doesn't normally taste of a great deal. Expect pear, peach and almond. Fresh and fruity white.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk

Sherry, whisky and freshly squeezed orange juice are sipped this week as I get started stirring the Christmas mincemeat. Recipes for this booze-soaked Christmas preserve always say you should let it 'mature' for at least a week before you use it. But home-made pies (individual or one large ‘un) will still taste wonderful if the minced fruit and nut mixture is spooned straight into pastry cases as soon as the alcoholic moistness testing has ceased.

Mix yourself a Rum and Coke cocktail using a dash of dark rum and a classic cola then watch a harmless frothy scum form around the added ice cubes. Then mix another Rum and Coke but using pale rum (Barcardi is suitable but a supermarket own-label will be just as good at two-thirds the price). No dirty looking froth forms this time, but why is that?

If being a wine writer is all about tasting wine and telling everyone about it then why isn’t everyone doing it? Because it can be difficult to make a living. If that hasn’t put you off, then how do you go about becoming a wine writer?