trophyTop Ten Red Wines of 2011 this time including three at under a fiver, which should help things along this Christmas in these frugal times, and aromas that climb out of the glass and whack you one. And should you be able to splash out a bit more there are also more great value wines at around £8 and more at £12 and £13. So here they are in ascending price:


Aldi’s French Côtes du Rhône 2009

£3.69 Aldi

Complex aromas of strawberry, raspberry, liquorice and maple syrup followed by light fruity flavours of cranberries, blackberries and cherry Tunes. A very good blend to match to the turkey this Christmas.


Aldi’s Spanish Ribereño Tempranillo 2009

£4.99 Aldi

Unfortunately this is no longer available as it was a ‘while stocks last’. But it was so good that it deserves a mention and it’ll also mean you can be prepared should it re-appear as an Aldi staple. Aromas of Marmite and violets, then flavours of chewy cherry liquorice – it tastes rather like a liquid purple fruit pastille.

Co-op Malbec3

Co-op Argentine Fairtrade Bonarda Shiraz 2010

£4.99 Co-op

Why does the Co-op sell anyone else’s wine when their own-label stuff is so good? Complex aromas of jammy dodgers or Bakewell tart (you take your pick), blackberry, strawberry and marzipan. Flavours of black cherry, blackberry, tobacco and marzipan. What a great slurp.


Montgravet Vin de France Cabernet Merlot 2010

£4.99 Waitrose

A decent wine at under five pounds in Waitrose, yes I was surprised too. But this little beauty really delivers – strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, Bisto and black pepper flavours. A nice balance of the light to more oomphy.

Errazuriz Merlot5

Errazuriz Chilean Merlot Reserva 2010

£5.85 Sainsbury’s (down from £8.79 until December 6th), £5.98 Asda

Errazuriz again, they were in the Top Ten Whites list and it’s no coincidence they are in the Top Ten Reds list too  and cor blimey is the best way to describe the taste of this dual varietal red. And should you want more words how about ‘an aroma that climbs out of the glass and whacks you one’ with blackberry leaf, cassis, coffee and liquorice. Thumbs up to the taste of blackcurrant, damson jam, cocoa and mint.


Co-op Premium Argentinean Malbec 2010

£7.99 Co-op

It’s the Co-op again but this time with their premium range Malbec – dark choc and smoky cherry aromas and flavours of Black Forest gateau. Another cor blimey.


The Black Stump Australian Durif Shiraz 2009

£7.99 Laithwaites

A blend of the grape varieties Shiraz and Durif – a variety bred by mixing Shiraz and the lesser-known French grape Peloursin – so really the wine is Shiraz and more Shiraz. And boy does it show – huge flavours of blackcurrant, cocoa, liquorice, raisin and cinnamon that just keep on going.


Isla Negra Chilean High Tide Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

£8.99 Tesco

Beware this wine on first opening as the taste will take your teeth apart. But leave it 5 minutes and the flavours soften to raspberry, cherry, bubblegum along with the earlier notes of cocoa, fresh blackberry and blackcurrant.


Vidal New Zealand Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008

£11.99 Waitrose

Getting a bit more expensive now but the wine still meets the value for money criteria with its sweet black cherry, black coffee and spice flavours that change to damson and tart plum with opening.

Villa Maria10

Villa Maria New Zealand Cellar Selection Syrah 2008

£12.99 Winerack

Another wine from New Zealand to end and this one has long, long lasting flavours: violets, cherry yoghurt, liquorice and a touch of gravy. Who said New Zealand could only do feeble Pinot Noir reds?

trophyTop Ten White Wines of 2011 this week. There will also be a Paula’s Top Ten Red Wine choices of 2011 and Top Ten Rosés but only the Top Five After Dinner Reds of 2011.

Christmas cakeIf Pimm’s No.1 is the soaking liquor of choice for the dried fruit then the Penguin Cookery Book’s 1952 version of Christmas cake has to be the recipe of choice. It’s quick, easy and you don’t need an O-level in home economics to get a really good result. To make a 7-inch cake you’ll need:

PimmsPimm’s, fortified wines and Belgian wheatbeer are sampled this week as I get started baking the Christmas fruity puds and cakes. Recipes for booze-soaked Christmas fruit cake always say you should let the cake 'mature' for at least a week before you ice it. But the cake will still taste wonderful if you start munching when it’s only been out of the oven for an hour and just (about) cooled down.