Christmas

Which older vintages will be perfect to drink at Christmas 2023?

Christmas is the ideal time to enjoy wines from older vintages that are now in their prime. The Society’s buyers have picked out the best vintages from their respective regions that have matured to perfection.

What older vintages will be perfect to drink at Christmas 2021?

There’s something magical about opening a bottle of wine you’ve been maturing for several years. When a wine matures, it adds layers of complexity, transforming into something very special. The anticipation of how it has aged – whether you’ve managed to capture the wine at its peak – is all part of the experience. And what better time to open them than Christmas? Whether you’ll be raiding your cellar, your Members’ Reserves collection or our website, here are the older vintages from around the world drinking beautifully right now.

Bordeaux red wines 

If you’ve been waiting to uncork a special bottle of claret, there’s scarcely a better time than Christmas. Not only will it be a perfect match to most meat-based meals, but notes of spice, game and red fruit, make mature Bordeaux is a gastronomic delight in itself. Buyer Tim Sykes has picked out a quartet of vintages that are showing their class right now:

  • 2012 – at its peak now. This vintage was somewhat overlooked when first released, but now represents decent value for money. I’ve bought several parcels of 2012s from Bordeaux this year myself.
  • 2010 – a top-quality vintage with ripe, concentrated fruit character.
  • 2007 – a vintage written off by many wine writers, but one that produced some fragrant, very drinkable clarets.
  • 1998 – a fully mature savoury vintage that has held up remarkably well. 

Suggested wines

Les Eclats de Branas Grand-Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc 2007

This ‘beautiful example of mature Bordeaux with no hard edges’ almost prompte...

France     £18.00   Bottle     £108.00   Case of 6

Château Giscours, Margaux 2012

One of the most attractive wines in Margaux this year. Seductively rich and t...

France

Château Pierbone, Haut-Médoc 2010

From the superlative 2010 vintage, this is a perfectly ready-for-drinking ble...

France     £14.95   Bottle     £179.00   Case of 12

Château Bel-Air Lagrave, Moulis-en-Médoc 1998

Supple and silky-textured, fully mature claret for drinking over the next few...

France     £27.00   Bottle     £324.00   Case of 12

Burgundy red wines 

Welcome to the elegant, refined world of aged Burgundy. Our Burgundy buyer Toby Morrhall has selected the Burgundy vintages ready to drink now. Red Burgundy, with its aged notes of forest floor, mushroom and stewed fruit, and white Burgundy, which becomes honeyed and aromatic with notes of nuts and cooked citrus. These will be a delicious, complex accompaniment to Christmas dinner, if you can save a glass for yourself. 

  • 2021 – this cooler vintage is fresh with high tannins so it’s already delicious at Bourgogne and lesser village level.
  • 2018 – a ripe vintage that benefits from sweet tannins.
  • 2017 – this endures as an open, smiling vintage. Definitely ripe and ready at both village and premier cru level.
  • 2016 – these wines are just starting to open at village level and below.
  • 2015 – keep these for much longer.
  • 2014 – a lovely, cooler, lighter vintage.
  • 2011 and 2010 – most red burgundies are ready for drinking now.
  • 2009 – bottles from this vintage are rich and plump.
  • 2008 – this cooler vintage also has many bottles ready to drink. 
Wine for a Christmas buffet

Rhône wines 

Heading south, we arrive at the Rhône Valley. Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams notes that some vintages are fine to drink young, with the benefit of clear fruit flavours. Therefore, don’t wait to open an exceptional 2020, a light 2021 or a ripe 2022. Other vintages remains closed up, such as 2019, or 2015, which is now opening out. Marcel’s advice for other vintages are as follows: 

  • 2018 – the wines are very attractive, generally soft and ripe and give pleasure now.
  • 2017 and 2016 – both fine vintages, these wines are approachable now, but some of the most prestigious examples still need keeping.
  • 2013 – these somewhat austere wines are delicious now and lovely with food.
  • 2012 and 2011 – these wines are anything but austere! Ripe and lush, they are perfect now.
  • 2010 – this was a great vintage. Plenty are good now but there’s no hurry, the very best examples will still need time.

Alsace 

The white wines of Alsace are among the most celebrated, as well as among the most food-friendly. Riesling is the king of grapes in this part of France, and our Alsace buyer Jo Locke MW has selected a number of older vintages that are in their prime:

  • 2022 – just starting to appear on the market at the more accessible end of the price spectrum. Approachable in style, this vintage looks especially good for pinot noir.
  • 2021 – a vintage with lovely freshness and purity, the top wines still need some time.
  • 2020 – still young, ripe and healthy, already accessible at the lower end of the price scale. The year of heat and drought affected Alsace less than some regions, aided by relatively cool night-time temperatures.
  • 2019 – like 2016, a vintage with good, fresh acidity.
  • 2018 – a ripe and plentiful vintage full of charm, if not for long-term cellaring.
  • 2017 – elegant vintage displaying power balanced by freshness; many top wines are already drinking beautifully.
  • 2016 – fresh acidity and natural purity characterise this vintage; top wines will keep but many are drinking beautifully now.
  • 2015 – a powerful, sunny vintage which has needed some time to come round. Top wines are starting to drink well.
  • 2014 – a tricky vintage in the vineyard, yet one in which riesling excelled.
  • 2013 – this year’s anniversary vintage is drinking beautifully now. A later, slower-ripening vintage contributed to flavour build-up but kept sugar levels in check. Good for riesling and very good for the pinot family, especially pinot gris.
  • 2012 – riper and more generous than the great 2010. Shows less marked acidity, but the top wines offer freshness as well as concentration and will continue to cellar well.

Loire wines

Jo also looks after our Loire range. Lovers of this picturesque region have plenty of choice of more mature vintages, and this Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to open bottles from different years and create your own vertical tasting to see how your wines are evolving. Jo’s pick of Loire vintages include:  

  • 2022 – this marks a return to a riper vintage, thankfully with a bit more volume available too: friendly and accessible but not without precision.
  • 2021 – a classic Loire vintage in the best possible sense, with wonderful, sometimes bracing, acidity. Often low yields. Could be some great sweet wines here, too.
  • 2020 – the recent pattern continues with another ripe, healthy vintage. Lower acidity makes the wines accessible to a wider audience, if less suited for longer-term cellaring.
  • 2019 – ripe and accessible, generally with a little more freshness than in 2018. Very promising for reds and dessert styles.
  • 2018 – a generous, healthy vintage that is ready to drink now. Very good for Muscadet where the natural freshness balances the concentration, and for sweet wines.
  • 2017 – power balanced by freshness; many top wines may be cellared further but most are drinking beautifully.
  • 2016 – some challenges in the vineyards, the best wines are well made; not looking like a long keeper.
  • 2015 – warm, healthy vintage producing concentrated but balanced reds and whites; most top wines are ready to drink.
  • 2014some good reds made in a more classic style. They’ve needed time in bottle and are coming round now. 

Champagne 

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some top-notch fizz, and if you have some vintage Champagne on hand, you’ll be delighted to know that there are several at their best. At their peak, mature Champagnes display opulent notes of toast, nuts, dried fruit and honey. Sarah Knowles MW recommends opening bottles from the following vintages:

  • 2015 and 2008 – arguably one of the best vintages from Champagne to date.
  • 2012 – this was a great vintage that has charm now, but where the best wines will improve further still.
  • 2007 and 2002 – bottles from these vintages are really expressive now.
  • 1996 and 1995 – these were both stellar vintages and are really showing their class.  

For something sparkling made a little closer to home, Matthew Horsley recommends a 2016 bottling from celebrated English sparkling wine producer Chapel Down. Made from the heart of the first pressing, this produces ‘an immensely concentrated and vinous style with flavours of white peach, citrus and cedar spice’.  

Italian wines 

Sarah Knowles MW has picked out a number of vintages from two of Italy’s most celebrated regions: Piedmont and Tuscany. For both regions, Sarah recommends opening the following vintages. Each one is drinking beautifully now, but a few may benefit from some extra ageing.

  • 2020 and 2019 – these vintages were of extremely high quality, but may benefit from a decanting or a little more time in the cellar.
  • 2018 – these wines are extremely appealing now, just the thing to uncork for Christmas dinner.
  • 2016 – if Members have any wines left from this vintage, I would suggest drinking the 2018 vintage first as the 2016s may get even better.
  • 2013 – A classic vintage that is really starting to sing. Perfect for drinking now, but I feel the Barolos could go longer still.
  • 2010 – A vintage where there was plenty of structure now opening up and showing well. 

Rioja

You’ll be everyone’s favourite person at the dinner table with a bottle of aged Rioja. When kept in the cellar, red Rioja evolves beguiling notes of chocolate, coconut and caramel, on a bed of stewed red fruit. Pierre Mansour, The Society’s Director of Wine and Spain buyer, has selected some Rioja vintages that will really shine as part of your festive celebrations.

  • 2009, 2010 and 2012 – these vintages are looking great at the moment.
  • 2001, 2004 and 2005 – gran reservas from these, the three finest Rioja vintages from the past 20 years, are showing superbly.
Port for the Christmas table

Port 

Port has a long association with the festive period, perhaps to accompany the Christmas pudding, or share when carol singers come calling. Whether you prefer a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), single Quinta or Vintage Port, Jo Locke MW has a rundown of the vintages to open this Christmas.  

  • 2017 – filtered LBVs are ready to go, displaying the freshness and purity of the vintage, and step-up unfiltered wines are starting to drink well, too.
  • 2016 – single Quinta and vintage wines starting to open up. Filtered LBVs are already showing more mature nuances.
  • 2015 – still a little early for the single Quintas, but for those in half bottle, the generosity of the vintage makes it ready to go.
  • 2010, 2009 and 2008 – a concentrated vintage when a few vintage wines were declared; single Quinta wines are ready to go, rich and generous.
  • 2000 – sought-after vintage still vigorous but looking good.
  • 1998 – single Quinta wines still drinking beautifully, showing our initial drinking windows to be conservative.
  • 1994 – almost thirty years on, this is a vintage that is drinking well now, and which proves our initial drinking window for the top wines (to 2025) to be very conservative.
  • 1985 and 1980 – declared fine vintages, the best vintages of the 80s. Fully mature but will hold its plateau of maturity if well stored. 


It’s always fascinating to see the evolution of a wine from its early days to full maturity. 
Whichever older vintages you decide to open this year, we hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas! 

Stuart Peskett

The Society’s Content Manager

Stuart Peskett

Stuart has written about wine and spirits for 20 years, working for a host of magazines, websites and retailers. He runs The Society’s content team.

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