Do you have some older vintages tucked away and want some guidance on what's drinking well now? We asked our buyers for their suggestions
Those with wines in our Members' Reserves facility will know that you can check out drink dates online and that we send out an annual inventory with this information too. We also have a virtual vintage chart in the Fine Wine section to help your decision making.
When to drink
When to pull the cork is ultimately a matter of personal preference, though, so we prefer to talk about 'drinking windows' when it comes to the question of how long to store a wine. A very rough rule of thumb is to aim to drink the wine near the start of the window if you like the fruit-forward flavours of youth but leave longer if the more developed tertiary aromas and flavours of mature fruit are more your thing. Fine Wine Manager Shaun Kiernan writes more on this subject here.
If you're looking for some tips from our buyers on wines that will be coming into their own this Christmas, here are a few suggestions:
Bordeaux – Tim Sykes
2015, 2014 (left bank in particular) and 2012 are all looking attractive, and the 2011s are finally starting to show well. In terms of older vintages, worth checking out are 2010, 2009 (both top vintages); 2007s and 2004s are lighter but drinking nicely and 2005s are also excellent. If you're after a wine with some good bottle age, I have managed to buy up a parcel of 2001 Château Coufran, a cru bourgeois from the Haut-Médoc which, with its lovely black-fruit flavour and cigar-box aroma would be a classic old-school claret to serve with the festive feast.
At this level you are really spoilt for choice! In fact, all vintages from 2000 to 2009, with the exception maybe 2005 which could be kept longer, are drinking really well. If you are lucky enough to have wines from earlier years, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 are well worth finding an excuse to open.
Burgundy – Toby Morrhall
2010 to 2013 will bring enormous pleasure from the serious end of white Burgundy (£25+) while a combination of an excellent run of recent vintages and many dedicated growers in the Mâconnais, Chalonnais and Côte d'Or has produced some superb wines in the £10-£20 price range, and together with village Chablis, these wines will do you proud a couple of years after bottling. If you are looking for a white Burgundy from our stocks, Domaine Marc Colin Saint-Aubin Premier Cru Les Créots, 2015 from a cool vineyard but a warm year is at its drinking peak just now.
The less grand wines from 2014 are mid-weight, pretty and approachable, 2011s are attractive from a ripe year whilst the village and premiers crus from 2009 (a warm year) and 2008 (a cool year) are lovely now, if you don't have any put away, we have some stock of Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chorey-lès-Beaune, 2008 a lovely approachable red Burgundy showing some nice maturity now.
Rhône – Marcel Orford-Williams
We have been blessed with so many excellent vintages in the Rhône over the past several years, but if you are thinking about which older vintages to enjoy this Christmas, 2015s are just coming around (especially Crozes-Hermitage and the southern Rhône), equally the generously fruity but not heavy 2014s, 2012s and 2011s are starting to show nicely. If you'd like a taste of mature Rhône from our cellars, Côtes-du-Rhône, Château de Montfaucon 2007 was released late after long maturation in cask and is a great example from a smashing vintage.
Italy – Sarah Knowles MW
Piedmont has seen some lovely vintages recently and 2014, though allegedly one of the weaker years due to summer rains, saw some lovely wines made by GB Burlotto, Luigi Baudana, Luigi Einaudi, Pio Cesare and Nadia Curto – great for enjoying now while other vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco carry on maturing. 2010 Barolos and Barbarescos are just coming into play (though still a little firm). If you want a taste of mature nebbiolo at your Christmas feast and haven't got any put by, we still have small stocks of 2009 Ghemme, Torraccia del Piantavigna which with its sweet red-berry and liquorice fruit would be a great addition to the Christmas wine rack. From Italy's other great fine wine region Tuscany, 2014s, 2015s and 2016s are all deliciously approachable now. For a rare chance to try mature sangiovese from a fantastic vintage made in a highly traditional way, we still have a little left of Rosso di Toscana Vecchia, Annata Villa di Vetrice, 1999.
Spain – Pierre Mansour
Rioja remains Spain's leading fine wine region and one of the few that keeps its best wines back before releasing them to the market. They have had some terrific vintages over the past decade but those that will be hitting their stride to make your Christmas are:
- Reservas – 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2009
- Gran Reservas – 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999
Champagne– Sarah Knowles MW
What better time of year to enjoy vintage Champagne, one of the wine world's ultimate treats? And the 2006 from Alfred Gratien, our oldest supplier, could not taste better.
California Cabernet – Sarah Knowles MW
If you have been lucky enough to squirrel away any top-notch Cali cabs and are desperate to crack open some for Christmas then 2006, 2008 and 2010 from the likes of Ridge, Dominus and Corison are just starting to show well, but of course have a lifetime ahead of them too!
Vintage Ports – Joanna Locke MW
When it comes to enjoying these fortifieds, some of the longest living of all wines, the window for drinking them is often so wide open that it is less easy to give specific guidance. What I will say though is that 1985 is drinking beautifully now (try The Society's Exhibition Vintage Port 1985 from Smith Woodhouse). We have also tasted some lovely single-quinta Ports from 2005 and 2010 recently and some (single harvest) Colheita Tawnies (do visit the Fine Wine section of this website to find some gems if you haven't cellared any yourselves).
If you have wines in Members' Reserves that you want to enjoy over Christmas don't leave it too long to book your delivery slot. Remember you can check out drink dates for any wines held in Reserves online. If you would like to find wines from a particular vintage just type the year into Search.