The Grapevine

Luke Richardson is the sommelier at wine bar Le Di-Vin in Edinburgh. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to

HI again all!

As we’re starting to think about the oncoming festive season, I thought it would be a good idea to recommend some festive drinks that we can list to try and recoup some revenue during this celebratory season.

The most obvious place to start is with some fizz but, having had some pretty shabby non-vintage champers recently, I would instead think of a Crémant from France. Personally, I like Crémant de Jura, which has a bit more body, or Crémant de Loire, which is a bit lighter, but they all offer great quality for the price – around £11+ for a good example.

Most poultry requires a lighter red wine full of berry fruit but with a bit of acidity to cut through the richness and the fat, so naturally Pinot Noir or Gamay fits the bill quite nicely – think Beaujolais like a Fleurie for whiter meat or a Brouilly for darker, more gamey meat. Expect to pay around £9+ for a decent example, and look out for the excellent 2018 vintage – one of the best for a few years.

In terms of a Pinot, I’ve always been a fan of German Pinot Noir, specifically the wines from the Ahr region. They are not cheap, at £15+, but they have a generosity of fruit and generally a superb balance that is hard to find in French alternatives at twice the price.

If you want to offer something with more fruit, New Zealand is a natural place to go – but I would aim for wines from the Martinborough region – slightly darker fruit and fleshier wines than found in the now famous Marlborough. Expect to pay £11+ for an OK example, or £20+ for an absolute stonker.

The digestif is definitely a thing around this time of the year, and a great way to get that extra little sale.

It’s normally Port that’s consumed in large quantities, but I would vote for a Banyuls – a vin doux naturel or naturally sweet wine made just north of the Spanish border in Roussillon.

Essentially like a lighter form of Port, this wine, made from 100% Grenache, is fortified with its own eaux de vie, or grape brandy. They harvest a portion of the grapes a bit early, make a 40% ABV brandy, and then vinify the other 80% of the grapes separately. When this wine gets to about 9% or 10% ABV, they throw in the brandy, taking the wine past the 15.8 degrees alcohol threshold after which the yeasts can’t survive, thereby halting the fermentation process and keeping some residual grape sugar (fructose) in the wine – hence “naturally sweet wine”. Expect to pay around £12+ for a decent example, and recommend happily with cheese, chocolate desserts or simply on its own as a pudding in a glass!

Best thing: literally half the hangover of actual Port!