The price is right

Spend more on your festive wine and stir memories of love

It is permitted to spend a little more on wine than you would normally allow yourself, when the Christmas spirit appears.

The moronic spectacle can be tolerated only in a state of benign drunkenness, and drunkenness can be benign only if engendered by good wine.

So take these offers from Corney & Barrow as seriously as they deserve. They are great wines, and no more expensive than they deserve to be.

Both the Montagny and the Château Lamarque would be described, by the mass murderers of English prose, as "classic". I will give you another and better adjective: romantic. The green glitter of the Montagny and the garnet allure of the claret are sufficient in themselves either to induce love in the one to whom they are served or to stir the memory of love in the one who is drinking alone. Hug these bottles to you, anyway, unless there is someone truly dear to you in the neighbourhood.

The New Zealand Chardonnay and the Châteauneuf are remarkable wines. Both have come out at 14.5 per cent, yet neither flexes its muscles. The Muddy Water is a deep, mature and softly spoken giant, in all three respects to be distinguished from its namesake, who was the true founder of rhythm and blues, and whom I once saw spitting with disappointment at a bewildered audience in High Wycombe Town Hall - but I digress.

Full malolactic fermentation has produced a core of zesty apple flavour under a creamy veil of butter, like the baked apples that our mum used to do. And some flinty minerals have made their way into the fruit, so that the apple comes on a pewter plate.

As for the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, words fail - though I have somehow got to find another 200 of them. The label tells us that this is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, many of the vines being 90 years old. The "culture" is described as "traditional with ploughing", which just about describes my general approach to life.

In all other respects, too, this wine agreed with me - rich, generous, and with a smooth chocolate finish, it raised a dish of cauliflower cheese to Lucullan heights and spread a warm glow of approval all around it.

After a couple of glasses I found myself approving even of Alistair Darling - in whom there is little to be discovered of tradition or ploughing, but to whom I raised my glass nevertheless, in the temporary and benign belief that he is a decent bloke.

I should say that I am sceptical of Châteauneufs, which are allowed so much latitude by the laws that govern appellation as to have only the label in common.

But this wine is as great as they come, and a fitting tribute to the Bernard family, which has been making wine since 1794 and which has spared us and the planet so many futile journeys to Provence.