Chris Shanahan's Christmas drinking picks

Chris Shanahan
Hewitson Ned and Henry Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013.
Hewitson Ned and Henry Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013. 

Grosset Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills) Chardonnay 2013 $55

For very special Christmas drinking, consider one of Australia's many ultra-fine but opulent cool-climate chardonnays. The world knows little about them. But we now make dozens of beautiful wines the equal of the originals from France's Burgundy region. The finest Australian styles come generally from higher, cooler sites in NSW, Victoria and South Australia; the cool southern fringe of the continent (east and west); and throughout Tasmania. A consistent top performer is Jeffrey Grosset's version from Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills. This is power with finesse – a succulent, silky, barrel-fermented dry white to savour drop by drop.

Perrier Jouet Grand Vintage Champagne NV Brut $55-$70

Grosset Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills) Chardonnay.
Grosset Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills) Chardonnay. 

We've been studying Champagne intensively for 35 years now – awestruck at times by the beauty of the best. Alas, we're more often than not disappointed by the on-discount non-vintage wines. Many of them show little fruit flavour and scant signs of Champagne's distinctive structure and texture, derived from long ageing in bottle on spent yeast cells. Perrier Jouet NV, on the other hand, brings delicious, subtle, delicate fruit flavour to the bottle – notably from the pinot varieties (noir and meunier), which comprise 80 per cent of the blend. It's a delicate, soft, and very youthful aperitif style. This is genuine and good Champagne, albeit without the flavour and structure of long-term bottle ageing.

Hewitson Ned and Henry Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013 $20-$26

Dean Hewitson's Ned and Henry offers the generosity and distinct flavours of the Barossa shiraz in a subtle, understated way. At a recent tasting, several shirazes out-muscled it. But they, along with several slightly over-oaked wines, didn't invite a second glass. Hewitson, in contrast, held our interest right to the end. The wine shows the Barossa's ripe, vibrant and generous fruit character, harmoniously backed by ripe, soft tannins. While it was matured in oak (which no doubt mellowed the tannins), oak flavour remains out of the picture. This is one to savour, lightly chilled at Christmas.