Thirsty work

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Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris sources the best gift packs for wine drinkers and spirit lovers Sam Wylie-Harris

 

A glass act for Christmas

Whether you're shopping for a present to lift the spirits, would like to say "Merry Christmas" with a bottle, or simply want to make a good impression, there's an array of attractively packaged offerings to please the nearest and dearest.

Last action heroes: Oozing old-style charm, these two handsome labels from award-winning winery Nederburg have been created to honour some of the major figures in South African winemaking. The Heritage Heroes range includes The Young Airhawk (£14.99, Morrisons), a zesty sauvignon blanc with good minerality; and The Motorcycle Marvel (£14.99, Morrisons), a Rhone-style blend jam-packed with spicy flavour and sweet red berries.

A berry good cause: Soft and sweet, smooth and silky, the clean taste of Belvedere Vodka has earned it an A-list following, and Belvedere (RED) Special Edition (£34.50, Waitrose) celebrates the second year of its partnership with (RED). The charity founded by Bono partners with the world's most iconic brands to raise proceeds for the Global Fund, with Belvedere contributing 50% of profits to help the fight against HIV/Aids.

Gin palaces are in season: Adored by serious gin drinkers and mixologists, Tanqueray's slick gift box has been designed with cocktail lovers in mind. The interior features a vintage-themed illustrated guide on how to throw the perfect cocktail party and comes complete with a 70cl bottle of ultra premium Tanqueray No Ten and two bespoke martini glasses. Tanqueray No Ten Gift Set (£55, Selfridges nationwide)

Put a shine on: Shoe designer Tim Little has linked up with Speyside star Chivas Regal to create a luxury gift tin showcasing the elements of the classic brogue shoe. One of the best-selling Scotches in the world, Chivas Regal 'Made for Gentleman' Luxury Gift Tin (£25.39, 70cl, Sainsbury's) offers whisky noses the chance to enjoy the rich honeyed taste and lingering butterscotch notes of its 12-year-old whisky while mulling over the craftsmanship of a quality pair of brogues.

On the US trail: Named after the crossing where herds of buffalo passed over the Kentucky River, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky (£32.99, www.thewhiskyexchange.com or 020 7403 8688) is aged for a minimum of nine years. Made from corn grain, wheat, rye and barley, it's sweet and fruity with a long spicy finish and vanilla notes. Packaged in a wooden box portraying its 220-year history and eight-step crafting process, the traditional Julep cup holds plenty of promise for bourbon fans.

Forever blowing bubbles: One of the few remaining family-owned champagne houses on the global stage, Taittinger's chalk cellars in Reims are home to some of the finest collections of champagne. Beautifully dressed for the party season, the entry-level Taittinger Brut Reserve NV (£37.99, Waitrose) comes in a 3D sparkling bubble-effect box which has been awarded Carton of the Year at the annual Pro Carton/ECMA Awards for its instant appeal.

Tinned tastes best: Veuve Clicquot's signature yellow VIP tents blanket our summer soirees, but for festive gatherings it's canned its best-selling Yellow Label non-vintage champagne into a striking sardine tin. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardine Gift Box (£55, Harvey Nichols nationwide).

Irresistible indulgence: From an outstanding vintage and the prestigious Margaux region on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, try Berry Bros & Rudd's Christmas Claret Magnum - Le Hauts du Tertre, Margaux, Bordeaux, France (£55.50, www.bbr.com). Powerful but refined with delicate black fruits, a soft palate and ripe tannins, it's a trophy centrepiece to toast the turkey.

Dirty dozen: Laithwaites has done all the hard work for you by sourcing 12 wines to complement a traditional festive menu. Favourites include premier cru champagne, a chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, old vine Chablis, an Argentinian malbec, a top-notch Australian cabernet sauvignon from the Margaret River region, a Rioja 2005, vintage port and Canadian icewine. Laithwaites Luxury Mixed Dozen (£165, www.laithwaites.co.uk).

A vine idea for the cellar master: One of England's finest, Chapel Down vineyard in Tenterden, Kent, is giving wine lovers the chance to lease bacchus grape vines, which produce a crisp, herbaceous white wine that's our answer to sauvignon blanc. For a taste of being a winemaker, Chapel Down's Vine Leasing Scheme (from £225 for a one-year lease over five vines, with six bottles of wine with personalised labels) offers hands on experience, an invitation to an exclusive wine-tasting event and real insight into the winemaking process.


:: Best buy

Chile releases a real corker... Chile likes to try its hand at most grapes, and Chilean winery Santa Rita has just released its Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Franc 2011 (£7.49 or £5.99 if you buy two, Majestic) as part of its 120 series of wines. Full of raspberry-edged crunchy berries with a lick of spice, coffee and tobacco notes, it's ideal with red meat and casserole dishes.


:: Liquid news

Yealands Estate is green of the crop... New Zealand winery Yealands Estate has been awarded 'Most Sustainable Medium Business' at the International Green Awards 2012.

Peter Yealands, founder of Yealands Estate, says: "We set out with a vision of best practice from the vine to the bottle. Since launching, our goal has been to produce world-class wines and become a global leader in sustainable wine production.

"This award, in addition to recently winning the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world at the International Wine Challenge, demonstrates that we're well on the way to achieving that dream."

For more information on Yealands Estate, visit www.yealandsestate.co.nz

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