Can any of this year’s boozy advent calendars win over our wine critic? HELEN MCGINN gives her verdict on the best buys
- Nowadays there seems to be every kind of advent calendar including alcohol
- This year, brands from Aldi to Fortnums are stocking boozy advent calendars
- Helen McGinn gives her verdict on some them from whisky and gin to wine
Chocolate. Coffee. Even ones for your dog. Nowadays, it seems like there’s an advent calendar for everything.
But as adults we all know there’s only one variety we really want for Christmas — the boozy kind! This year, brands from Aldi to Fortnum & Mason are stocking alchohol-themed advent calendars. But with so many to choose from, which one should you splash out on?
Here, drinks expert Helen McGinn gives her verdict on the best buys so you can snap them up before they sell out…
The John Lewis Wine Advent Calendar (24x 187ml, £85, johnlewis.com)
The John Lewis Wine Advent Calendar (24x 187ml, £85, johnlewis.com). There’s a mix of red, white and rosé — but no brand names are familiar
Available online now, each of the 24 bottles has enough for a good-sized glass.
There’s a mix of red, white and rosé — but no brand names are familiar. Most are middle-of-the-road in terms of taste, with a plethora of Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel and Liebfraumilch, alongside other wellknown (and rather more exciting) grape varieties including Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Chardonnay.
This is definitely not one for the more adventurous wine drinkers among us, but it will do if the recipient isn’t too fussy about what they’re drinking. 6/10
A WINNER FOR WINE BUFFS
Laithwaites Wine Advent Calendar (£79.99 laithwaites.co.uk)
Laithwaites Wine Advent Calendar (£79.99 laithwaites.co.uk). Laithwaites’s calendar is designed to look like a festive street scene.
With a great selection of quarter bottles, and available in all-red, all-white or mixed versions, Laithwaites’s calendar is designed to look like a festive street scene.
Each door conceals one of the retailer’s top-selling wines, including its Baron de Barbon Oak Aged Rioja, a brilliantly zesty Sauvignon Blanc and plenty of off-thebeaten-track wines such as the brooding Aluado Alicante Bouschet from Portugal.
Behind the biggest door lies a sparkling surprise for Christmas Eve (which I’ve kind of ruined — sorry), a half bottle of Jacquart champagne.
Thoughtfully put together, this is one for the wine lover in your life. 8/10
FESTIVE AND VERY FRENCH
The Aldi Wine Advent Calendar (£59.99, aldi.co.uk, online only)
The Aldi Wine Advent Calendar (£59.99, aldi.co.uk, online only). Behind each door is a 187ml or 200ml bottle but they’re not all different, with some wines featuring two, three or even four times
This was a sell-out success last year. Inside the festive packaging there’s a mix of red, white, rosé and sparkling wines.
Behind each door is a 187ml or 200ml bottle but they’re not all different, with some wines featuring two, three or even four times.
It’s French wine-heavy (with well-known names include Calvet and JP Chenet, big producers making consistent, if not groundbreaking wines), which is not ideal if you want the fun of expanding your palette. There’s a nice enough Merlot, a slightly more exciting Syrah, a passable Pinot Grigio and a not-in-your-face Sauvignon Blanc.
Good value, if a little unadventurous. 6/10
CHOCCY CRIMBO COMBO
Freixenet & Divine 24 Day Chocolates and Fizz Advent Calendar (£89.95, slurp.co.uk)
Freixenet & Divine 24 Day Chocolates and Fizz Advent Calendar (£89.95, slurp.co.uk). There’s a mix of drinkable Prosecco and Cordon Negro Cava in both white and pink form
How do you make a sparkling wine advent calendar even better? Put chocolate in it! The box opens to reveal 24 pull-out drawers, each containing either a bottle of sparkling wine from Freixenet or a bar of chocolate from Fairtrade producer Divine.
There’s a mix of drinkable Prosecco and Cordon Negro Cava in both white and pink form, all in 200ml bottles, and chocolates in milk, dark, white and orange flavours, all quite delicious if not exactly artisan.
I’d take the Freixenet Cava over its Prosecco, but you’ll just have to go with the flow.
Sparkling wine and chocolate isn’t the best of matches but it’s Christmas, so I’ll let that go. 7/10
The Vodka Advent Calendar (£99.95, masterofmalt.com)
The Vodka Advent Calendar (£99.95, masterofmalt.com). Behind each of the doors there’s a different wax-sealed 30ml dram for every one of the 24 days leading up to Christmas day
Created by Drinks by the Dram, pioneers of the boozy advent calendar, it’s the brand’s tenth anniversary and to celebrate it’s given its boxes a makeover. For a start, it has made the boxes smaller and switched to compostable trays to hold the drams inside.
Behind each of the doors there’s a different wax-sealed 30ml dram for every one of the 24 days leading up to Christmas day. Crucially, the names inside should leave vodka aficionados suitably impressed. There’s British-based Black Cow with its almost milky texture (nicer than it sounds, I promise), one from the brilliant Ramsbury Estate in Wiltshire, and Chapel Down Chardonnay Vodka made from its own grapes grown in Kent, along with some other big names and the odd curve ball. Jaffa Cake Vodka, anyone?
Deliciously different — and so on trend. 8/10
LET THE FUN BE-GIN
Haysmith’s Twelve Gins of Christmas (£39.99, Aldi, in stores only)
Aldi is selling both its beer and wine advent calendars again this year, but this gin version is a new addition to the range. It’s not a full advent calendar, rather it’s half of one — based on the Twelve Days of Christmas — with a 50ml bottle concealed in little drawers.
There are two bottles of each of the six flavours, including the award-winning Haysmith’s London Dry Gin, Hand Steeped Sloe, Rhubarb & Ginger, Blood Orange, Raspberry & Redcurrant and Spiced Plum & Clementine.
Some of them are a little on the sugary side (the Raspberry & Redcurrant has something of the boiled sweet about it), and most are unashamedly festive.
Mix them with tonic or sip fireside while wrapping presents. 7/10
A Whisky Tour of Scotland Advent Calendar (£195, harveynichols.com)
A Whisky Tour of Scotland Advent Calendar (£195, harveynichols.com). The wooden box opens like a mini drinks cabinet with whisky tasting glasses inside
Falling firmly into the splurge category, this advent calendar is quite spectacular. The wooden box opens like a mini drinks cabinet with whisky tasting glasses inside.
Each drawer contains a different 50ml bottle of whisky, taken straight from the cask, from some of Scotland’s top distilleries including Inchgower, Tullibardine, Caol Ila and Blair Athol among others.
Most are single malts with a couple of blended malts and even a few single grain whiskies from across the five main Whisky regions, including Speyside and Islay.
It comes with a tasting journal packed with useful information and each bottle is labelled with everything from the region and distillery (although some are undisclosed), what kind of cask it was aged in and for how long.
This is truly a whisky connoisseur’s dream (or should that be dram) come true. 9/10
Fortnum & Mason Spirits & Liqueurs Advent Calendar (£250, fortnumandmason.com)
Fortnum & Mason Spirits & Liqueurs Advent Calendar (£250, fortnumandmason.com.) Inside the beautiful calendar is an absolute treasure trove of festive tipples from gin to whisky, vodka to fruity liqueurs
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Fortnum & Mason take on boozy advent calendars is chic — and eye-wateringly expensive.
Inside the beautiful calendar is an absolute treasure trove of festive tipples from gin to whisky, vodka to fruity liqueurs. There’s even something for Christmas Day — quite right, given the price!
The well-made box containing 25 pull-out drawers is a colourful addition to any table and on the side of each drawer is a natty serving suggestion for each drink.
The selection of Fortnum’s festive favourites includes its brilliant Mince Pie & Marmalade Gin Liqueur, a gorgeous Chocolate Chestnut Liqueur, Cassis for your Kir Royale (naturally), a colour-changing Honey & Violet Gin made from honey from Fortnum’s rooftop hives in Piccadilly and a 200ml bottle of Speyside Scotch Whisky for Christmas Day. 10/10
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