My Guide to Christmas Festivity Drinking!
There is so much pressure on the entertaining front at Christmas and so rather than fall into the trap of going for the eye-catching bargains gleaming at you in the supermarkets and wine shops, stick to my guide and hit bull’s eye with every wine. Every single wine on this page is great value at the normal price let alone at the discounted one. So much wine these days is marked up to exorbitant ‘list’ prices and then ‘discounted’ back to what looks like a real deal, but it’s not. You will have seen this tactic happening in the food aisles, on the high street, everywhere in fact and you are likely to be disappointed if you get conned with these wines. On this packed page I have found wines for every single palate – from beginners to experts and from those of you who like bone dry wines all of the way up to richer styles. You do not need every single bottle, but do browse through and pick the flavours and grapes that suit your taste. Have a very Happy Christmas.
You will have a pretty hectic morning no doubt prepping, cooking and chatting to your Christmas guests, so the style of wine to go for now is festive, celebratory and refreshing. Bubbles therefore fits the bill, and I have found two wines under a tenner so that you save up for some special bottles later on!
NV Canaletto Prosecco, Italy (£7.99, Nisa Today). It may seem early, but this beautiful looking, gentle, soothing fizz is the perfect wake up call for your taste buds. Splash some orange juice in if you wish, but this is a dream wine on its own.
NV Prestige Cava Brut, Spain (£8.49, reduced to £6.49, until 1 January, Marks & Spencer). The noon gun has gone off and you are at liberty to attack this bargain-priced, perky, lip-smacking, citrus-themed Cava. Delicious with the first wave of delicate canapés.
There are four main zones during a Christmas lunch – aperitif, juicy white, medium-weight red and port. I always offer white and red with turkey because if you load your plate with chipolatas and gravy then red is essential, but if you stick to veg and sage and onion stuffing then white is spot on. It’s always a good idea to have a perky, inexpensive, chilled aperitif white to fill the gap between bubbles and sitting down to eat (this could be hours in my experience!). Then Port – hoorah for the most amazing of all fortified wines.
2011 Wither Hills, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (£9.49, reduced to £6.49 until 3 January, Co-op). Now that lunch preparations are under way, move off the bubbles to this pristine, taut, lively sauvignon, with its lime juice and fresh herb nose. Try it with smoked salmon blinis!
2011 Yalumba, Y Series Viognier, South Australia (£8.49, reduced to £6.99 until 1 January, Morrisons). Ease yourself into a weightier white which would also do the turkey proud, but this is not an oaky wine, so all palates will love its peachy aroma and honeyed core of fruit.
2006 Lagunilla, Reserva Rioja, Spain (£12.49, reduced to £5.00 until 1 January, Morrisons). The bargain of the season, and according to Morissons it is back in store on the 19 December, so watch out for the stampede! This sensational, lusty, spicy red is your main turkey wine with all of the trimmings.
2006 Wynn’s Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia (£11.99, reduced to £6.99, until 3 Janaury, Co-op). Taking a darker, blackcurrant and chocolate theme this heroic red is a little to weighty for the turkey or goose, but it’s perfect for beef or a well-appointed cheese board.
2006 Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal (approx £13.49, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Co-op, Booths). The best ‘LBV’ of the season, grab a dainty glass of this wine and let the Christmas spirit soothe you. With inky, plummy fruit and a massive finish, this is a dramatic glass of port.
Recovery time and washing up – these duties need a reward and so I head straight back to sparklers, but this time wines with more weight and gravitas. Champagne would work well, but my two beauties are every bit as enticing as wines that cost a tenner more. I have found you a sneaky Pinot Noir, too, for those who don’t need a lift!
NV Lindauer, Special Reserve Brut Cuvée, New Zealand (£11.99, reduced to £8.99 until 3 January, Waitrose). Now to change the mood and get ready for dinner. Lift your game with this sprightly sparkler and don’t worry if you want to make a sparkling wine cocktail with it because there is tonnes of character here.
NV Freixenet, Elyssia Pinot Noir, Cava, Penedès, Spain (£14.99, Waitrose, Tesco.com). Is this the flashiest Cava of all time? Rosé, looking like a catwalk model and tasting devastatingly chic this is a wine that will give you the perfect intro to some serious nibbles and party food.
2009 Cycles Gladiator, Pinot Noir, California (£8.99, reduced to £7.99 until 8 January, www.winerack.co.uk). Time to calm the excitement a touch with this silky smooth, strawberry and cherry scented beauty. Same grape as the Elyssia, so a lovely handover of flavours to a more main course style wine.
After the lighter reds of Christmas lunch comes the opportunity to turn up the ‘volume’ a bit. Whether you lay the table again for round two or retire to the sofa with a tray of nibbles, these are luxuriant wines with impact and lingering aftertastes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache are the macho grapes employed at this stage.
2011 First Cape, Limited Release Merlot, Western Cape, South Africa (£7.49, reduced to £5.59 until 3 January, Waitrose). In case you are planning a larger get together this evening or are being set upon by neighbours and marauding relatives – this is your secret weapon. Cheap, juicy, crowd-pleasing and classy.
2009 Crozes-Hermitage, La Petite Ruche, M. Chapoutier, Northern Rhône, France (£14.24, www.waitrosewine.com; £14.99, Waitrose). Once everyone has gone, this is your very own, spoil yourself, top flight red wine. SO noble, complex and rewarding. Spoil yourself now.
Mellow, soothing Port and Madeira combine with chocolates, cake and other treats and they are the mainstay of this late night, movie watching period. I tend to avoid coffee late at night so there is a digestive-aiding tip here, too.
Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Rich Madeira, Portugal (£13.49, Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Nisaway, Booths). Find that bottle of Port from earlier and also offer this deep, golden brown, honey and raisin-scented Madeira, too. It is your Christmas cake, mince pie, treacle tart wine and it’s also delicious with soft cheeses, too.
Tea Pigs Chamomile Flowers (£3.49 for 15 ‘bags’, widely available). No wine at midnight, just these tummy-relaxing, sleep-inducing fragrant tea bags – I don’t go anywhere without them! Healthy and aromatherapeutic in one mug!