Wines Of Christmas – Must haves this year
Choosing wines for Christmas can be tough, especially when you have to strike the balance between budget and impressing. Hopefully I can come in handy here and give you some serving suggestions across all budgets. Our website will also be a useful tool if you want to find the best deals around!
But, before you even reach that hurdle, you’ll need to know what you will actually need for each occasion throughout the day and what sort of food and wine pairings will actually work. No one wants a beefy wine to ruin the Turkey or piercing acidity with the wrong food!
Here’s my list of the essentials, with food pairings, wine suggestions and more to keep you topped up (in more than one sense) throughout the day
- Wine for the toast
- Wine for starters
- Reds for Turkey
- Whites for Turkey
- Reds for Beef
- Whites for Beef
- Dessert Wine
- Night Caps
Wine for the Toast
Most households will be looking for a Champagne or English equivalent so I won’t stray as that would be my choice too. You are spoilt for choice in the Champagne World, and whilst it is rarely “cheap” you can get some below £15 on offer. English wine tends not to be as cheap as £15, but for an extra few quid the value for money difference can be well worth it.
With better value in mind, I’d recommend trying the Sainsbury's Blanc De Noirs. It is a more powerful Champers with a lovely creamy mousse. A long finish gives it a good send off too. Higher up the scale is Bollinger Special Cuvee . It is complex with ripe fruits, spicy notes, cooked apples, nuts and a signature brioche flavour.
For the English sparkling, Gusbourne is something I’m rather partial too. The Gusbourne Exclusive Release at Waitrose is a great option with fine balance between richness and citrus fruits. Although, if you’re willing to go even higher then you won’t be let down by the Blanc de Blancs!
Wine for the starters
Keep it light and white for starters. Whilst Champagne can fit this category very nicely too, still wines do excel too. Chablis, Riesling and Sauvignon are the three that stick out most here. For Chablis, a great offer right now is the Esprit de Chablis for just £10. It has everything you need in a Chablis from citrus fruits, some riper notes and of course minerality. Riesling is harder to narrow down but a dry one like the Jim Barry Lodge Hill would be perfect. For Sauvignon you are really spoiled for choice on in this market, from tropical flavoured Oyster Bay, The Ned, Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria to more grassy, elegant takes on the grape like Taste the Difference Sancerre . You will struggle to go wrong.
Reds for Turkey
Sometimes you have to be careful not to get carried away when pairing a red with turkey. It might sound like a great idea to crack open the Gran Reserva Rioja or Amarone for a treat, but ultimately these are going to overpower your turkey. Just avoid overly oaky options. Maybe not a bad thing if its cooked to dryness! So, the main grape I’d look at is Pinot Noir or similarly light styles. Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir has a silky smooth mouthfeel and elegant flavours to pair very well. Burgundies are too obvious so I’ll skip those. But one from Majestic I really enjoy is Duette from Chile. It has lovely ripe fruits and elegant acidity to balance it out.
Whites for Turkey
Usually a creamy white is a great choice here. Especially if you’re doing bread sauce. So, Chardonnay is really a great option here with buttery styles like Bread & Butter Chardonnay and rounded Burgundies such as Louis Latour Macon-Lugny to Viognier with good body and weight. Definitely check out Laithwaites’ Queen Bee Viognier , only £6.66 with our vouchers!
Reds for Beef
This is where you can start bringing out the oakier options. Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec from Mendoza spends a year in oak giving concentrated fruit flavours and toasty notes. Rioja fans can hit the Gran Reserva up with great options like Marques de Caceres and Faustino I . A nice aged red Burgundy will do nicely here too with its more earthy, gamey flavours. A.Gauvin Gevrey Chambertin is a Majestic favourite for this.
Whites for Beef
You can go on the beefier end here with Viognier, White Rhones and buttery Chardonnays, but some more precise pairings are wines with acidity to cut through the fat work excellently too. Dry Riesling again comes to mind as does Sancerre and NZ Sauvignon but if you want something different. Go with classic Gavi di Gavi like the Broglia from Waitrose, Albarino like Faustino Rivero Ulecia or Burgundy’s hidden gem Aligote. Try the l'Etrangère Aligoté from Laithwaites to find your new favourite.
From easy drinkers to the finest vintages, port is a perfect match with cheese or simply just to warm your cockles. Ruby port is the usual go-to for those who haven’t experimented too much with port styles, but do not miss out on tawny port this year. They come with a lovely nutty undertone with caramel and raisin on top. Whilst more pricy, the Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port is exceptionally good. You’ll be very sad to see the bottle run dry. More affordable at Waitrose right now is the Kopke Reserve Tawny for £10. Still delicious. If you go for a ruby style, then LBV’s are probably the way to go. The Graham's Late Bottled Vintage would be my pick for good value and good flavour.
There are really too many good options to list but I’ll somehow narrow my top 3. Royal Tokaji Blue Label 5 Puttonyos is the classic and for good reason. A sweet, decadent heaven. Inniskillin 'Gold' Vidal Icewine is certainly more pricy but after a trip to Canada this year, and a tasting of this, I can thoroughly recommend it for special occasions, like, say Christmas. Probably the first dessert wine I ever tried was Samos Vin Doux from Greece and it is still good to me. And also a much more agreeable price!
Sherries range from sweet to bone dry and everything in between so you certainly have a range here. On the sweet side, whilst a little “safe”, the Harvey’s Bristol Cream is actually rather tasty. If you want a genuine bargain in the wine world then the Gonzalez Byass Noe 30 Year old Sherry is sweetness refined to an art. And given the age and incredible flavour it’s a wonder it is below £30. Really really cannot recommend the value of this enough. For the dry lovers, Tio Pepe is a great choice with bruised apple and yeasty flavours all hanging onto a strong citrus thread. Another dry-ish style I love is Oloroso with great nutty flavours and a rich palate. Try the Lustau E. India Solera Rich Oloroso
You might have been expecting Baileys to come up at some point and so here it is. Got to have some sort of sweet chocolatey cream before bed on Christmas day. If you want to elevate your choice of cream liqueur, then the Cotswolds Cream is a big step up in quality and flavour. The only other thing really missing now is whisky. I had a fantastic Finnish Whisky recently in my Master of Malt Advent Calendar: The Kyrö Malt Rye does what it says on the tin. It’s like a freshly baked rye bread topped with sea salt. Truly fantastic and a little unique too. The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Whisky was also in the calendar and that had a honeyed nose with light fudge and citrus notes. Another great Whisky in a more traditional sense.
So, that’s it. Your shopping list sorted to get you through the day in style. Make the most of this Xmas and enjoy it with some great tipples to match the occasion.
P.S. A couple of beers might not go amiss for some in the family!