Well then, what are you eating at Christmas? Traditional turkey, goose, beef perhaps or venison, maybe you’re a veggie or a fish fan; you can already see that wine recommendations need to cover a lot of ground. Oh, and what’s your budget? We’re always happy to advise customers individually according to menu and price but, realistically, we might not get the chance, so here are a few ideas to enjoy with your seasonal feasting.
Before the meal, why not have a glass of bubbles? If it must be Champagne avoid the big brands - the shelf price reclaims such a whack of marketing expense that they are seldom good value. Lallier Grand Cru, Reserve Brut, Ay at £26.50, is made only from Grand Cru vineyards, showing real class and more than enough flavour to match a tray of canapés. Super value at less than half that is Mayerling Brut, Cremant d’Alsace at £12.95, made entirely from Pinot Blanc grapes. It is brisk and cleansing with fresh fruit - a perfect appetiser.
Fish needs care: what goes well with shellfish may not work with smoked mackerel or salmon as the oil in them clashes with the acidity of a deliberately sharp wine like Muscadet, which is perfect with mussels. For richer and smoked fish recipes, try 2010 Macon-Solutré, Domaine Denuziller at £11.25, a smooth, dry but ripe, entirely oak-free White Burgundy, boxing above its weight. For a crisper, zestier option go for 2010 False Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa at £7.25 with the grape’s leafy freshness and zippy palate.
If turkey is on the menu a gentler red works well if it can stand up to stuffings and sauces without overpowering the meat. 2008 Herringbone Hills Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand at £10.95 offers just the right balance of flavour with freshness, but without clobbering alcohol. It will take on rich gravy and traditional trimmings, but won’t send you to sleep in front of the queen who, obviously, deserves your full attention.
Richer meats demand bigger wines though available space allows just one or two ideas. So, full enough to match beef, with sufficient edge to cut through the richness of goose and with a savoury character to compliment game - it’s time to visit Italy. 2005 Malintoppo, Azienda Agricola Simonelli-Santi, Orcia, Tuscany at £12.25 comes from a valley sandwiched between Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, yet is about half the price of the Vino Nobile and one third of the price of Brunello and cracking value relatively speaking.
If a less high-falutin’, general purpose red is wanted, consider 2009 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Roble, Rioja, Bodegas Classica. At £6.95 it won’t break the bank and at a quality above its price it won’t let the side down. It is bursting with soft, ripe Tempranillo fruit with just a kiss of background oak spice, it will drink beautifully with red and white meats and it is perfect for entertaining a crowd.
For pud, one grape in two variants. For palate refreshing zip try 2010 Moscato Frizzante, Cantine Volpi, Piemonte @ £8.60, sweet and grapey with a half-sparkle and at just 5.5% abv, it won’t frighten the vicar. So fresh, so clean. 2009 Late Harvest Muscat, Tabali Estate, Limari Valley, Chile @ £6.50 per half bottle is stickier, richer and bubble-free with barley-sugar intensity. Both will ease down a mince pie delightfully.
Cheese is a vital part of the Christmas table and traditionally this is accompanied by a glass or two of Port. Here is a rich, lusciously fruity, fleshy example of generosity and warmth to put with your Stilton: it is Rio Torto, Reserva, Krohn, normally £12.50 but reduced to £10.50 until December 31st.