When faced with cooking a big festive feast, we often leave wine till the last minute. Victoria offers tips for perfect palate pleasers to accompany Christmas dinner.
Christmas food is such a production that it can be easy to forget about the wine until the last minute. You find yourself doing an emergency booze aisle run, but, somehow, you still never end up with anything you want to drink. Or is that just me? Here, I’ve tried to simplify the procedure, with high-street choices for different Christmas dishes. If you only buy one of these bottles, make it the sparkling Limoux. Its lemony precision is good with smoked salmon, but it’s also a great sparkling wine for any occasion – and we all like the uplifting sound of corks popping. But I hope you’ll enjoy some of the others, too. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Day Turkey
Finest GSM 2015 Australia (£8, Tesco)
The wine inside this supermarket own-label is made in McLaren Vale by D’Arenberg, one of Australia’s most respected producers. A rich, warming blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, it’s the wine equivalent of a cuddly Christmas jumper. The spicy berry flavours are great with all the prunes and fruity stuffings on the table, too.
Boxing Day buffet
Finest Yarra Valley pinot noir 2016 Australia (£11, Tesco)
I’ve gone for a pricier red with the leftovers than I did on the big day because, on Boxing Day, the wine is more likely to be your first drink (I’m assuming you’ll hit Christmas dinner a few glasses in). I love the red berry bounce of pinot noir with a cranberry-studded, chestnutty, turkey spread. This Aussie version has a mulberry-like warmth and a sour cherry tang.
Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2016 France (£5.49, Aldi)
You’re cooking/there’s a family row raging/friends have popped round/you’re thirsty... everyone needs to have a refreshing bottle of inexpensive white (or two) in the fridge. Here’s a breezy sauvignon blanc that tastes of fresh cut grass, green tomatoes and elderflowers. Mix it with cassis to make a kir.
Trois Pierres Costières de Nîmes 2016 France (£7.99, Waitrose)
This southern French red blend of syrah and grenache tastes of burstingly ripe mulberries, and is reminiscent of the smell of lavender and sun on stones. What makes it vegan? Some wines are fined using albumen or isinglass. This one isn’t. Don’t just keep it for the vegans – it’s a delicious all-rounder. Worth the full price but watch out for special offers.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014/2015 Chile (14%, £12, Sainsbury’s; £12.99, Waitrose)
Fatty goose flesh is great with young claret – the tannin in the wine brings some punctuation to the unctuousness of the meat. I’ve stuck with a Bordeaux grape – cabernet sauvignon – here, but flown to Chile for a red that tastes of cassis, mace and tobacco. Super.
Cream Sherry NV Spain (19.5%, £6.99, Waitrose)
A luscious explosion of dried nuts, molasses and fruit, this sweet sherry goes brilliantly with trifle, jammy sponge cake, and Wensleydale cheese. Even if you wouldn’t normally touch cream sherry, I defy you not to find a soft spot for this one.
Squash & sage tart
Peter Lehmann Art & Soul Chardonnay 2014 Australia (£9.99, Majestic)
A very bright, contemporary chardonnay that tastes of toasted cashew nuts, lemon blossom and unripe peaches, while having an unmistakably Aussie, sandy twang.
Crémant de Limoux by Antech NV France (£12.25, Berry Bros & Rudd)
I’ll take a classy sparkling wine over cheap champagne any (maybe every?) day of the week. From the French region of Limoux, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this is made in the same way as champagne, from chardonnay, chenin blanc and mauzac. Sleek and taut with a refreshing tang like green apples with lemon curd.
Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny NV Portugal (£24.99, Waitrose)
‘A glass for Santa’ – aka a delicious bottle secreted away and reserved for quieter moments. This luscious oak-aged port is spectacular – think caramel, molten sultanas, brazil nuts, and crystallised orange peel. Great with hard cheeses such as Manchego. Best drunk slightly chilled, and will keep for one month.
Château Jouanin 2012 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, France (£8.99, Co-op)
Castillon is an area in Bordeaux next to St Emilion. Its wines have the same pleasing richness, without the painful price tag. Here’s a real find – a sumptuous blend of merlot and fragrant cabernet franc that will go beautifully with beef.
How to choose champagne and sparkling wine
These are the big names, like Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger. You can expect consistency of quality, and to pay £30-40 a bottle, but each brand has its own distinctive style. Choose Pol Roger for understated elegance and Bollinger for swagger. Christmas price deals are released at the last minute, so search online for the best.
Some of the best bargains are hiding behind an unassuming supermarket label. Go for one of the main lines, not a brand with a made-up-sounding name, intended for sale at ‘half price’. My favourite is the Co-op’s Les Pionniers (NV, £16.99 and vintage, £25.99). Sainsbury’s own-label is also excellent at this time of year.
Prosecco has become the lambrini of our days – cheap, dilute and frothy. You’ll find better value if you go for less well-known regions. Try a crémant de Limoux, or a crémant de Loire, or a sparkling wine from South Africa. Cava is also worth a shout. While we’re all obsessed with prosecco, it has quietly upped its game.