Jamie from The Wine Beagle offers insights into the best wine to buy for your upcoming Christmas parties and dinners.
Christmas is fast approaching which means parties, turkeys, mince pies and – crucially – wine. With all the offers that are flung at you though, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. However, follow these guidelines and you can drink like one of the three kings without handing over too much of your hard earned gold, frankincense or myrrh.
Sparkling wine is a Christmas essential. But where to start? In my view, step one is to avoid the sub £15 Champagnes. They really aren’t up to it. If you’re trying to keep the price down, you’re much better off with some Cava (made in the same way as Champagne but with different grapes), Prosecco (though not the really cheap, cloying stuff please!) or perhaps a Crémant of some kind – these are the Champagne equivalents from other regions around France, again they’re made in the same way as Champagne, though the grapes used will be the speciality of that region. Crémant de Bourgogne is often a good bet, or Crémant de Loire.
For parties, you want something easy drinking and smooth which will help the canapes down. There are many Spanish wines that fit nicely into this category, Rioja for example, or even better, something from one of the less famous regions such as Yecla, Valencia or Bierzo. In the main they are fruity, easy drinking and offer some of the best value drinking in Europe. For the Christmas turkey, I’d recommend a medium bodied red. Turkey is not a very fatty meat so too much tannin is a no no. A red Burgundy would therefore work well or a Pinot Noir from the New World if you favour something fruitier (and better value). Claret would also be a good match, though ideally nothing too big and heavy. Look to the satellite appellations for the best real value – Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac and Côtes de Castillon to name a few.
For parties, fresh, unoaked and preferably not overwhelmingly aromatic whites are a safe bet. You can pick up a good, zesty Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc (or more conveniently your local merchant) for around £7; a more floral, dry Italian Pecorino or Fiano would also fit the bill; or perhaps a Muscadet, these dry Loire whites offer real value for money at the moment. White can also be a great match for the Christmas turkey. It needs to be something with a bit of character though to stand up to all the trimmings. A white Burgundy is the classic choice though not cheap; the Languedoc produces some excellent, rich, dry Chardonnay alternatives in the under £10 bracket; or you could look further afield – the Godello grape from north west Spain would be a good match. This grape has been billed as Spain’s alternative to white Burgundy and good quality examples can be found from £8 +.
There is a whole world of delicious dessert wines and fortified wines that I would urge you to try this Christmas. Sweet wine seems to have developed a bad name in the UK in recent years, with many people fearing ending up with something sickly and cloying. This doesn’t have to be the case though! Well made Sauternes or Tokaji have a wonderfully clean acidity to balance the sugar and are supremely good with blue cheese. The same goes for Tawny Port – drunk slightly chilled, it is a fantastic accompaniment to Stilton or Christmas pudding. And for the intrepid drinker, invest in a bottle of Madeira, these sweet but crisp fortified wines from the island of the same name aren’t cheap but offer real bang for your buck. What’s more, they’re almost indestructible so can be left open in the fridge and gradually sipped away at as an aperitif or dessert wine. Brands to look out for are Barbeito and Henriques & Henriques.
The Wine Beagle will be running a series of festive wine offers in the run up to Christmas. To join their mailing list, please email Jamie@thewinebeagle.com to sign up.