Some people get to the wine aisle and their heart sinks – Especially when they know they have to stock up for yuletide. They stare at a sea of labels which mean nothing to them. It doesn’t help that the discounts don’t often make sense either. It’s how I feel when I go into a bookshop. I don’t know what to choose from the cover, therefore I’d rather not bother. But fear not, because those of us that love to delve into the wine beyond the label are more than happy to give a few suggestions to make Christmas go with a swing. Here are a few of my recent favourites that I think will complement your festive table perfectly. And in the pursuit of finding something that you could find down your local supermarket (whether the queue stretches halfway around the food hall or not), hopefully I’ve got something for every pallet.
I’ve got a couple of great white wines to go with your Christmas day nibbles – Or even a seafood starter (if you’re confident that you’ve got room before Christmas lunch!) One wine is something new from Sainsbury’s. They’ve added a few new titles to their Taste the Difference range. One, is a wine that I like to call the new Albariño. It’s Godello and is grown mainly in Galicia, the same region as Albariño and could well storm the shelves in the same way that it’s
predecessor did a few short years ago. It’s fresh, tangy and inviting. Imagine an Albariño crossed with a vinho verde. The perfect combination for seafood in my opinion. With it’s tangy hit and underlying salty bite, a prawn cocktail with a pinch of cayenne pepper is it’s perfect partner. The other wine is an Italian classic from Tesco: Finest Pecorino. It has classic white grape refinement with a hint of pear to it. There is a slight effervescent spritz to the wine which really excited my pallet and made me want more than just a drop (not hard I hear you say!) Dangerous stuff, but if you’re tucking into the pre turkey nibbles, it doesn’t matter too much does it?
Another new addition the Sainsbury’s range this season is a rather delightful German Pinot Noir. For years I’ve sang the praises of M&S’s Palataia Pinot Noir which is the first German Pinot Noir that I’ve ever seen on supermarket shelves. And now, Sainsbury’s have added one to their Taste the Difference range. It’s from Rheinhessen, the largest of all 13 German wine regions and is light and fruity (imagine picking hedgerow fruit and eating it before you get home!) so it has a fresh berry tang to it and is delicious. Possibly a little too light for turkey with all the trimmings but one to remember for those summer salads and the game dishes of autumn. It really is great. Perhaps a wine better suited to the Christmas day roast
would be their other great Pinto Noir; Coolwater Bay Pinot Noir from Marlborough in New Zealand. It has all the fresh juicy red fruit flavour that the German has but with a little more body to stand up to all of those fabulous savoury accompaniments like the gravy and stuffing. And it’d be great with goose: Pinot Noir loves being paired with gameier meats like goose and duck too. Tasty stuff!
If you fancy a white with your turkey. There are loads of options. I have to say that Chardonnay is always a fave choice on my dinner table. Charles Renoir Chablis is on a stonking deal at Tesco. Down from £12 to £6, it offers all the fantastic typical yoghurt tang that Chablis should with a twist of lemon on the finish which is really refreshing. It could easily transcend the prawn cocktail starter through to the turkey. Leave it out of the
fridge so that by the time the roast comes around, it’s a little warmer and it’ll work better with both courses perfectly. The Co-Operative’s own label Truly Irresistible Chablis is something rather special too. It has less tang and more elegance than some supermarket Chablis. Very different to the Charles Renoir, it has an oaky hint to it which fleshes out the texture and gives more richness. It’s a surprisingly classy drop worth giving a go.
Now here’s a wine that I’m just starting to get to know. It’s a wine that gives Chablis a run for it’s money; Carignan Blanc. In particular Mas Lavail Carignan Blanc 2014. It is the South of France’s answer to Chablis. It has this beautifully sturdy minerality with a restrained tangy note that is really moreish. When I tried it with friends, we honesty couldn’t get enough of it. And at only £7.99 on a multi bottle deal at Majestic Wine Warehouse, try some before it’s back up towards £12!
But the white wine that balances elegance and
affordability better than any other on this list is the Definition Chardonnay, again from Majestic. The Definition range is the first ‘own label’ range from the warehouse. The range endevours to capture ‘the quintessential qualities of the world’s greatest wine styles, with a little help from some of the world’s greatest winemakers.” This particular wine is a great example of this. It hails from Limoux, in Languedoc in southwestern France. It has a stone fruit character with an apply freshness which is similar to much more expensive white wines like Mersault. Definitely a wine to have with food, it really is a treat. At £9.74 on a multi bottle deal, it’s at least half the price of many of it’s competitors. A very classy sip to have with Christmas lunch.
But sometimes, it’s really great fun to put something on the table that’s as unusual as granny arriving for Christmas lunch sober: For this, I’ve gone to the ubiquitously innovative wine shelves of Marks & Spencer. Over the last few years, they’ve not only given us unique blends and stunning
examples of classic wines but they’ve also never been afraid to give us wines from countries and regions that we wouldn’t expect. This winter it’s the turn of Mexico to show us what it’s made of. The ‘Quetzal’ Mexican duo (a white Chenin, Chadonnay blend perfect for smoked salmon nibbles and a red Malbec leaning on the savoury side, ideal with poultry and gravy or a one pot wonder like coq au vin.) This cheeky duo won’t break the bank at £8.50 each and are worth trying if you fancy something different.
But what about the Boxing Day turkey curry? I would always reach for the Riesling in a situation like this. Fruity, light, with a dash of sweetness, there are many that would help a curry go down. Obviously, there are a lot of variations on a curry and I’m not suggesting just one wine goes with all but having tasted the new 2015 vintage Cono Sur Riesling from Chile’s Bio Bio Valley, I think this wine is so vibrant and fresh – It’d be great with that curry! It’s not got that oily quality that many old world Rieslings have and as it’s brand new, there’s a youthfulness to the wine that’ll go with so many different spices. You can order it at Tesco.com and if you’ve got any let over, it’ll go brilliantly with that Thai take away in the New Year too.
Having chatted to a number of friends about their Christmas lunch, more people than usual seem to be opting for roast beef (including the well known turkey hater James Martin!) so if you’re after something a little beefier than Pinot Noir, I’ve got a couple of well priced treats. The Co-Operative’s Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Malbec has beautiful black pepper notes and a
spicy nose to match. Yes, it needs to breathe to be truly appreciated but if you’re not impatient then give it a go. It’s got a little bit in common with a juicy Côtes du Rhône and would be a treat with Venison as would Tesco’s Finest Douro red. It’s got a beautifully savoury flavour which starts off a bit salty but ends up revealing a hint of damsons and sloes, typical of Portuguese reds. This works really well with red meat like beef and of course all that gravy! I’d also love to try it with lamb. I think it would be a fab pairing.
Ooh – And I must mention something a bit different and impressive: For a red that would work with any roast and would be ace to show off on the dinner table pop to Asda and seek out their Magnum of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If you’re entertaining a number of people, the last thing you want to do is open wine while you devour your sprouts so for £20 you can get a bumper portion of this French classic.… Let it breathe, chill it down for half an hour and if you don’t finish it all, you probably won’t get any complaints if you poor a bit when the neighbours come over!
So happy wine buying and happy drinking! Next up – Sweet wines…. Believe me – You don’t need to stop sipping when the pud comes out!