To an outsider, the world of wine can be intimidating, but if there’s ever been a time to learn your stuff, it’s December.
From quaffing celebratory champagne with friends and family to picking the right type of red to pour with the turkey, we stock up on more bottles at this time of year than any other. The good news, however, is that keeping your guests topped up doesn’t have to cost the earth – you just need the knowledge of an expert (or two) on your side.
To help you to navigate the wine aisle this festive season, we asked Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, the expert authors of new guide Wine Folly: Magnum Edition, to select the perfect wines for Christmas dinner from breakfast to party food – and then point you in the direction of the best bottles on the supermarket shelves, so that you can impress for less.
So, polish up those glasses and ready the carafe – your wine rack won’t know what’s hit it.
Wine to serve with a smoked salmon breakfast
Tannin in red wine clashes with fish oils, which is why you’re safer sticking to white wines with seafood. For something fresh and sparkling try Crémant, a French sparkling wine with lemon and white peach notes. Mix 1 part Crémant with 1 part peach purée for a brunch-worthy Bellini.
Priogrigio Italian Sparkling Wine, £5, ASDA (a fresh, fruity sparkling white wine)
Frescati Doc, £4.75, Tesco (a light and fruity sparkling white wine)
Mondelli Italian Sparkling Brut, £5.25, Sainsbury’s (a refreshing wine with peach and citrus notes)
Charles De Viller Blanc De Blanc Grand Cru, £24, Morrisons (a light and fruity wine)
Exquisite Cremant du Jura, £8.29, Aldi (a crisp white sparkling Crémant wine made with chardonnay grapes and with a flavour of green apples)
Wine to serve with Christmas dinner
Wine Folly: Magnum Edition provides several suggestions for wine pairings with the main meal, such as the Italian Frappato and the congruent Pinot Noir, but the one that receives an ecstatic commendation is Carignan. This red wine should be decanted 30 minutes before serving, and will allow cinnamon and cranberry flavours to shine.Finest Argentinian Malbec, £6.50, Tesco (malbec wine with blackberry and plum flavours)
Sancerre Rouge Les Champs Clos Pinot Noir, £11.50, Sainsbury’s (a pinot noir with notes of violet and strawberry)
Cotes De Beaune Village, £20, Morrisons (a red wine with raspberry and redcurrant flavours, with a hint of spice)
Wine to serve with Christmas pudding
Having sloshed a liberal amount of brandy over the Christmas pudding you would be right to wonder whether more alcohol is really what your dessert needs. You would be perfectly within your rights to forgo serving wine with this course, but if you do decide to open another bottle ditch the brandy butter in favour of cream.
We recommend Moscatel de Setúbal, a sweet dessert wine that will set off orange and honey tones in the pudding. Or, if a yule log is more your thing, try Brachetto, a sweet red wine from Piedmont perfect with creamy chocolate treats.
Bibesia Varietal White Zinfandel, £5, ASDA (a juicy white zinfandel with flavours of raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon)
Finest Dessert Semillon, £6, Tesco (a white wine with citrus, peach, and apricot flavours)
Santa Rita National Gallery Pinot Noir Santa Rita National Gallery Pinot Noir, £6.50, Sainsbury’s (a pinot noir with flavours of red cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and vanilla)
Floralis Moscatel, £8, Morrisons (a dessert wine with floral aromas)
Wine to serve with a cheeseboard
A cheeseboard is a minefield because different wines suit different cheeses. Your best bet is a sparkling or aromatic white wine. Franciacorta, a sparkling white wine, goes well with most types of cheese. Fortified Muscat is another, sweeter, option. That said, Port and stilton remains an unbeatable combination.
Casa Luis Gran Reserva, £5.98, ASDA (a red wine flavoured with red berries, cherry, and vanilla)
Finest Franciacorta Docg Brut, £15, Tesco (a Franciacorta brut, with fruit flavours)
Roc De Lussac, Lussac St Emilion, £7.50, Sainsbury’s (a French red wine with dark fruit flavours)
Wm Morrison LBV Port, £10.50, Morrisons (a sweet, rich, and fruity red wine)
Wine to serve with party food
Now is the moment to bring out the Champagne, which pairs amazingly with anything salty or fried. For something different try Assyrtiko, a versatile Greek white wine that goes well with a wide variety of foods.
Louvel Fontaine Champagne Rose Brut, £19, ASDA (a rosé champagne with fresh strawberry and cherry hints)
Finest Premier Cru Non Vintage Champagne, £11, Tesco (a champagne made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, flavoured with citrus and apple)
Etienne Dumont Brut Champagne, £14, Sainsbury’s (a creamy, fruit-flavoured champagne)
The Best Brut Champagne, £19, Morrisons (a lemony champagne with a citrus aroma)
Atma Assyrtiko, £10.99, Waitrose (Assyrtiko white dry wine)