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Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster and The Jockey Club’s resident wine and food pairings expert, tips up the best wine for the season.

 

For many of us, an important part of Christmas is enjoying special dishes and tasty treats. We all have our favourites, and in our house, we always go the traditional route with well-loved festive foods gracing the table each year. Here I have selected some excellent wines to match with the main events:

 

Christmas Eve

Time for the dainty canapés, olives, almonds and vol au vents - yes they are back and I’m delighted because you can fill them with whatever you love most! And don’t forget that Father Christmas will be expecting mince pies tonight. So, what to select to go with all these different flavours? Well, it has to be Sherry of course. A fabulous fortified wine from Spain, and sure to get your taste buds going. Keep a bottle chilled in the fridge. If you like a dry style then a Manzanilla like this Hidalgo La Gitana Sherry 50cl £8.00, Tesco is a great choice, whilst Croft Original Pale Cream Sherry, is an incredibly appealing style with enough sweetness to satisfy, but a lovely lift too. It’s also unbelievable value at £12.50 for 1L in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose! 

Christmas Day

Whether you’re going traditional like us with turkey or beef or opting for lighter fare such as salmon or a vegetable-based central dish, it’s important to match your wine with the depth and flavours of what’s on your plate, including stuffing, sauces and other additions.

 

For those of you who will be enjoying all the full- and many-flavoured trimmings such as cranberry sauce, sage & onion stuffing, gravy and bread sauce, go for a wine with depth of flavour and oomph which can stand up to the myriad of flavours in the food. For anyone going for a lighter-styled Christmas meal, marrying the more delicate flavours and lift of your dish is key.

 

Some of my favourites:

 

Yalumba Organic Viognier 2021, South Australia, £9.99 (Vegan) Waitrose. One of the most memorable wines of 2021 from Yalumba, who specialise in the Viognier grape with wonderful integrated flavours of lime, peach and pear, and a soft creamy texture.

 

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Rustenberg Chardonnay 2020 Stellenbosch, South Africa £14.99 Waitrose. Delicious, full flavoured, well made and memorable.  

Domaine Lucien Lardy Morgon 2019, Côte du Py, Beaujolais, France £16.99 - £14.99 (Vegan) in mixed case Majestic. Beaujolais is so underrated, and this is a standout with fruit flavours of cherry and blackberry. It is so food versatile.  

Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Sonoma County, California, USA £22.00 The Great Wine Co. Beautifully concentrated flavours of plums, great depth of flavour and complexity that make this a stunning wine to have on the Christmas table. 

 

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Vina Araya Moscatel de Valencia, Spain £5.35, Sainsbury’s is a refreshing and inexpensive dessert wine that has lovely tangy flavours. Alternatively, Andrew Quady’s Essencia Orange Muscat 2019 in half bottle from California is rich and delicious. Available: Majestic £13.99 in half bottle. 

If you are serving a cheeseboard, keeping it simple with 3 or 4 contrasting cheeses is best, but it can be a challenge to find one wine that goes with all of them so a fortified wine is perfect and Blandy's Madeira Reserva 5-Year-Old from Portugal is a great choice. £17.95 Slurp. This is sweet, very rich, smooth and full-bodied, balanced by a very fine acidity which will match up to the cheeses. For another popular choice try Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal £13.50 Asda.

The Whisky Exchange : Buy Whisky and Fine Spirits Online

 

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Boxing Day

It’s got to be turkey or vegetarian curry! Wake up your taste buds with the spicy flavours and try these equally spicy wines to match:

 

Yealands Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand £12.99 Waitrose has rightly received rave reviews and is fantastic with spicy dishes.

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Photo credit: Yealands

 

Lagrein Kellerei Kurtatasch Alto Adige 2019, Italy, £16.60 Haynes, Hanson & Clark

Lagrein is the grape variety pronounced lah-GRINE which has a beautiful inky colour, gorgeous pure fruit aromas and enticing notes of cherries and plums. A real discovery in 2021.  

 

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Dry rosé is so underrated as a pairing and the high class Love by Léoube Rosé 2020, Château Léoube, Provence, £15.99 www.daylesford.com , Ocado is a must buy for Christmas. 

 

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The Holiday Season in General

For all kinds of festive fare, including buffets with a variety of meats, fish and salads, add these fail-safe vino choices to your wine rack for quality, choice and value:

 

 

 

M&S Ribolla Gialla 2020, Friuli -Venezia Giulia, Italy £7.00 (Vegan) M&S

Ribolla Gialla is a grape variety found mainly in North-East Italy and this is a lovely, floral, peachy and refreshing easy-drinking wine.

 

Chapel Down Flint Dry 2020, Kent, England, £14 Morrisons, Waitrose

This vibrant, refreshing Flint Dry has citrus fruit flavours and creamy texture. A winner!  

 

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La Vieille Ferme 2020, Rhône, France £7.50 - £8.00 Tesco, Co-op, Waitrose is easy drinking, delicate and fruity.

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, California, £8.50 Morrisons, Sainsbury’s. Remarkable value, well made, medium bodied.  

 

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Mayu Carménère Appassimento 2018, Chile £12.99 - £8.99 in six bottle case Majestic.

Carménère has rich fruit and low tannins and is great on its own or with food. A real find.

 

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