This is my Lady Christmas wine article that appeared in December’s bumper magazine. You can read their version of it here. If you enjoy it, please write to the Lady’s editor saying that I deserve a pay rise and more space.
The twin themes of this year’s Christmas column are simplicity and duplicity. In the past I have recommended some expensive wine that I am sure nobody buys and then some cheaper stuff to open when people you don’t like come over. I don’t think that is how most of us do Christmas. So instead I’ve chosen wines for all occasions and all guests. So that’s the simplicity side taken care of. The duplicity part comes because all the wines I have chosen look and taste a lot more expensive that they actually are. Your guests will take a sip and think that you must be terribly successful. The important thing is not to let on how little you’ve spent. If someone comments on how much they must have cost, just wave airily and say ‘you’re worth it, darling.’ With the wines from the big chains, it’s worth checking online before shopping as they often have big temporary discounts before Christmas.
Palataia Pinot Noir 2012 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)
German pinot noir is not only surprisingly good, it’s also fashionable and expensive. I’m not quite sure how Marks & Spencers do this for the price. There’s some proper pinot fragrance, ripe fruit and most importantly no jam whatsoever. There’s even a nice herbal quality. If you think your guests might be put off by German wine then decant it and pretend it’s Savigny-les-Beaune.
De Martino Chardonnay Legado 2011 (£8.50 the Wine Society)
Many people think they don’t like Chardonnay but in fact they’re just sick of drinking the oversweet, overoaked stuff associated with Bridget Jones*. They should try this cool climate Chilean one which is racy, citric and refreshing.
Marks & Spencer Cava Brut 2010 (£13.99)
Cava is a wine that rarely fails to make me yawn. Not this one! Made by Segura Viudas, it’s the best budget fizz I’ve had all year. There’s a whiff of pastry and then lots of fine bubbles. Best of all, it still has a gentleness that means you can drink it all night.
Waitrose Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut NV (£24.99)
Ignore all those supermarket champagne deals. If you’re not concerned with brands, this is the one to go for. It smells of apples with lemons and nuts on the palate, and a creamy texture.
Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Unfiltered 2007 (The Drink Shop have the 07 for £16.94 or Tescos have the 05 for £15.79)
A great one to impress any wine bores. They’ll see the name Quinta do Noval, the legendary port estate, and think you’re really spoiling them. This smells brambly with some smoke and spice. It’s sweet but the fruit tastes fresh and crunchy. There’s real concentration here; you could age it but it’s so good now with a nice piece of stilton.
Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Fino (Majestic £8.99)
Here one for the sherry aficionado. It has all the refreshing power of a good fino such as Tio Pepe but with a richness and meatiness that reminded me a little of roast pork. I would drink it before the meal with olives and almonds to sharpen my carnivorous appetites.
I’m now cheating and I’m going to recommend two wines to have if you really have had a successful year or maybe your family have just been extra sweet to you:
Domaine Grand Chardonnay Côtes du Jura 2012 (Berry Bros £13.99)
This part of the world, the Jura, is famed for Vin Jaune which tastes a bit like a farmhouse sherry. They also make more conventional wines that taste like white Burgundy. This one is quite buttery but with a good jolt of acidity and a distinct floral note.
Tassinaia, Castello del Terriccio 2007 (Lea & Sandeman £23.95)
A blend of Cabernet, Merlot and a little Sangiovese, there’s a whiff of pencil shavings, a hint of coffee and some lovely ripe fruit. It’s drinking nicely now but I’d decant to let the tannins soften; a wine so grown-up that it can end long-running family feuds.
*It is now mandatory when writing about chardonnay to mention Bridget Jones just as when writing about sherry you have to mention either maiden aunts or vicars and for cider tramps and teenagers drinking in parks. You can see the Bridget Jones/ chardonnay axis at work in two articles, one in the Telegraph and one in the Guardian.