This originally appeared in the Spectator:
This summer in Spain, I had a complete break from worrying about what to drink. We just found a nice Galician wine at the local Lidl for 4 euros and stuck to that for the entire trip. In Spain it’s easy to drink well cheaply but in Britain we have to pay duty on wine at £2.08 a bottle plus 20% VAT. When entertaining at Christmas it can be very difficult to find wines that I enjoy but aren’t going to break the bank. Sometimes I think I should take a leaf out of Richard Nixon’s book who would secretly sip Chateau Margaux whilst serving cheap wine to his guests. Fortunately though, there are bargains to be had if you know where to look. My best bit of advice would be to join the Wine Society who offer unbeatable value for money. Failing that, look out for supermarket multibuys, sometimes up to ⅓ off when you buy six bottles or more (though not in Scotland as the Scottish Government don’t trust their people to buy in bulk without going on a rampage down Sauchiehall Street.) Aldi and Lidl are also happy hunting grounds for the impecunious connoisseur. The wines I’ve listed below are good enough for when your grand aunt comes over but you also won’t mind when Steve from accounts pours half a bottle into a pint glass.
Philippe Michel Cremant du Jura NV (£7.49 Aldi)
This is the wine I recommend to friends when they are getting married but they always ignore my advice because they can’t imagine that a cheap sparkling wine from Aldi can be any good. Well more fool them because this is great: clean and lemony with a certain toasty biscuity quality just like a good champagne.
Palataia German Pinot Noir (£10.50 M&S)
So it’s not the cheapest wine but if like me you want something similar to Burgundy with your turkey then this is stunningly good value. What I love about it is its combination of ripe strawberries with a proper forest floor smell just like in a much more expensive wine
Torres Viña Sol 2015 (£5 at ASDA until 27 December)
Viña Sol is a Spanish classic and at this price impossible to resist. Don’t expect fireworks just lots of crisp green apples and a hint of lemon peel but it’s so much better than your bog standard Pinot Grigios or Sauvignon Blancs. This is the ultimate Christmas party wine..
De Bortoli Liqueur Muscat Aged 8 years (£11.99 Aldi for 50 cl)
An Australian speciality made in New South Wales from a blend of vintages like a tawny port. Utterly delicious and very adaptable; it would be great with rich puddings and blue cheese, or just on its own. The taste is intensely sweet with notes of orange blossom, molasses and nuts but with an acidity that refreshes the palate making this surprisingly drinkable though I doubt even Steve from accounts could drink more than two glasses.
Empire of Booze: British History through the bottom of a glass by Henry Jeffreys is published by Unbound £13.99