Christmas Day wines which might float your gravy boat

Christmas Day wines and trimmings

I love Christmas Day trimmings … sprouts in butter with bacon and lemon; golden roast potatoes; creamy mash; buttered carrots; sweet melting crunches of parsnip; a button-mound of stuffing; pigs in blankets, cuddling a bread sauce cushion, which in turn is gently nudged by a teardrop of cranberry sauce.

I’m so hungry now.

You might favour turkey, beef, or goose, or a special veggie centrepiece with all those wonderful trimmings. Whatever your choice, it would be daft to pour something horrid into a glass after taking care to make all of the flavours on your Christmas plate perfect. Here are some Christmas Day wines to get you thinking for the Big Day, even if you choose to ignore them.

Before that, some sparkles. (You know me.)

Sainsbury Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Sainsbury Blanc de Blancs Champagne


Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs
(£22.50) has just been voted “best buy” supermarket Champagne in Which? magazine’s annual sparkling taste test. A frizz-frazz huzzah of fine bubbles, with biscuit and brioche aromas and bright citrus flavours with apple and a shy hive of honey. Open this for family as they arrive on Christmas Day or save it to wrap presents, watch The Great Escape and have an occasional fizzy hiccup.

Whites might be your choice. Rich Burgundy whites, chardonnays with deep creamy oak character, are a good bet; but my pals don’t like them.

Wolf Blass SIlver Label Chardonnay
Wolf Blass SIlver Label Chardonnay

So for something more subtle and light, Wolf Blass Silver Label Chardonnay (£12.99, Tesco) has layers of citrus and some minerality. Yes, it has some oak, but it’s not heavy and gloopy. It has enough in its flavour armoury to stand on the Main Course Battlements and take on the parsnips, stuffing and cosy piggy blankets and come out reasonably unscathed.

Here’s a white worth seeking out because I’m sharing the love. Morrisons Signature Grüner Veltliner (£6.99) won Gold at last week’s International Wine Challenge gongs and if you’ve not tried this apple-bright grape then why are you waiting. It will probably survive a turkey, but not a richer meat, and will brighten up a veggie main.

Morrisons Signature Grüner Veltliner
Morrisons Signature Grüner Veltliner

On to a deep pink. Brown Brothers Explorer Tarrango 2014, (RRP £7.99 Tesco, Sainsbury’s) is an Australian grape and a new one on me. It will take a little chilling, so pop it outside the back door on Christmas morning. (The fridge is for important things like Champagne, double cream and Boxing Day piccalilli.)

Brown Brothers Explorer Tarrango
Brown Brothers Explorer Tarrango

This wine is a deep magenta, and has an intriguing nose of earth, redcurrant and pepper. With cranberries and more pepper to taste. It might tumble out of the bottle fairly quickly as you eat.

Here’s some quick-fire reds to float your gravy boat.

The Exquisite Collection Fleurie Aldi
The Exquisite Collection Fleurie, Aldi

The Exquisite Collection Fleurie (£6.49, Aldi) has soft tannins which won’t start a tastebud fight before the Queen comes on, but has peppery bramble flavour spikes to wink at the trimmings.

Sainsbury Taste the Difference Languedoc Rouge
Sainsbury Taste the Difference Languedoc Rouge

Taste the Difference Languedoc Rouge, (Sainsbury, reduced from £8 to £6 until January 1) is a blend of syrah, grenache and carignan, a cheeky grape trio which isn’t backward in coming forward. This wine is full of black fruit flavours, soft with vanilla and speckled with pepper and dunked with memories of French summer sun.

Tesco finest* Viña Mara Rioja Crianza
Tesco finest* Viña Mara Rioja Crianza

If you like rioja, then Tesco finest* Viña Mara Rioja Crianza (£7.99) is a decent starter for ten. Cherries charm and pepper prickles while clothed in a winter warming vanilla overcoat. This is one for a main with meaty oomph.

Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir
Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir

I’ll be going for pinot noir on Christmas Day. Earthy, fruity, spicy, light – just like me in my 20s. I’ve had a mini pinot noir taste-off; opening Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir, (RRP £19, Majestic, Ocado, thedrinkshop.com, Tesco.com, Rollings Wine Company) and Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2013 (RRP £12.99, Asda, Co-op, Morrisons and independents).

Both are New Zealand, both with a fab reputation. I’m a huge Villa Maria fan, but for me the Widow edged it. It’s a smoky red fruit delight, with a bright-light squint of acidity and a juicy finish. It might be a widow but it shouldn’t be left on the shelf.

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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 13, 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Christmas Day wine ideas for blushing pink prawn starters

Have fun with wine on Christmas Day

I’m keeping everything simple for my Christmas Day wine countdown. If you’re into off-the-wall Christmas Day menus then you won’t find a wine and food matching pair here.

My menu? A glass of fizz.  Then into a seafood starter such as a prawn cocktail, or my favourite … flash-fried Thai prawns. Then moving on to turkey and the trimmings, then Christmas pud and cheese.

Then more fizz?  Well, why not.

Let’s start at the beginning and prawns. Well, I tell a lie. Because breaking news straight off the shelf this week as the International Wine Challenge awarded medals to supermarket own-brand wines.

Marks & Spencer Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico

Top of the bunch was M&S, which scooped 73 gongs, including five gold medals. A particular judges’ favourite was Marks & Spencer Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2013 (£8). You know what? It would be amazing lightly chilled with a Crimbo Day seafood starter.

If you want a sparkle to start your Christmas Day then another Gold medal winner is Tesco Finest Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2007, (RRP £24.99).

Tesco Finest Grand Cru Champagne
Tesco Finest Grand Cru Champagne

Don’t you worry on the sparkles front, I’ll give you lots more ideas before the Big Day.

Prawns, they’re gentle little things. If they were on a Christmas party dance floor they’d be doing that left to right foot shuffle, but they come into their own with a pizzazz of spice or creamy Marie Rose sauce. Then they raise the level to a bit of a hip wiggle.

On Christmas Day I’ll be sticking to whites so not to overpower their blushing little souls. But if you never touch a white, and it’s a red you want with your prawns, then seek out a fruity Beaujolais or a light pinot noir.

Christmas Day wine: Coates and Seely Brut Rose NV
Coates and Seely Brut Rose NV

But what’s this? More sparkles? Yes. Any excuse. Why not go for a sparkler with your seafood starter. Pink to make your eyes blink with delight. Coates and Seely Brut Rose NV ( £25, winetrust100.co.uk)  scores a whopping 97 out of 100 from the site’s masters of wine. It’s made in the same way as Champagne, but I love, love, love the fact that this English wine is labelled Methode Britannique.  Red berries, strawberry ice, dry, gorgeous, and a perfect Christmas treat and flirtatious match to prawns.

Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Aldi
Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

If that’s too much for your budget, then Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Aldi, £9.99) is exactly what it says on the vin. Sauvignon blanc, and sparkling too. If you love sauv blanc then you’ll love this; a lifting lime-edged sparkle at less than a tenner to go with your prawns.  My friends loved it. I know this because they “aaaahed”and then went quiet for a while.

Oh, come on then Janey. What about some other whites then? Well. Varieties I would recommend … a bright and lively vermentino or picpoul de pinet.

As I write, I’m sipping a picpoul from the Co-op, Truly Irresistible Picpoul de Pinet 2013 (£6.99) which is green apple-fresh with an easy squeezy swish of lemon to finish.

Christmas Day wine: Green Fish Verdejo
Green Fish Verdejo

Or try a crisp, characterful Chablis .. or a Verdejo …  a racy little Spanish number I discovered at a recent tasting  is Green Fish Verdejo (www.oddbins.com, £6.75). Zingtastic and worryingly moreish. Good price too.

Staying in Spain, Albariño is one of my favourite favourites. It’s a Spanish grape grown in the north west of the country, near the sea, which is bang-on appropriate for prawns. Tesco finest* Albariño (£7.49) has light subtle creaminess speckled through with pears.

From the Wine Society, a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon spangles in the form  of Domaine du Tariquet, Côté Tariquet Chardonnay-Sauvignon (£8.50). Sherbert lemon and hints of stone fruit rise from the glass, mouth-watering citrus and grapefruit.

If your tastebuds need a weary Christmas Day nudge then this vibrant delight would come along and before you know it the prawns would have moved on from a hip wiggle to a full-on jive.

This first appeared in the saturday extra magazine December 6, 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express