The 6 types of wine you need for Christmas
The wine equivalent of a capsule wardrobe ...
Six wines may strike you as a lot or a little depending on what you normally buy but the aim here is to simplify things for you. And reduce the amount of choice because the fact is the more bottles you put out on the table the more people will feel they need to try.
I’m not saying only buy one bottle of each - that might be miserly - but stock up on six types.
Think of it as the wine equivalent of the capsule wardrobe …
A posh Christmas Day red
That could be a bottle you have in your cellar - if you have a cellar - but not that bottle you’d forgotten about and have no idea if it’s still drinkable.
There’s a lot to be said for a wine that people expect. Assuming you’re having turkey, Châteauneuf du Pape ticks that box but other southern Rhône reds like Gigondas and Vacqueyras or other grenache/syrah/mourvedre (GSM) blends would work equally well. A lot of people would be very happy with an amarone and I personally love a Zinfandel with turkey (we had Ridge Lytton Springs last year). Oh and Central Otago pinot noir from New Zealand. That’s lush.
Bordeaux I generally prefer with beef (or a beef Wellington) and make it an Italian red like Barbaresco if you’re having goose. (I did the other day and it worked perfectly.)
A posh white
Personally I love a creamy white burgundy at Christmas, not least ‘cos we usually have a seafood feast on Christmas Eve. Also good with a fish pie or salmon en croute. Other good chardonnay will tick that box too. Frankly there’s great chardonnay from everywhere these days. Don’t diss it.
But what about the smoked salmon, I hear you cry? Well you *could* have champagne or a similar sparkling wine with it (see below) especially if you’re serving it as a canapé but I actually really like sauvignon blanc, especially Pouilly Fumé with it, immediately breaking my ‘just six bottles’ rule. Well rules are meant to be broken aren’t they?
An everyday/party red
Something bright, fruity and not too expensive. Merlot if you haven’t been irrevocably put off it by Sideways or malbec which I reckon is a pretty reliable crowd pleaser. If you want something super-cheap for mulling take a look at these suggestions in my recent Guardian column.
An everyday/party white
Something light, crisp and refreshing. Not sauvignon, I suggest, because some people think they don’t like sauvignon but maybe a sauvignon bland. Picpoul used to do that job perfectly but has got quite pricey. Pinot grigio is a bit boring. Vinho verde from Portugal would have my vote I think. (Aldi does a good one under the Mimo Moutinho label called Avesso if you can track it down).
Admittedly there are two types you might want to lay in depending on whether you’re planning to throw a party. A bottle of bubbly to kick off Christmas Day (essential for the cook) - could be champagne or, admittedly no cheaper, an English sparkling wine or whatever the local fizz is where you come from.
For party fizz I’d go for crémant which is cheaper than champagne and more interesting than Cava. There are some good offers around at the moment too - and you do need to buy fizz on offer. I’ll be doing a special pre-Christmas edition of Fizzwatch (my round-up of the best sparkling wine bargains) so look out for that.
Well, port is the obvious one, isn’t it? A ‘reserve’ ‘vintage character’ or Late Bottled Vintage if you like the warm brambly style, a 10 year old tawny if you prefer something more caramelly and nutty and are looking to drink it with Stilton.
If you want something to drink with the pud I’d go for a muscat or a moscatel rather than a Sauternes which I always think is a bit summery for Christmas. Or if you’re having a chocolate yule log try one of these.
There are lots of other suggestions for specific Christmas dishes on my website matchingfoodandwine.com but you want my specific bottle recommendations - and recipe tips - sign up for a paid subscription which starts at just £4 a month (though an annual subscription works out at just £3 a month! And will save you money into the bargain!)