Christmas Wine Guide

In an effort to alleviate any wine related burden on Christmas Day, as the 25th looms ever larger on the wintery horizon we bring you a host of answers to your drinks related queries. From which bottles to buy as presents, to wine gift vouchers, the best port and dessert wines and what wine to serve with your Christmas turkey on the big day itself…

What should we drink with our turkey on Christmas Day?

The prospect of choosing a bottle of wine that marries perfectly with your roast turkey but more pertinently pleases all of your expectant guests is a daunting vista for even the most experienced of party hosts. Rather than be felled by oenophobia and subsequently see your best laid plans in tatters, embrace the varied plethora of different wines that have the potential to suit the inevitably mottled palates congregating around your table.

One might be surprised to learn that Chardonnay is actually a beautiful match with Roast Turkey. Whether it’s an archetypal classic from Burgundy like Louis Latour’s Montagny 1er Cru La Grande Roche, or equally, a modern style new world version from Australia’s Yarra Valley like the beautifully restrained and highly-acclaimed Oakridge Lusatia Park Chardonnay; they both pair well with the richness of white turkey meat.

If you want a more competitively priced white tipple to match your lashings of Turkey breast, why not stump for the often championed Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay from the Leyda Valley; a superb cool-climate Chardonnay, made on the cusps of the Pacific Ocean, that will exceed expectation whilst not burning a hole in your already charred pockets.

If you are reluctant to serve an oaky Chardonnay, then the classic, wonderfully traditionally Meursault, Ropiteau from a Burgundy will tick every box with its energy, acidity and superbly lithe finish. An iconic Old World Chardonnay is inevitably accompanied by a lofty price-tag but this is a special wine for an equally special occasion.

For some, red wine epitomises the very essence of Christmas dinning and if this is the case then you could do a lot worse than stump for the Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. It has won a host of awards courtesy of a series of stellar vintages and its ability to stand up to some of the finest wines from Bordeaux, at a welcomingly accessible price, makes it a real Christmas Day winner. If you are looking for a real showstopper, then the Magnus Siculus, made at altitude in the breathtaking vineyards that nestle above the iconic town of Corleone is a beautiful expression of Sicily’s nuanced terroir. A Bordeaux inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah is rounded off with a Sicilian hit of Nero D’Avola to complete this sumptuous red that should be decanted a good 45 minutes before serving.

The Luis Felipe Edwards Lot 40 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from the Rapel Valley in Chile is an affordable yet delicious red wine that will not feel inferior when set against moist and flavourful turkey meat. It’s intense with plenty of toasty oak flavours that are typical of the region, and at £6.99 this represents exceptional value for money.

An Australian Shiraz is a failsafe option and a crowd-pleasing offering, particularly if it’s the JJ Hahn Western Ridge 1975 Planting Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Named after Reginald Hahn, an early pioneer of this beautifully unique region, the Hahn family are the oldest of the landowners, who had their pick of the best lands available. They settled on “Big Red Gum” as it was known locally, and Gottfried Hahn planted the first commercial vines there in 1890. The Hahn family vineyards have been a hotbed for sensational expressions of Barossa’s distinct terroir ever since, and James Hahn, who tends to the vines, and acclaimed-winemaker Rolf Binder, have been working together since 1997, and this sumptuously elegant red is evidence of their notable experience. The grapes for this wine were hand-harvested from a single vineyard in 1975 and it subsequently shows plenty of intense, ripe black fruits, mocha, red plum, mulberry and kirsch notes with a background of spice and elegant oak. This is absolutely heavenly on Christmas Day and would complement your Christmas turkey, and pertinently all of the trimmings, exceptionally well.

Heavy tannic reds or indeed wines that are too mature tend not to pair well with turkey, so think juicy, rounded, warm-climate reds for your Christmas day feast. For something a little different, try a Californian red Zinfandel, like The Federalist. A hugely impressive wine made from handcrafted parcels of Zinfandel picked in the optimum growing region of the Dry Creek Valley in California. This hugely-acclaimed, big bruiser of a wine has a robust berry fruit character, lively acidity and a hearty alcoholic kick that allows it to partner superbly with Turkey or indeed Goose. Very much a critical darling, the beautiful wine label features the leader and most famous Federalist in American history, Alexander Hamilton, making this abundantly fruity red a very popular bottle for Thanksgiving.

While there tends to be some confusion about whether to drink red or white wine with your Christmas turkey, there needn’t be because there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. When choosing a wine partner for turkey, it is the flavour profile and not the colour that should be considered.

What wine should I serve with goose?

For the courageous few serving goose on the big day be aware this richer flavoured and slightly fattier meat requires a sturdy wine with a touch more acidity. A safe bet would be a Rioja and the Don Jacobo Gran Reserva 1998 is one of our most popular. An absolutely classic Tempranillo made with a smidgeon of Garnacha and only in exceptional vintages, this is an effortlessly smooth and sophisticated Rioja Gran Reserva that has won countless gold medals. Amazing value given its age, this Rioja won at the Sommelier Wine Awards in one of the most competitive categories.
Alternatively opt for a Pinot Noir but avoid ones heavy on tannins. Goose tends to be paired with equally rich and hearty trimmings such as a red cabbage and therefore a tannin-heavy Pinot with the aforementioned may be too much even for the most indulgent. The Flor de Campo Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County is a wonderfully accessible New World Pinot that is a worthy adversary to some of Burgundy’s most vaunted incarnations. 

White wine tends to be a little harder to choose where goose is concerned, but if you are feeling bold and your audience is intrepid, opt for a dry Riesling. From the grape’s spiritual home, the Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2009 has the necessary acidity to bite through the thick fatty goose meat. Riesling is not to everyone’s liking so it may be a bit of a leap of faith for conservative wine drinkers, but it remains the varietal of choice for a host of the world’s top winemakers and many key figures in the trade such as Jancis Robinson, who claims it is “indisputably the greatest white wine grape in the world.”

Likewise, a rich and spicy Gewürztraminer from France’s north eastern region, Alsace, is full-bodied yet dry enough to match beautifully with Goose or otherwise there are plenty of New World examples, particularly from New Zealand, that are ideal for strong flavoured meats.
Can you suggest a decent dessert wine for Christmas?

After a lengthy day of eating and drinking you may decide that a sweet-sherry is overkill and if this is the case there are plenty of alternatives. A marginally lighter, golden-hued dessert wine from Sauternes will tend to be sweet enough without being obnoxious. Alternatively a honey-scented Muscat from France, or Spain’s Moscatel equivalent, are both perfect dessert wines to partner with Christmas pudding.

Can you recommend some affordable alternatives to Champagne for my Christmas party?

The opulent sound of popping corks will shortly usher in the festive party season but you needn’t break the bank this Christmas given the superb and affordable alternatives to Champagne. Prosecco is comfortably outselling Champagne in the UK and has been for a few years now, and this a testament to the plethora of outstanding bottles available. For something a little different the Fantinel 'One and Only' Single Vineyard Prosecco Brut 2012, is a vintage Prosecco made at altitude in the ‘heaven vineyards’ of Veneto. It’s abundantly flavoured and retains all the classic hallmarks of Prosecco but without being too sweet like many of its contemporaries.

The soils in England’s southern counties of Sussex, Kent and Cornwall are a hotbed for outstanding sparkling wines; the conditions are not too dissimilar to Champagne and many sparklers from the likes of Gusbourne, Chapel Down, and Nyetimber are regularly outscoring the esteemed competition from France. The very best use the classic Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to produce wonderfully elegant yet unique sparkling wines that are suitably festive and patriotic Christmas party sparklers.

Can you recommend a good bottle of Champagne to open on Christmas morning?
Brigitte Bardot famously said that “Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I feel tired,” and Christmas probably wouldn’t be Christmas without it (although it would obviously still be Christmas. Situated north-east of Paris and in France’s most northerly wine region, Champagne produces the most celebrated sparkling wines in the world. Typically made of three varieties, one white and two red; Chardonnay for finesse, Pinot Noir for body, richness and depth, and Pinot Meunier for that rustic charm, Champagne is made by a special method of double fermentation. Through this iconic method, Champagne acquires its instantly recognisable crisp, long-lasting bubbles and distinctively biscuity, toasty dimension, and during the festive season there are ample deals on this iconic wine to whet the whistle. The team at CellarVie Wines are huge fans of Piper-Heidsieck, who don't have the marketing budgets of the Grande Marques houses, but do boast in their ranks arguably the greatest sparkling winemaker of all-time, or certainly the most decorated, Régis Camus. The Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2006 is a stunning wine from a superb vintage (look for anything from 2006) but for something more affordable the Bouche Pere et Fils Cuvee Reservee Brut NV or the Louis Dornier et Fils Brut NV, are excellent value and will still impress the in-laws.

I want a decent bottle of Port, any recommendations?

There is a large choice of quality ports available during the Christmas period which can obviously be a little overwhelming. One thing to remember is that Port is actually far more versatile than many assume; for example the Portuguese often consume it as an aperitif so open your mind to this beautiful fortified wine from the Douro Valley.

Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos 2001 is a Regional Trophy winner in one of the most competitive categories at the Decanter World Wine awards this year so it is worth your attention if you are after a delicious Port. Gorgeously seductive and voluptuously textured from Quinta dos Malvedos, one of the Douro’s greatest vineyard properties – it is a heavenly end to any Christmas meal. Typically sweet, plump and fleshy with excellent depth of fruit combined with glorious floral scents, the finish is opulently rich and powerful. Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port is delicious when chilled over ice as an aperitif. Alternatively serve it with chocolate or coffee-flavoured puddings but it can also work superbly with mild cheeses like camembert.

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Vintage Port 2003 is another special offering. One of the Douro Valley’s finest vineyards, Bomfim is a hotbed for some of Dow’s most celebrated and greatest Ports, having provided wines for Dow’s Vintage Ports ever since it was acquired in 1896. The estate is situated in the centre of the best wine-producing area known as the ‘Cima Corgo’, which offers an ideal balance between the relatively wet ‘Baixo Corgo’ to the west and the intense heat of the ‘Douro Superior’ to the east. Characterful spice and pepper balance the black chocolate flavours and these are very evident in all Bomfim Ports. Abundant fruit flavours with hints of maple, raisins and ripe blackberries give elegance and poise to this award-winning wine.

In the unlikely event you have any port left over in the aftermath of your festive over-indulgence, make sure you consume any open bottles within three weeks at the latest, as it tends to deteriorate quite quickly once exposed to oxygen.

I want to give wine as a present this Christmas, but I am unsure what to get?

Buying wine for someone else is always a little tricky but if you are absolutely stumped and fearful of a sensitive palate, then CellarVie Wines offer an e-Voucher service whereby you can give someone credit on in order for them to choose their wines themselves.

If you want to take the more conventional route and actually make the purchases yourself, we have a gift services page with a number of proposed Christmas solutions. The pre-mixed case including Argentinian Malbec Gift Selection in an Antique Style Wooden Box has proved hugely popular in the past, particularly to big red wine fans.

The CellarVie Wines New World Taster set is a very, very accessible for this time of year, both from a flavour and price point of view, and would actually make for a very decent festive party case. If you are struggling for ideas, do give us a call on +44 (0)20 8892 3042 and we would be happy to talk you through some of our options.

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 


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