David Newton Johnson Southend Chardonnay, Upper Hemel-en-Aaarde Valley, South Africa 2020 (£15.99, laithwaites.co.uk) Christmas Dinner is effectively a buffet, so many and so varied are the competing elements on the plate. That makes the kind of precise wine matching that fusspots like me go in for somewhat redundant: a wine you might pick for the way it dovetails with turkey and a rich gravy is unlikely to be the same one you’d pick for bread sauce or sprouts (although, come to think of it, and much as I love them, I can’t think of a wine that would go really well with the maximum brassic bitterness of sprouts). In effect, then, you’re looking for all-rounders, and when it comes to whites that means something with a bit of weight and fullness, but also enough cleansing acidity to cut through the general richness. White burgundy is the classic choice, although that region’s recipe of subtly oaked chardonnay is as international as a croissant these days, with the likes of Newton Johnson’s Southend Chardonnay from the far southern, ocean-cooled Hemel-en-Aarde, a shimmering, gently savoury, and, for the quality, superb value alternative.
Château Beauregard Fleurie Poncié, Beaujolais, France 2019 (£14.95, thewinesociety.com) Other rich but brightly balanced whites that I’ve enjoyed recently and that would have their versatile way with all the trimmings plus whatever bird or pulse-based centrepiece you may be having include: Winemaster’s Lot Vacqueyras Blanc 2020 (£9.99, Aldi) a fluently peachy blend from the southern Rhône Valley; and the vivid, finely drawn intensity of Benanti Etna Bianco 2020 (£21.50, tanners-wines.co.uk) from 750m up on the slopes of Mount Etna. Switching to reds, two approaches seem to work. The first is to pick something relatively brisk and red-fruited to deliver the same kind of palate-sharpening cut-through you get from the tartness of cranberry sauce. Specifically that could mean the perfumed, fresh-berry compote of a classic gamay from the Beaujolais village of Fleurie, such as Château Beauregard’s silkily charming example. Or it could be the seamless, silk-sheet luxury of northwestern Spanish wiemaking wizard Raúl Pérez’s infusion of deep, dark cherry, Las Gundiñas, La Vizcaina de Vinos 2017 from Bierzo (£20.67, justerinis.com).
La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2011 (from £45.70, armitwines.co.uk; thewinesociety.com; laywheeler.com; leaandsandeman.co.uk) Another approach to the festive banquet with red wine is to go for something robustly structured, with plenty of spice from fruit and oak. The southern French blend, based on grenache, syrah and others, from the Rhône or the Languedoc, offers one garrigue-scented avenue to go down, in wines such as Taste the liquorice, pepper and blackberry of Difference Saint Chinian 2018 (£9, Sainsbury’s); the brambly sweetly spicy Marks & Spencer Lirac 2020 (£10); and the meaty, deep Famille Perrin Les Sinards Châteauneuf-du-Pape (£29, thewinesociety.com). In Italy, Nebbiolo’s mix of ethereal perfume and monumental tannin and acidity is a feast wine par excellence, with Lay & Wheeler’s Langhe Nebbiolo 2018 (£22.48, laywheeler.com) a particularly pristine and luxurious example. Finally, two European classics that would grace any occasion: the slickly sumptuous claret of Château de Cérons, Graves, Bordeaux 2018 (£21.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk), and the mellow oak-borne intricacy of La Rioja Alta 904.
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