Festive drinking

Christmas is looming and some of us (ahem) are still feeling rather unprepared. However, if you get a shift on, there’s still time to sort out your drinks – which can helpfully double up as gifts. Here are some festive favourites.

Whites
Even if there’s a cold snap, crisp, invigorating whites go down well this time of year as you and your palate can get a bit jaded. Sauvignon lovers will be happy with The Society’s Côtes de Gascogne at the give-away price of £5.95 and one of the wines at my recent 50th. Made from the same grapes as Armagnac, it’s fresh and aromatic, rounded out with a hint of exotic peach. It’s perfect for parties – crowd-pleasing, light in alcohol at 10.5% and really versatile with food. I can’t think of a better value white for the price.

Talking of Sauvignon, Enfield-based Tulip Hambleton of Sustainable Wines imports some impressive New Zealand wines including the racy, yet restrained Woven Stone and more complex mineral Ohau Gravels. At £15 and £18 respectively they would be a wonderful match for a seafood starter on Christmas Day or Thai turkey curry using up the leftovers. You can order them as part of a mixed case from the website which features other well-selected examples.

Reds
Generous ripe reds are great this time of year and they stand up well to those festive trimmings and rich flavours. That said, I do like a lighter, juicier red with gammon – the cranberry sauce effect.

Some really special wines are now coming out of Chile and Stonewines in Whetstone stocks De Martino’s excellent Estate Carmenère (£10) with intense black fruit and peppery warmth. There’s the chance to taste it in store this weekend. Another tasty Chilean is Koyle El Peuco Tempranillo-Mourvèdre (£11.50) a Wine Society exclusive like a pumped up Rioja (made from the same grapes) which should keep everyone happy at Christmas. The lighter Pinot Noir would be another great choice (especially with the gammon).

Another lighter option is Saumur-Champigny Croix de Chaintres (£12.79). Firm and dry with aromatic red berry fruit. A great Boxing Day pick-me-up that’s spot on with the leftover cold cuts.

Perfect for a family group is a magnum of The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva (£29) which makes a regular appearance in our household. It ticks all the boxes and there’s plenty to go round.

Fizz
Crémant is currently the way to go for value fizz and Aldi’s Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura (£7.49 or case of 6 online purchase £44.94) is absolutely brilliant value, elegant and zesty. It’s a multi-prizewinning alternative to cheap Champagne and way better than most Prosecco.

Another great Crémant (literally meaning “creaming” in French or “gently sparkling”) is The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire 2013 (£11.95) which is crisp and applely but interesting and satisfying at the same time.

In terms of budget Champagne, Lidl’s Bissinger Premier Cru at £16.99 is an excellent buy. It’s a lighter style and perfect party fare. For something higher end, splash out on some English fizz. These are just as good as many Champagnes (certainly the same price range) and are a great talking point. Enfield’s Forty Hall Vineyard now produces sparkling wine and a few bottles of the 2014 vintage should still available in the Farm Shop. There are other tempting recommendations here.

If you’re after something properly luxurious, uber-glamorous Bollinger Rosé Brut NV takes some beating (Majestic £50 or £40 mix six price) and Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV is a fail-safe classic (currently on offer at Waitrose at £31.99 instead of £39.99).

Message on a bottle
Finally, if you’re really stuck for last-minute gifts, head to the new M Wine Store in Victoria who will engrave a message (or logo) on any bottle or wine box for an extra £3. How about some personalised Sipsmith Gin or half bottle of Ruinart Rosé? Yes please!

Wishing you all the best for the festive season. Cheers!

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