If you are part of a large gathering on Christmas Day, choose wines which will appeal to everyone, rather than anything too esoteric. Save your prized bottles for a quieter time, when you can appreciate them better, and not have to worry about excited children knocking over glasses!
If you are having a fish starter, prawns are fantastic with Albariňho or Chablis. Smoked salmon and lobster are both superb with Champagne and premium Chardonnay. Scallops are delicious with Grüner Veltliner, Australian Riesling and dry Vouvray.
For most people, turkey and ham are the main event. Neither of these have too much weight, or chewy proteins, relative to other meats like beef or duck. Turkey can often lack succulence (no matter how good the cook), so pair it with a rounded fruity white, rather than anything too crisp or dry. White Burgundy and New World Chardonnay are the most widely-recommended whites.
Turkey and ham are not too heavy-weight, so red wines with light to moderate tannins will frame the food best. Aim for plenty of ripe fruit flavours. The best red matches for turkey, according to the experts, are southern Rhône reds, GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) blends, Merlot, Australian Shiraz, and New World Pinot Noir. You could add reds from the Loire, Beaujolais and Burgundy to the list if you are a ham-fiend.
Here’s some recommendations for some of the best wines on the Irish market this Christmas, at various price points:
Tesco Finest Premier Cru NV Champagne is wonderful. Intense aromas and well-balanced flavours of toasted brioche, lemon, butter and ripe apple. Fresh, rather than tart, and long-lasting creamy bubbles or mousse. It will beat many well-known champagnes, and at a super price of €35, Tesco.
Lagar de Costa Albariňho 2014 is a great example of a light-bodied wine, full of cachet and poise: grapefruit, pear, with definite briny stony quality in the background. Lovely mouthfeel and length. Was €19.99, now €16.99 in O’Brien’s.
Ch. Paul Mas ‘Belluguette’ 2013 is one of the most perfect matches for turkey I’ve tasted, at a super price. Expect all the charms of a white Burgundy, without the price tag: rich butter and toasted hazelnut flavours, tamed by minerality, and expressed in a round, opulent, well-balanced, lengthy finish. €20.95, Molloys.
Jean-Claude Boisset Macon Igé ‘Ch. London’ 2013 is exceptional – a breath-taking mingling of crisp buttery pastry, flintiness and baked apple, with superb rich texture and length of flavour. €27.99 from Clontarf Wines, Redmonds, Sweeneys, World Wide Wines.
Closerie des Alisiers Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014 is super-crisp, with the classic (but often missing) hallmark of a long minerally finish – bring on the oysters! €19.95, Whelehan’s Wines.
Domaine les Guignottes Montagny 1er Cru Les Resses 2014 is a gloriously rich, toasty and minerally white Burgundy with a long classy finish. Reduced from €24.99 to €20, Super Valu.
De Bortoli Estate-Grown Yarra Chardonnay 2013 has delicious creamy mouthfeel, combining mangetout with ripe lemon, melted butter and finely-tuned oak. €26.99 from Redmonds (Ranelagh), Wineonline.ie, On The Grapevine.
Hawke’s Bay ‘the Limeworks’ Chardonnay 2014 in Super Valu is worth seeking out. Richly-flavoured and lengthy. A perfect balance of cloves, toast and cashew nuts, tamed by crisp lemon and apple. Reduced from €17.99 to €15, Super Valu.
Vatan Arielle La Roncière Pinot Noir 2014 is a smashing Pinot at a great price. Lots of crunchy juicy redcurrants, lip-smackingly fresh and vibrant, with a gorgeous vein of minerality running through it. A steal at €14.95, Whelehan’s Wines.
Ch. Paul Mas Clos de Mûres is modelled on Châteauneuf-du-Pape in style, and has a real ‘wow’ factor. Glorious smoky, leathery aromas open up to a generous array of flavours (blackberry, light pepper, herbs, vanilla and sweet spice), with a long smooth finish. Perfectly balanced, and great value at €16.99, Molloys.
Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz 2012 is a must for New World fans – intense chocolate, blackcurrant, black cherry sweet spice and pepper, with hints of vanilla and toastiness. Medium tannins and a long fruit-filled finish. Excellent value at €17 in Super Valu, O’Brien’s.
Château Les Graves de Barrau Bordeaux 2014 stands out as one of the best value Bordeaux I’ve tried recently. This Merlot-driven blend is quite firm, but deliciously fruity, savoury and balanced – black fruits, with hints of tobacco and forest floor. It’s a steal at €12.95, Molloys.
Quarter Acre Syrah 2013 is a delicious New Zealand Syrah – distinctive peppery, earthy notes, with plenty of ripe bramble fruit, quite firm and long. €22 in Marks & Spencer.