I recently worked with Marks & Spencer to come up with a selection of wines from their range to give you some inspiration for Christmas. From fine wines to eclectic tipples, some of them are bargains, all are priced well. After all, we want more than one bottle to get us in the festive swing, so I like to buy great value wines as well as something special. I suggest some food too, and as we will all be overwhelmed with Christmas by the time it comes around, something a bit different from the usual festive fare in some cases. It goes without saying, but I had complete free range to do whatever I wanted here, and I was quite impressed with the options. Enjoy!
The Novice – For someone who’s just starting to appreciate wine
You like wine, but you don’t know too much about it (although I expect you probably know more than you think). You probably let others pick from the list when you are out for dinner, but you are hosting Christmas, and so you would like some lovely wine with it. For you, I recommend the Wine for Every Course (Mixed Case of 6) for £85. Here, Marks & Spencer have put in the leg work, and selected some excellent classic wines. I have also selected some individual bottles so that you could put together your own. Perfect for impressing all of those visiting Christmas relatives!
Starting with a bright champagne aperitif from Louis Chaurey (perfect with the treacle smoked salmon, bresaola and parma ham I have included with this); Pouilly Foumé from Mathilde de Fouvray, a dry elegant white from the Loire Valley. With hints of lemon, it is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, but it will challenge your perceptions on this grape if you are used to the bigger brand alternatives. An elegant rioja follows, full of ripe fruit flavour and a little spice, Maison du Tastelune Burgundy Pinot Noir offers a very smooth fruity and mellow wine. To finish, two sweets, a Sauternes from L’Or du Ciron to enjoy with dessert and a single harvest Royal Palace Colheita port from 2001, to sip by the fire after dinner. Sweet wine is very under rated. I love to finish my meal with one, sometimes choosing it over a dessert.
The Parents – Your parents or your spouse’s parents, this bottle shows you have a little decorum and distinction!
When I go home at Christmas, I like things to be simple and easy, but good, of course, and a little bit of a treat. For this selection, I moved up the wine list a little and chose more expensive characterful rich red wines, which we had with lovely dry aged steak (simply spiced with some Calabrian chilli and aromatic with sage). These wines are confident, warm and friendly, with a little spice, and they will keep everyone happy.
From the new world, the Californian Joseph Swan Zinfandel (£30), a bolshy full flavoured wine with some pepper and fruit, perfect with steak. Also the Hay Paddock Harvest Reserve Syrah from New Zealand (£20), another powerful red but not jammy and overly sweet, which you may think lots of new world syrahs (shiraz) are. Moving up the wine list, for a special meal at home is the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Le Vieux Gres (£39), with lots of food, spice and pepper. I think with wine matching we tend to overthink a little, the best wine to drink with your dinner is the one you have (or want to drink). But also, it helps to think of it almost as a sauce.
The Connoisseur – The person who has their own carafe!
Well, you are a connoisseur, so you don’t need me to tell you what to drink, but I feel that I need to point you in the direction of Marks & Spencer gold medal winning sparkling wines. Effortless Christmas fizz, for a fuzzy morning. You are welcome. I tried two, the first the Oudinet Cuvée Brut NV (at £25 a bottle, a great price for a good champagne).