Drinks columnist Aidy Smith pours out his best bottles for the big day
Cup of cheer: Christmas is a time for breaking out a bottle of something good
t’s nearly time for Christmas and the question on everyone’s (well, mine, at least) mind is, what on earth to drink with Christmas dinner?!
Whether the turkey, pigs in blankets or roast tatties are top of your list, these wines will work wonders as you pull your Christmas crackers and get tucked into the most exciting meal of the year. And given the recent Omicron-induced halt on proper celebrations, you may want to order an extra bottle (or six).
Dark Horse have been flying off the shelves this year, gaining a solid reputation as an easy drinking everyday wine and right now they’re arguably one of the most popular Californian wines in the country. If you’re a fan of white wines, their Chardonnay ticks all of the right boxes for a Christmas feast: the flavours here are all baked apple pie, fresh peaches and rich honey intertwined with a smooth creamy apricot and caramel, a perfect balance of fruit-forward and vanilla oak. It makes for an excellent foil to turkey. All you need now is some mistletoe.
BIB Wine ‘TR Wines Dry Furmint’
Remember when bag-in-box wine used to be cheap, overly-sweet German Riesling? Thank god that isn’t the case any more. Pioneering companies like BIB Wine are putting quality before quantity in an aim to help drinkers find new and exciting grape varieties. Take this dry Furmint from Hungary, which is bloody delicious. Pear tart, lemon mousse and a tangy acidity combine to create an electric sensation. A top pick for those who prefer to stick to the whites, this wine needs rich food — go mad with the gravy!
Produced from the Viura grape, Capellanía hails from a single vineyard situated right outside the Chateau Ygay winery in the heart of Rioja. Given they opened their doors in 1852, that also makes it one of the oldest wineries in the region, so you’ve got a little story to tell too. Texture is the main takeaway here: this is a white wine with the soul of a red. Aged for 15 months in French oak and another year in the bottle, expect a whopping mouthfeel as floral notes, dried apricot and honey swirl across your taste buds. One of my favourites.
Often when thinking of Argentina, drinkers think Malbec, but one of the best white wines on the planet hails from this country too. Grown at an elevation of 4500ft on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, this Chardonnay is packed full of flavour and is exceptionally moreish. A buttery richness meets baked pineapple with a kick of lemon curd, all binding together to create a seamless beauty. Honestly, I hope Santa puts this in my stocking this year. That is, if I’m off the naughty list...
Tempus Two have brought out a nice range of wines lately and their Quartz series is well worth exploring. Here’s a lovely little Aussie treat that’ll sit quite nicely next to your Christmas feast, with bonus points for the fact it won’t put a hole in your wallet. I’m particularly looking forward to having a nice dollop of bread sauce with this wonder: take a sip and you’ll be met with big bold fruits like blackberry, raspberry and plum. A gentle spice binds everything together with a kiss of tannin on the finish.
Château Beau Site Sainte Estephe 2014
Despite what some may think, Bordeaux is anything but boring. There’s so much going on in the region and this wine is yet another example of that. It’s also the perfect pairing for your Christmas dinner, given how versatile the wines are. Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, you’ll get a dollop of blackberry and vanilla cedar oak with a beautiful combination of cassis, spice, blackberry and a heavenly finish. Let’s just say it makes your bells jingle in all the right ways.
Australia is world famous for two red grape varieties: Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Penfolds decided to blend the two, and hence Bin 8 was born. Carefully crafted, you’re going to find lots of ripened red and black meadow fruits with soft oak, a light tannin spice and a smooth, long lasting finish. Perfect for those pigs in blankets.
Mt. Brave: Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
My love for wine was born in California, when I was 21. I’d often take weekend trips an hour north of San Francisco to discover the gems of Napa and Sonoma. Suffice to say I fell head over heels in love, and I’ve visited every year since to get my fill. Mount Veeder is one of the iconic regions within Napa Valley, famed for us big boisterous chocolate smothered fruits. This estate produces tiny yields, focusing much more on quality over quantity, which makes me love it even more. Incredibly complex, you’ll find violet, espresso, baking spices and blueberry on the nose. The palate is super ripe, think sticky black fruits with a sweet vanilla, tobacco and freshly dusted cocoa. For me, this is the kind of wine that creates memories, where you sit back and really appreciate life with each sip you take. Which is just what this time of year is about.
Aidy Smith is an award-winning drinks expert, writer, and presenter of The Three Drinkers TV Series on Amazon Prime. Follow him @Sypped