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The Wine Lover’s Guide to Christmas

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Christmas WinesFinding the perfect wines to accompany your Christmas feast, by Matt Whishaw at The Island Wine Company.

At Christmas many of us splash out on drinks which we tend not to buy during the rest of the year. Spice up your Christmas celebrations with my seasonal recommendations.

Fizz:  Prosecco is all the rage at the moment, and great in the summer, but for winter I prefer a good Spanish Cava. With crisp apple fruit and the toasty complexity which comes from extended bottle ageing, it is perfect for Christmas entertaining. My favourite is Sumarroca Cava Reserva. If you want a real treat on Christmas morning, then it must be Champagne, and Ayala Brut Majeur is perfect. This historic house is owned by Bollinger and has a wonderful balance of vibrant fruit and nutty richness.

Christmas Day whites:  Assuming you are serving the traditional Christmas turkey, the much maligned Chardonnay should make an appearance. You need a rich white to balance the strong flavours of the stuffing, chipolatas and bread sauce. In Chardonnay’s spiritual home of Burgundy I find that lesser known villages offer the best value and I will be serving a Rully from Domaine Chanson this year, but for a budget alternative try an oaked Chardonnay from Chile such as Indomita’s Nostros Gran Reserva.  If you are serving goose or duck then a rich Pinot Gris would be perfect, whether from Alsace or New Zealand.

Christmas Day reds:  With any poultry, a succulent Pinot Noir comes into its own.  Main Divide from New Zealand is the most impressive I have tasted recently. A Reserva Rioja or supple and warming Rhône red would also hit the spot. Many people serve a classic Bordeaux at Christmas. While the golden rule is that you should always drink the wines that you are going to enjoy, I would be more likely to open the claret if I was cooking beef, in which case I would reach for a bottle of Montagne Saint-Emilion Château Treytins 2008 which is drinking beautifully at the moment.

With the pudding:  There are two approaches to matching a wine with Christmas pudding. A fresher dessert wine with plenty of citrus fruit can cut through the richness, or if you want a more luxurious approach, something really dark and sticky such as a Pedro Ximenez or a Madeira can work well, particularly if you cannot resist the brandy butter. Our seasonal favourite is The Glotonia Pedro Ximenez which even smells like Christmas pudding in a glass!

To follow:  If you have room for anything to follow, it might be time for a Port. I love Tawny Ports, which can be served slightly chilled and would complement the Christmas cake as well as being the best all-rounder for the cheese board. Try Taylors 10 year old Tawny for a real treat to conclude your Christmas festivities. Cheers!

Many of the wines mentioned above will be available to taste at The Island Wine Company’s pre-Christmas tastings. See website for details