Mastering Christmas

Mastering Christmas
Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW.

Festive. What does that word mean to you? For some, it elicits a buzz of intense excitement. For others, it sends a chill down the spine – the thought of hosting all those relatives, and all that washing up… The majority will be somewhere in between – or both at the same time. And that includes us. So here’s what we do to navigate the season. We raise a glass. It’s a good time to be kind to ourselves – especially after the year we’ve all had. That treat you’ve been coveting? Now’s your chance. And, in these pages, we have plenty of inspiration.

We’ve tasted hundreds of wines to come up with this spectacular line-up. Life is too short for tired classics at Christmas. Better to have one startling glass than two bland bottles. All these wines will surprise and delight – some may challenge, but we make no apologies for that. Right now, we deserve wine that counts.

We’re recommending wines by occasion. But here are a couple of options to have open over the whole festive period – to keep you sane, to entertain unexpected guests, to quench a thirst. First up, two wines that you can’t go wrong with: the classic, characterful Isabelle & Denis Pommier, Haute?rivien Petit-Chablis, Burgundy 2020 (£22.50 Lea & Sandeman); and the superb value, lip-smackingly dry Berry Bros & Rudd, Amontillado Sherry (£14.95).

Turning to red wines, the juicy, meaty, peppery bag-in-box Michael Opitz, Buddy Talk Burgenland Red, Austria 2019 (£42.80/2.25L BIB Wine Co) should last you a fair while. And always have a bottle tucked away of the best value sweet wine in Britain: Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon, New South Wales, Australia 2017 (£6.25/37.5cl). Because you never know when you’ll be ambushed by a rogue mince pie.


Credit: Cath Lowe Photography

As a self-employed couple, our office Christmas party is hardly the most raucous affair (even the photocopier declines the invitation). But there are always gatherings of varying kinds to plan for around this time, whether large or small. The one thing that applies to all of them? Good wine can be a lifeline.

Let’s cut straight to the chase with a delicious bottle of Booths Champagne Brut Rose? NV (£27.50 in stores). It looks the part and makes a great impression, be it your boss or picky neighbour. It also works beautifully with savoury canape?s.

For bigger gatherings, the Castellore, Organic Prosecco Extra Dry NV (£7.99 Aldi) is ideal. It’s great value and ridiculously quaffable – not too cloying, just fragrant, floral and refreshing. Ideal for the younger crowd, too, with its easygoing style and lower (11%) alcohol.

Though we struggle to empathise, we’re aware there are some non-fizz drinkers out there. Never fear. We have the ideal party white – Berry Bros & Rudd, White Burgundy by Collovray & Terrier 2020 (£14.95). Yes it’s own-label but it’s a rare one that looks smart – so deploy it at everything from a big knees-up to a dinner party. Its elegant, creamy, appley style will impress even wine snobs.

Finally, we should address the elephant in this particular party venue: mulled wine. If you’re a fan – carry on mulling. You can use a bottle of the absolute bargain that is Pagos del Rey’s El Aviador Tempranillo 2021 (£6.99 Majestic) from Castilla y Leo?n. But then again its bright red fruits make it brilliantly easy-drinking in its own right, Spain being such a good source of engaging value reds. No mulling necessary here.

Christmas morning

Credit: Cath Lowe Photography

We’ve never been big on Christmas morning drinking. It’s hard enough, blurry-eyed, not tripping over the kids – even pouring the tea successfully into the mug can prove challenging. Or maybe it’s our desire to build anticipation for that lunchtime aperitif.

Nevertheless, we salute those of you who do embrace the celebratory atmosphere right from the off, and we have some glorious suggestions for you.

For those who want to ease into…

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Mastering Christmas  
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