Festive wine guide – are you feeling traditional or adventurous?

Whether you love the classics or yearn for different flavours when it comes to wine, expert Susy Atkins has tested hundreds of bottles to find cracking options for both. See her ‘either or’ choices for five wine types, ranging from celebratory fizzes to dessert wines.

She’s also found a brilliant softie (a great match for our clementine and ricotta cake), and offers tips for serving your drinks in style.

Festive wine guide – are you feeling traditional or adventurous?

1. Start with a celebration fizz

Go trad
Taste the Difference Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne NV, France 12%
A star among own-label champagnes, this is vivacious with citrus and raspberry streaks (it’s not a rosé but is made from red grapes). It could take on light canapés. Available from Sainsbury’s (£23.50 (£20 until 12 Dec).

Be adventurous
Bird in Hand Sparkling 2022, South Australia 12.5%
This pale pink bubbly is made in the same method as champagne. Fresh strawberries and rich layers of cream jump from the glass with plenty of bubbles. Available from Waitrose (£15.99 (£10 from 29 Nov to 1 Jan)).

Bird in Hand

2. Light white (great with seafood)

Go trad
The Best South African Sauvignon Blanc 2023, Coastal Region, South Africa 12.5%
Sauv blanc from the Cape is often great value. Here’s a young and zesty one, bursting with notes of grapefruit, satsuma and subtle green bell pepper. Available from Morrisons (£8.50 (£7.50 until 3 Jan).


Be adventurous
Domaine Philippe et Sylvain Ravier Altesse 2021, Savoie, France 12.5%
Altesse (or roussette) is mainly grown in the Alpine Savoie region. Here it delivers apple, apricot and honey with a dry finish. A beautifully crafted wine that’s a treat with seafood. Available from Jeroboams (£17.50).


3. Richer white for the turkey

Go trad
M&S Collection Chablis 2021, Burgundy, France 12.5%
Nicely rounded, complex chablis that reminds me of baked yellow apples and mirabelle plums. Would go with the turkey brilliantly as well as richer fish dishes like fish pie. Available from Marks & Spencer (£15)


Be adventurous
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2021, California, USA 12.4%
A quirky blend of vermentino and grenache blanc made on America’s West Coast. Think lime, kumquats, angelica and almonds – a fascinating white to match with chicken, turkey or nut roasts. Available from Tesco (£17).

Bonny Doon

4. Red for the main course

Go trad
Château Pesquié Edition 1912 2020, Ventoux, Rhône 14.5%
An easy-going Rhône red, lively with ripe strawberries. Mainly grenache with some syrah, it’s smooth enough to marry with turkey, beef or mushroom dishes. Available from Majestic (£12.99 (or £10.99 as part of a mixed six)).


Be adventurous
Thymiopoulos Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes 2021, Macedonia, Greece 13%
Greek reds, especially from the xinomavro grape, have swung into fashion lately; here’s a fine example with blackcurrants, plum and violets. Try with charcuterie too. Available from The Wine Society (£13.50).

Red wine

5. The after dinner drink

Go trad
Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port 2017, Douro, Portugal 19.5%
Very mellow with wood-spice, damsons and sloe berries, and rounded on the finish. It’s unfiltered, so decant to serve, keeping back any sediment. Fabulous with stilton. Available from Waitrose (£24.49).


Be adventurous
M&S Collection Millionaire’s Flavour Irish Cream Liqueur 17%
A new, utterly indulgent take on cream liqueur with added Belgian chocolate. It’s velvet-smooth and vanilla-tinged – sip it slowly over ice or pour it over ice cream. Available from Ocado (£12 for 50cl).

Irish cream

Botivo Non-Alcoholic Aperitif, Hertfordshire, England

One of the best no-alc grown-up drinks around – made with apple cider vinegar, herbs, wormwood and honey, it’s aromatic with intense but balanced bitterness and sweetness. Top up a small splash with cold soda water or alc-free fizz and sling in a citrus slice. Available from The Whisky Exchange (£24.95).


Dessert wine
Finest Sauternes 2018, Bordeaux, France 13.5%
A little bottle of bliss bursting with fresh pineapple and orange marmalade flavours, luscious and rich. Chill it, then pour small glassfuls to go with the clementine, cardamom and ricotta cake. Available from Tesco (£13.50 for 37.5cl)


Serve it well – Susy’s how-to advice

  • Make sure chilled wines stay that way – use ice buckets, sleeve coolers, stick them outside the back door – anything to keep whites, pinks, fizz and golden dessert wines refreshingly cool.
  • Don’t serve reds too warm. Keep bottles well away from radiators, hot ovens and fires. A short spell in the fridge emphasises the tangy fruit of lighter reds such as beaujolais or pinot noir.
  • Pour fortified wines – ports, sherries and madeira – and liqueurs in small amounts (75ml) as their flavours are intense. Use ordinary white wine glasses though, not stingy schooners.
  • There are gorgeously diverse and eclectic champagne glasses around nowadays but if you want fine sparklers to stay fizzy for longer, use tall flutes with slim bowls. Wider bowls mean a greater surface area for the bubbles to dissipate.
  • Decant full-bodied reds and ports to open up their aromas and soften their tannins. If you don’t have a decanter, a big glass jug will do.
  • This is THE time of year to bring out any wine accessories you have – fancy corkscrews, bottle coasters, cut-glass decanters… Go for it!

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