As families come together over Christmas lunch, a flight of wine and champagne that chimes with a traditional turkey feast is a successful recipe to capture the holiday spirit.
Glass in hand, a champagne breakfast is a ritual in my house, and a marvellous way to herald family and friends to the festive table.
To awaken the senses, celebrate the day with a Buck’s Fizz. For a Spanish cava, the natural choice with freshly squeezed orange juice, try Extra Special Vintage Cava 2009 (£9.98, Asda). A vintage sparkler, it’s fruity with a whisper of pineapple, a clean finish, and equally delicious on its own with eggs benedict.
And why not try serving an English fizz with nibbles and hors d’oeuvres? English wines have enjoyed a record year in sales, and Surrey-based Denbies has a real cracker with its Taste the Difference English Sparkling Brut 2007 (£19.99, Sainsbury’s). A classic champagne blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, it is elegant with fine beads of bubbles, a citrus creaminess and biscuity notes on the fresh finish.
For the main event and to complement smoked salmon and brown bread, a sauvignon blanc such as Extra Special Pouilly Fume 2010, France (£9, Asda) really comes into its own. Very fresh with attractive gooseberry fruit and good acidity, it balances the saltiness of the fish and gets better with every sip.
Alternatively, for a trusty serve that comes highly recommended, and a perfect match with seafood tartares and white meat, try Chateau Bauduc Bordeaux Blanc 2009, France (£8.95, www.fromvineyardsdirect.com). It is the house white in Gordon Ramsay’s three-star restaurants, and also graces the wine list in Rick Stein’s eateries. A blend of sauvignon and semillon, it is dry and crisp with good concentration of fruit and the semillon lends weight to the wine.
For purists, Christmas would not be Christmas without a seasonal selection of reds. Reds that will not be overwhelmed by the food include those from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhone.
Grenache dominant, they are weighty with good concentration and depth of flavour, and can cope with a plate piled high with chipolata sausages, Brussels sprouts, sweet and sharp sauces .
Flagship producer Caves d’Ogier has a good entry-level wine for “the day of tucking in” that offers discerning drinkers incredible value. Try Ogier AOC Lirac Reserve Red 2010, France (£8.99, Co-op). From the same winemaker, but with the price tag normally associated with bottles embossed with a papal crown and crossed keys, try Berrys’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Caves d’Ogier, France (£19.95, www.bbr.com).
New World wines are also a great match for a big bird or goose, and cabernet sauvignon complements an eclectic spread of sauces and stuffings.
A Decanter regional winner, try Vinalba Patagonia Cabernet Merlot 2009, Argentina (£6.99 from £8.99, until Jan 3, Co-op). Cabernet sauvignon dominant, it is an inky black charmer with a forest floor of rich, dark fruit, a hint of cedar wood and gentle tannins on the lingering finish.
For a taste of success from Neil McGuigan, newly-crowned International Winemaker of the Year, try his McGuigan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (£6.99, Tesco) from the classic range.