When it comes to Christmas, our Wine Specialists have the answers. How do I choose wines for my Christmas dinner? What about wines under £10 for large gatherings? What if my guests don’t want to drink at all? With their help, we’ve compiled our members’ most frequently asked festive questions, providing definitive answers – as well as some wine recommendations.
What wines should I get for my family Christmas dinner?
Kate Evans: ‘We often explain that Christmas dinner wines aren’t about pairing with meat. You’re likely to have a smorgasbord of dishes and flavour profiles on your table, from pigs in blankets to cranberry sauce, so you’ll need a good gastronomic wine that pairs well with a lot of foods. We’d suggest a slightly off-dry white – the sweetness works well with the fattiness of goose, such as an Alsace white like a pinot gris. Prophet's Rock Central Otago Pinot Gris 2021 is a particular favourite – you’re really getting what you pay for.’
Paul Riddett: ‘We’d recommend white Rhône, The Society’s Vin d’Alsace, or a gewurztraminer in terms of whites, and zweigelt, Beaujolais, and Valpolicella. The wax-sealed Natte Valleij Cinsault, Stellenbosch 2021, is also a refreshing choice. Above all, they need to be crowd-pleasers – it's not just about what you like – it’s what your guests will like, too! Our Exhibition range is a go-to for exemplary wines. We source this range directly from the producers themselves, meaning we get the best value from them. And, since prices are being held until the end of the year, this is a great option for stocking up.’
What wine should I get if I’m looking to impress?
Dave Walsh: ‘When it comes to pushing the boat out, presentation is key. Even a label can be the deciding factor as to whether someone likes a wine. For this reason, magnums and bigger-format bottles are a growing trend for the festive season. They offer something different and provide a bit of theatre for the dinner table: Rustenberg Chardonnay really impresses us.
‘Classic wines are also a sure-fire way to impress, like the embossed bottles of the Rhône and, of course, red and white Burgundy. Fine wines from the southern hemisphere are also becoming increasingly popular with members thanks to this year’s brilliant Australia and South Africa tastings. Plus, if you’re being costed out of fine chardonnay and pinot, it’s a place to find bang for your buck.’
What wines should I get if I’m hosting a large gathering?
Dave: ‘This year, more than ever, we know our members are going to be looking for wines that provide excellent value, wines that overdeliver. So, when you call, you can tell us your budget and we’ll find the wines you’ll need for a large gathering.
Kate: ‘If a member is looking to entertain a crowd at Christmas, we usually recommend they look at our mixed cases. Obviously, our Exhibition cases offer real value for money thanks to our direct relationships with our producers, and the Christmas Wrapped Up case has everything you could possibly need – from red, white and sparkling to spirits and fortified wines. Many members will want to stock up from Christmas and into the New Year, so mixed cases are a good option.’
What wine should I buy as a gift?
Dave: ‘This will differ from person to person. We know our members take great pride in the wines they offer as gifts, so it’s important to get it right. Our lines are always open for members who need advice on gifting to their loved ones, no matter your budget or their taste. We can even see what you bought for your friends in previous years, and offer suggestions on what they might enjoy next!’
Allan Sharman: ‘For a gift that’s sure to impress, try The Society's Claret & White Burgundy case – a duo of wines from the two most iconic French regions. We also recommend Smoked Salmon and Mâcon for the savoury lovers, or The Society’s Fizz and Chocolates for those with a sweet tooth. I also think that sometimes our members forget we also offer beer and cider!’
What should I buy if I’m not drinking or trying to drink less?
Paul: ‘There are always people who are going to be driving at Christmas, and there’s also several of us who are trying to drink more mindfully. Gratien and Meyer Festillant Sparkling Sans Alcool is a brilliant option, but make sure it’s nicely chilled before serving. You could also mix it into orange juice to create a Buck's fizz.’
What about if I want to avoid sulphites in my wine?
Kate: ‘We get a lot of questions about sulphur and natural wines. The question of sulphur is a very interesting one. Sulphites can occur naturally during fermentation but are naturally of very low volume – because of this, it's very difficult to produce wine (especially white and rosé) without the use of sulphites and maintain fresh flavours and aromas.
‘Reds are generally more robust, but even so, any wines made without added sulphites do have to be handled with care. Labelling laws mean that if more than 10 mg/l of sulphites are used, then the back label must state “Contains Sulphites”. However, this doesn’t clarify the exact quantity. Producers do not need to declare the exact amount of sulphur used, and the vast majority do not do so (it can also be very difficult to determine).’
We hope this article has provided some insight into what wines you should look into for Christmas. If you want to discuss your choices further or ask for some advice, contact our Wine Specialist team directly here.