At The Wine Society, it’s safe to say we know a thing or two about which wines hit the spot at parties – and which ones don’t. Allow us to supply a blueprint for all your festive moments, from a humble glass that hits the spot when feet finally go up, to a worthy toast for the New Year. Or, if you’re pressed for time, scroll to the bottom for a checklist including every bottle and wine style you’ll need this Christmas.
For unexpected guests
There’s something so wonderfully festive about a casual drop-in – less so if you’re caught underprepared. Our solution: keep a bottle of rosé handy in your fridge. It’s a style of wine that most can’t get their heads around drinking outside of summer, but it’s perfect to enjoy any time of the year. Choose one that isn’t bone-dry (start with code 2 on our dry-to-sweet scale) with plenty of red fruit that can cope with most hastily thrown-together meals.
Top tip: to complement your last-minute rosé, stock your fridge with packets of inexpensive cured ham, and a few bunches of spring onions. Trim the onions’ roots and wrap a slice of ham tightly around each one. Season with oil and pepper and roast for ten minutes in a hot oven. Just the thing for a fridge-raid appetiser.
For new friends
Classic etiquette states that you shouldn’t bring a bottle of wine to a new friend’s house. Why? Because you don’t know what wine they like. But what if they’re coming to your place? For a catch-all solution, our mixed cases are sure to hit any mark. With a combination of red, white, rosé and sparkling, there’s sure to be something in a mixed wine case to please every palate.
Top tip: on the kind of day when the food needs to be cooking itself, try our Christmas Eve pork, a hands-free beauty you can slip quickly into the oven and leave for 3-4 hours to fill the house with aromas. One for a Saumur white, off-dry German or Kiwi riesling or a Beaujolais.
For the party
You know the drill for wowing a crowd: cuddly sparklers, wines that are neither off-puttingly sweet nor searingly dry, with modest levels of alcohol. You’ll need a multitasking wine that doesn’t only please on its own, but also copes with a variety of nibbles. White wines from Alsace and the Rhône are our go-tos, along with lighter Loire reds and berried Austrian red wines.
Remember, our Wine Specialists Team in Member Services are always on hand to give advice on finding the perfect party wines, quantities to serve and any wine-related questions you may have.
Find out more about our Wine Specialists Team here, including their current recommendations and how to get in touch with them.
Top tip: it’s also worth repeating that perhaps our best, and cheapest crowd-pleaser of all time is The Society’s Côtes de Gascogne, a grapey and affordable delight, as upstanding with spicy samosas as with fishy vol-au-vents.
For keeping things fresh
Whether you’re the type of wine lover who is perfectly satisfied with a couple of glasses a week during the Christmas period, or you want a brilliant-value way to entertain dozens, a Bag-in-Box is an elegant solution. We’ve been expanding our high-end bag-in-box selection because of its popularity with both party hosts and casual midweek wine drinkers. It features the delicious Society wines you’re familiar with, including The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie and The Society's Grüner Veltliner. Each unit contains the equivalent of three bottles of wine and takes up considerably less space in the fridge.
What’s more, the wines stay fresh for up to six weeks once first opened, so you can savour a single glass per night well into the New Year.
For the big day
With so much work having gone into the day itself, it’s time to embrace the occasion with great bottles, and we don’t just mean in terms of the best quality: there is a selection of magnums for every main course imaginable.
To select the perfect bottle, our best advice on selection is that, unless you are maxing out on provocative ingredients like chilli, in which case be guided by those, traditional Christmas fare is pretty forgiving, so invest in generous supplies of what you love to drink rather than dwelling overmuch on the perfect match.
Top tip: what grows together goes together, and festive fare is seasonal British food at its finest. Why not try a fragrant English bacchus that will do the honours with the fish course? For a red that can handle everything on the day, from surly sprouts to warring relatives, look across the pond to California.
For smaller gatherings
For maximum variety during the joys of a small, intimate Christmas, have a flourish of half bottles ready and waiting. All measuring at 37.5cl, our dedicated half-bottles page is bursting with small treasures, ensuring that doing things by halves merely means intake, not drinking pleasure. Our shopping list would be a premium Champagne, an ethereal sherry, a good, foodie white, a fine claret, a cru Beaujolais and a Rhône.
Top tip: pudding wines are where half-bottles shine particularly brightly. Try Sauternes with a super-fresh salad of peeled mandarin segments and Medjool dates, dressed with honey and pomegranate seeds.
For meat-free moments
Even unrepentant carnivores are inspired by creative chefs who have found new and exotic ways to elevate the humble spud or cauliflower. Rarely have there been so many vivid wines to match them. Try intense tomato tarts with sweeter Loire wines like Coteaux du Layon and roasted beets with cool, German pinot noir. Or, try a gratin of roots with a potent Alsace gewürztraminer.
Top tip: save your aubergines, sweet potatoes and other leftover chunky veg. Gently stew them in an aromatic sauce of lemongrass, ginger, chilli, lime and coconut and serve with an old-school barrel-kissed chardonnay. It will bring a whole new meaning to Boxing Day curry.
Surely the best part of Christmas: with most of the hard work done, it’s time to tuck into the leftovers. Herbs, spices and other flights of fancy are essential to maintain interest, so be sure you have the bottles to match. And we’ve already mentioned sweeter Loire chenin blanc as a banker for Indian and Middle Eastern spices.
Top tip: Douro whites and reds, even the posh ones, can take a fair amount of peri-peri. A lush grenache-rich Rhône red makes short work of vegetable roulades and fried Christmas pud with a liqueur muscat is sublime.
For seeing in the New Year
Time to close this chapter and look forward to the New Year ahead. Some of us like to celebrate en masse with a good Cava or Prosecco on tap. Others are happy to enjoy fireworks from a distance alongside sips of a top Champagne. The common factor is fizz and we have one for all contingencies. If you are a generous host with a coach party to please, this is surely the time for a jeroboam of The Society’s very own Champagne.
Top tips: Choice midnight snacks are shards of aged Parmesan cheese with a premium Prosecco, chunky slices of jamón with Cava, or light-as-air Gruyère gougères with the best Champagne or English sparkling wine.
For the drinks trolley
One thing you don’t want to run out of is a cockle-warming dram, favourite gin or mellow brandy – and don’t forget those cocktails. You’ll find a bumper tribute to the spirit of Christmas in our spirits range.
Top tip: for an especially seasonal spirit, infuse a bottle of The Society’s Vodka with grated ginger root, powdered ginger, and chopped stem ginger along with some of its syrup. Add some cloves or star anise if you like a spicy cocktail, or brown sugar if you like it sweet. Leave in a cool place for a couple of weeks giving it a good daily shake. Strain and serve on ice with ginger ale and a dash of lime juice. Drink alongside smoked-salmon blinis crowned with lumpfish roe or caviar.
Christmas party winesShop all party bottles
A Christmas shopping list
By way of a quick digest, here’s a checklist to help you prime your wine rack of grapes, styles and regions that can be trusted to tick every Christmas box:
- A Manzanilla and fino sherry: unbeatable for those occasions, like New Year’s Eve, when you may want to save the fizz for later.
- A cool, palate-reviving white such as grüner veltliner, verdant sauvignon blanc for jaded, post-festive palates.
- A sumptuous white for lush butter or cream sauces: chardonnay and semillon with a touch of oak influence, or perhaps viognier.
- A versatile off-dry white for salty, spicy and smoked dishes. Riesling, gewurztraminer and Loire chenin blanc score highly. Aim for code 3 in our dry-to-sweet scale.
- An all-rounder white or red that will go with absolutely everything within reason. For the white, grab a South African white blend, and for the latter, anything from Portugal, notably the Douro.
- An easy-going red for gentle lunches and feathered game. Loire cabernet franc, gamay, pinot noir and zweigelt all work.
- A juicy, fruity easy Italian red for those soothing and easy pasta suppers between formal feasts. Dolcetto and barbera are obvious contenders.
- A big, rich, full-bodied red for spicy stews, furred game and earthy veggies – we’re thinking zinfandel, malbec, shiraz, grenache and Greece’s upstanding xinomavro.
- Rioja, whether crianza, reserva or even gran reserva. The perfect combination of elegance and comfort, especially if lamb is on the menu.
- A botrytis-affected sweet wine for creamy pâtisserie, soft and blue cheeses and rich pâté. Head for Sauternes, Monbazillac, the Loire, Germany, Alsace, south-western France, the southern hemisphere – you’ll be spoiled for choice with our range.
- Muscat. Whether it’s light-as-air Moscato d’Asti for a tropical fruit salad, or liqueur-grade for puddings, this is the Christmas grape par excellence.
- Madeira, ideally Malmsey or Bual. Christmas is unthinkable without it. Think mince pies for elevenses, Christmas cake at teatime, figgy pudding after dinner and an upstanding British cheeseboard at any other time. You’d better get two: over Christmas, 50cl doesn’t go far!