First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 9th December, 2017
Some are sedate, refined affairs with polite conversation. Others are huge, loud, clan gatherings, semi-organised chaos with a horde of noisy children and even noisier adults. If your Christmas dinner falls into the latter category, then it is quite likely that your wine selection will be based on quantity rather than quality. This is not the best time to roll out that expensive bottle you squirrelled away for a special occasion. If you do open it, chances are that cousin Ronan down the other end of the table will knock most of it back while you are carving the turkey or finishing off the sprouts.
However, this does not mean buying caseloads of the cheapest possible wine. Spend €1 or €2 more and your guests will notice the difference, and thank you for it. There are plenty of very drinkable wines at anything from €8-€15. Today I’m doing a round-up of the multiples. I generally go for a bottle of fizz to gets things going (with nibbles to provide soakage) followed by a medium-bodied white and red wine. Remember to provide interesting adult soft drinks for those who don’t drink alcohol.
To start off, Prosecco is hugely popular and unlikely to offend. I have featured the SuperValu Grifón (€9) before, or alternatively the Aldi Cremant de Jura is an outstanding bargain for €11.99. I would also recommend their beautifully packaged rich Astelia Chardonnay (€10.99) and either the smooth, elegant Rioja Reserva (€10.99) or the uber-ripe, hearty Exquisite South Australian Shiraz (€8.79). SuperValu have a very attractive offer of a six-bottle case containing two organic Spanish red wines, both of which would go very well with turkey, for €40.
Tesco’s Finest Prosecco Valdobiadenne (€17.99) may stretch the budget but is worth the premium, while its Picpoul de Pinet (€12) will make a nice change to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. For a budget red, it is hard to look further than their Finest Limestone Coast Shiraz, mentioned here before but a bargain for €9.
From O’Briens the ever -popular Protocolo (€9.95) is hard to resist, but I was bowled over by the Garnacha featured below. For white wines the new Duffour Côtes de Gascogne (€9.99) is great value, or the Yalumba Organic Viognier (€13.95) will go nicely with starter and main course. For sparkling wine, the Rizzardi Prosecco Frizzante for €12.50 will certainly get the party started.
Shoppers at Dunnes Stores should head for the Viognier below, and for red wine, to the fruit-filled El Circulo Rioja Crianza(€10.50) or the warming, spicy Visan La Souco (€11.50). Spar, Eurospar and Londis all have the smart, richly textured, buttery Couveys Chardonnay (€10.99) and soft, ripe Eugenio Bustos Malbec below from Argentina.
Tesco Finest Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV
Frothy ripe pear fruits, balanced very nicely by crisp lemon zest. Great on its own, with nibbles, or even alongside fishy starters.
Laurent Miquel Solas Viognier 2016
A very seductive wine bursting with exotic fruits, luscious peaches and subtle toasted almonds. This would go down a treat with lightly spicy prawns and other shellfish, as well as turkey.
Stockists: Dunnes Stores
Eugenio Bustos Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina
A lighter, juicier style of Malbec with ripe plum and loganberry fruits overlaid with vanilla and spice. With turkey, ham and spiced beef.
Stockists: Eurospar, Spar, Mace & Londis.
Tandem Inmune Garnacha 2015, Velle de Yeri, Navarra
A very moreish ripe bouncy red wine with herby aromas and vivid, pure black fruits. A real crowd-pleaser to drink alongside turkey and ham.