A toast to Christmas

For December, SO’s Drinks Editor James Viner picks his top ten of finest festive tipples to get the party started…


‘Tis the season to be jolly and celebrate with family and friends. And now’s the time to get your wine rack sorted with these ten festive favourites…

Rest assured, I’ve taken on the task of tasting hundreds of bottles and selected 10 exceptional wines that are full of character and flavour.

Whether you fancy a wallet-friendly sparkling wine for parties, a standout bottle for the jam-packed cheeseboard or something to drink with the big Christmas feast/Boxing Day buffet, the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. My hand-picked list of show-stopping wines has you covered.

The seasonal sips below are sure to help you get into the seasonal spirit and razzle-dazzle your guests. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  1. NV Castillo de Sierra Cava Brut, Spain (£6.00, Morrisons, 11.5%)

It’s not Christmas without a stream of well-chilled bubbly. Nab this fun, crisp, light-bodied, Spanish sparkling crowd-pleaser with lots of light citrus, peachy and herbal pep. Drier than prosecco, it’s an easy-quaffing, £6 option for a Kir royale (Sainsbury’s Crème De Cassis de Dijon, £8 with Nectar, 35cl, is a blackcurranty winner). Perfect to get the party going. Merry Thriftmas!


  1. 2022 Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir, Australia (£10, down from £15.99, Waitrose, 12.5%)

Nab this smart, appetising, generously discounted, red-fruited, pale, blush pink South Australian aperitif-style sparkling hit. It gives you a lot of bang for your buck and is good value even at the full price. A perfect celebratory foil for smoked salmon and turkey sandwiches.


  1. 2020 Asda Extra Special North Canterbury Pinot Noir, New Zealand (£10.25, Asda, 13.5%)

Low-tannin pinot is my top choice for turkey. Punching well above its weight, this energetic, bright, unoaked red from New Zealand’s South Island overflows with tangy red fruits and herbs. A wonderful addition to Asda’s expanded ‘Extra Special’ range.Fabulous served cool with roast turkey/pork/venison.


  1. 2023 Steve Bird Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand (£12.99 mix 6, Majestic, 14.5%)

Sensational gently perfumed, full-bodied, Kiwi pinot gris, with smoky richness, indications of spice, ripe orchard fruits and a dry, slightly waxy finish. An aromatic revelation with both Christmas dinner and Boxing Day leftovers, especially turkey and trimmings. Yes please.


  1. 2016 Chateau Beau-Site, St-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France (£23.50, Co-op, 13.5%)

Extremely respectable, well-melded, fragrant claret for current drinking. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. High-pedigree wine here from estimable Bordeaux shipper, Borie-Manoux. Leaves a lasting impression.


  1. 2020 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune, La Perrière, Domaine Denis Carré, Burgundy, France (£23.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, 12.5%)

Snap up this stylish, savoury, succulent, fragrant, red berry-stashed and slightly smoky 2020 red burgundy from a vineyard in the hills above the escarpment of the Côte d’Or, just above the prosperous village of Pommard. It’s a compelling medium-bodied, irresistibly silky, bargainous and downright delicious treat.


  1. NV Langham Estate Culver Classic Cuvée Brut, Dorset, England (£28.50, Lea & Sandeman, 12%)

Langham is one of just a few homegrown estates that can rival Champagne. Riveting from the word go, this vivid, rich and round sparkler has a creamy mousse and attractive aromas of toast, butter and red apple. A great way to start the festivities and toast His Majesty later in the day. Magnificently crafted. The hits keep coming from this Dorset winery.


  1. Graham’s 2012 Single Quinta dos Malvedos Port, Portugal (£30, Tesco, 20%)

If you plan on buying just one mature bottle for Christmas, this one should be your top pick. Single-Quinta ports are made from one farm and from a single year (when a true vintage port wasn’t produced). This textbook example is packed with pretty dark berry and rose petal characters. Ideal for walnuts and Stilton. Decant.


  1. 2005 Hacienda López de Haro Classica Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain (£36, The Wine Society, 14%)

Quite a find! Exquisitely balanced, developed Rioja from a high-altitude vineyard in San Vicente de la Sonsierra with mushroomy, earthy/tobacco aromas and medium tannins — oodles of interest and class per penny.


  1. NV Louis Roederer Collection 244 Champagne, France (£46.40-£54.99, Berry Bros & Rudd, Waitrose, 12.5%)

The fourth edition of this unimpeachable champagne house’s new numbered, non-vintage, multi-series – the number refers to the youngest vintage in the blend, 2019, which was Roederer’s 244th harvest. It’s the perfect aperitif to kick off your dinner party, especially when paired with canapés, like gougères, and seafood. Wonderful drinking – so expressive, moreish, creamy and persistent. The ultimate bottle to pop open when ringing in the new year. Usefully available in halves, too.



Don’t forget the independents when choosing your Christmas wine. Local quality indies like The Secret Cellar (TSC) stock many beautiful wines in the £15-£25 range that the supermarkets regard as too hard to sell. I recommend TSC’s zesty, citrusy whites (think Loire chenin blanc, Marlborough/Sancerre sauvignon blanc) for smoked salmon – hello Greywacke savvy b from ex-Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd (£23.50, TSC)!


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