Christmas is the time of year when the fridge is full of food, no-one is on a diet and we all have enough time to settle around a table and enjoy company, good food and a glass of wine. So, as well as planning for the big meal on Christmas Day, think about inviting a few friends round for brunch, a plate of cheese, or a bring-your-own-leftovers supper during the long break.
Over the next two weeks, the biggest and most powerful flavours of the year will be on your plate so be prepared with a selection of reds to combine with the classic turkey and trimmings or just a simple supper. Here's my choice of the best wines to have in store for a merry Christmas, with flavour for money firmly in mind.
Drink these on their own, but take them to the table too, they are quaffable, versatile, and above all, great value.
Best Buy – Les Crouzes Old Vine Carignan 2009, France, Co-op down from 5.19 to 4.19 until January 4.
Carignan is often blended away with Syrah and Grenache, but here it sings out with super red and black currant fruit with a hint of chocolate on the finish. A great supper-time wine.
Gerard Bertrand Winemaker Selection Black Grenache 2009, Tesco 4.79
If the itinerant students have decided to grace you with their presence this season, then buy in a load of this wine. It is gutsy and full of terrific spice-edged, plummy fruit to go down well with everything from a late-night pizza to a pasta supper.
Doa Dominga Reserva Carmenre Shiraz 2009, Chile, Waitrose 6.99
Clever, small-scale winemaking has given this wine the kind of deep-bramble and cherry fruit that you might expect from Chile, but there is a layer of sophistication too with structure and balance. Terrific value.
Vialta Malbec 2010, Argentina, Marks and Spencer 6.99
These grapes grow at fairly high altitude in the clear, unpolluted sunshine of Mendoza. The result is a dark, intense wine, full of blackcurrant and plummy fruit, with silky-smooth tannins ending with a hint of freshness making it perfect to pour alongside roast meats.
Trading Up – Miss Molly Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008, South Africa, Harrogate Fine Wine 7.99
Named after the winemaker's dog, Miss Molly is an easy-going wine with deep, lush fruit and smooth, supple tannins.
Light and fruity
Versatile and simply delicious with whatever you put alongside them, these wines are a welcome relief from the heavy flavours of the season.
Best Buy – Hospices de Beaujeu 2009, Beaujolais-Villages, France, Waitrose down from 7.99 to 5.99 until January 4
Beaujolais has totally transformed itself since the bad old days of Nouveau, especially with the fabulous 2009 vintage which is full of juicy, raspberry fruit. This is light, clean, refreshing and has a streak of complexity that shows its quality. Clear your palate with this on Boxing Day – whatever is on your plate.
La Vieille Ferme 2009, Ctes du Ventoux, France, Majestic 5.99 on multibuy
Chock full of easy-drinking, sunshine-drenched juicy fruit with a touch of spice for interest, but not enough to impinge on its straightforward friendly style. A quaffing wine for informal suppers.
Blason de Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009, France, Tesco 6.99
Good French Pinot is difficult to find, but this co-operative from Buxy captures the soft sweet fruit of Burgundian Pinot, with sweet strawberry fruit and a light, classic structure. Good with roast chicken, or a cold turkey sandwich on Boxing Day.
Choccochino Shiraz 2008, South Africa, 7.99
A ground-breaking wine which relies on the clever use of oak to develop coffee-notes among the spicy Shiraz flavours. Try it with spicy sausages or cheese.
Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets 2006, P. Jaboulet, Majestic, down from 13.99 to 9.99 on multibuy until January 31
Soft, supple fruit with a touch of savoury meatiness and light peppery notes on the finish make this wine a good one to choose for all the family. Not too heavy, it will go with roast turkey, beef or pork.
La Motte Shiraz 2008, South Africa, Tesco 9.99
From one of the Cape's most elegant estates, this is a bargain for its layers of pepper, cinnamon and clove dusted over deep blackcurrant and plum fruit.
Trading Up. Henschke Henry's Seven Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvdre/Viognier 2007, Barossa, Australia, Waitrose 18.99
Really excellent quality from Stephen Henschke who makes some of Australia's top wines. Deep and concentrated with spice-sprinkled plummy fruit and a long, elegant, structured finish. Drink this with turkey, but only if you have all the trimmings. It needs powerful flavours on your fork.
Big enough for the main event, but won't be overpowered by a Boxing Day supper.
Best Buy. Piccini Chianti Riserva 2007, Italy, Morrisons, down from 9.99 to 4.99 until tomorrow
Warm red cherry fruit flavours with a touch of leathery complexity puts this among one of the real bargains this Christmas. Snap it up, if the shelves are not already cleared.
Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Marks and Spencer 9.49
Western Australian reds have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Try this for its purity of blackcurrant
fruit with a light herbal note and
Ara Pinot Noir Marlborough 2008, New Zealand, Co-op, down from 14.99 to 9.99 until January 4
A rounded, luscious Pinot with redcurrant and cherry fruit balanced by warm savoury oak and a long finish.
Trading up. Rioja Reserva 2006, Muga, Spain, Majestic down from 16.99 to 12.99 on multibuy until January 31
Traditional ion style with silky strawberry-edged fruit and soft, creamy vanilla notes. Perfect with lamb.
Inside every wine lover's mind is the thought that Christmas wines should be classically French.
Best Buy. Tesco Finest Ch La Barrail, Mdoc, 2009, 6.99
You need sharp eyes to spot that this is a Tesco own-label wine so don't worry about putting it on your Christmas table. The value is astonishing, the flavours terrific – giving proper grown-up, ripe red fruits with a lift of clean, food-friendly freshness.
Ch Tour Saint-Christophe 2007, St Emilion Grand Cru, Majestic down from 12.99 to 9.99 on multibuy
You need to buy two bottles of this wine to get the discount price, but it is worth the investment. Tight knit, ripe fruit, with pepper and a smoky edge make this a wine to savour this year and maybe even next year. Good value.
Margaux 2006, Marks and Spencer 17.99
The second wine from a very classy Margaux chteau where the style is elegant with precise, lush, supple fruit and a long, balanced finish. Accompanies Christmas lunch perfectly.
Trading Up. Clos de L'Oratoire des Papes, Chteauneuf du Pape 2008, Sainsbury 19.99
Rounded red plum and fruitcake aromas lead into juicy, raisined fruit and supple tannins. Perfect with game.
YP MAG 11/12/10