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7:00am Saturday 22nd December 2012 in NewsXtra
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some top tipples to pair with turkey and all the trimmings to celebrate the ultimate foodie holiday.
O tidings of comfort and joy... From delectable novelties to traditional turkey and sumptuous treats, wining and dining over the Christmas holiday can be one of life's most enjoyable experiences.
Indeed, this much storied and colourful menu is a wonderful excuse to tuck into a drop of what you fancy - whether it's wines with broad appeal that can stand up to the myriad of flavours, or a prized bottle to herald the most important meal of the year.
To put some sparkle into the ritual of opening stockings, a glass of prosecco will not only spread some festive cheer, but the chef can happily quaff Vina Jolanda Prosecco Extra Dry, Italy (£7, 11.5%, Asda). Classic Italian styling goes into the attractively fluted bottle, and it reveals a fragrant prosecco with a hint of white flowers, fine beads and a very subtle sweetness on the blossomy finish.
Or for a sprinkling of stardust, Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus NV, France (£47, Waitrose) is a beautifully blended champagne from top grands crus sites. The blend of 50% pinot noir and 50% chardonnay means it's rich, fresh, and full-bodied with a mineral edge and exuberant finish. A wine to swoon over while enjoying a champagne breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
As the oven clock ticks down to the main event, mixed nuts, canapes and seafood starters such as smoked salmon or trout pate will gain more mileage if they're served with lively white wine with good acidity and mineral notes.
Voted the best match with smoked salmon by What Food, What Wine? 2012, Vina Mar Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chile (£8.95, www.corneyandbarrow.com) was rated best with smoked salmon under £10. Fresh and vibrant with kiwi on the nose and gooseberry and elderflower mingling with hints of grapefruit, it's extremely pleasant and delicate enough to enjoy on its own.
A notch up the scale (after all, Christmas comes but once a year), deeper pockets can reach for Les Fouinelles Pouilly-Fume 2010, France (£25, Marks & Spencer). From one of the best vineyards in the Loire Valley, it's tangy and rich with a honeyed nose of spring flowers, a creamy richness from oak ageing, lime and gooseberry notes with a flinty edge and mouthwatering finish - a perfect marriage with salmon and dill sauce.
For wine lovers who want to celebrate with chardonnay, Tesco has a real corker with its Finest Chablis Grande Cuvee 2011, France (£6 from £9.99, from now until January 1 2013, Tesco). Typical of the chablis style, it's dry and stony with crisp, lively citrus fruits and great mineral-driven purity without being too steely. A refreshing, pristine white to wash down with shellfish and the mild flavours of turkey.
One of the most familiar names in Burgundy, Louis Jadot's highly skilled winemaker Jacques Lardiere is to retire after 40 years at the helm. For a taste of success and a classic to grace the table, try Louis Jadot Chablis 2011, France (£14.99, www.wimbledonwinecellar.com). Lean and graceful with lemon-tinged apricot and green apple flavours, zesty acidity and stony minerality, it's a little gem that won't be overwhelmed by bread sauce or chestnut stuffing.
For purists, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a good claret. Savoury reds work wonders with bronzed birds, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry and lashings of gravy. For a young gun that offers great value for money, try La Patrie 2011, AOC Cotes de Bordeaux, France (£5.99 from £8.99, until January 2, Sainsbury's). A merlot dominated wine, its perfumed bouquet, cherry and red fruit flavours with fleshy, silky tannins and a hint of spice on the finish will perfectly complement a Yuletide spread.
Outside of France, New Zealand is home to some of the world's best pinot noir and the award-winning Hunter's Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand (£16.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) makes a marvellous choice with turkey and all the trimmings. Soft and sensual with lifted cherry aromas, raspberry and plum fruit, and subtle tannins lingering on the refined finish, it's a versatile wine with an endless choice of food matches.
An old school Spanish Rioja such as Rioja Romeral Crianza DO 2008, Spain (£9.99, in-store only, Marks & Spencer) will back-up succulent turkey legs, devils on horseback and red cabbage with its sweet, spiced strawberry and cherry fruit, savoury herbs and fine, dry tannins; otherwise you can always uncork a suave South American to toast the fanfare of food.
Tapiche Broquel Bonarda 2009, Mendoza, Argentina (£10.99, Tesco) is a velvety smooth fruity bomb with dense, dark fruits, a hint of chocolate and smoke on the lush, sweet mouthfeel that would suit other feathered friends such as goose or duck.
And for a sweet ending before a kiss under the mistletoe, Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV, Spain (£7.19 from £8.99, now until Jan 2, 50cl, Waitrose) is the bee's knees with Christmas pud. Smooth as a silk stocking, this amber beauty has a voluptuous mouthfeel with honeycomb notes balanced by good acidity, and also works like a dream with Italian panettone.
:: Best buy
Prize pull... Fortnum & Mason has embraced the Christmas spirit with its Terrific Tipple Christmas Crackers (£50, Box of six, www.fortnumandmason.com). Inside these cheeky crackers is a miniature bottle of booze such as Hendrick's Gin and Absolut Vodka, along with a party hat and funny joke.
:: Liquid news
Aldi raises the bar... Not only has Aldi has romped home with Which? Supermarket of the Year 2012, but to entice shoppers even more the discount supermarket has launched its Exquisite Collection to appeal to lovers of fine wines. The Exquisite Collection is a new premium wine range with seven wines from around the globe ranging in price from £4.99 for The Exquisite Collection Gavi 2011, Italy, to The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, South Australia, £6.99. In-store now, for more information visit www.aldi.co.uk