So here’s what I would say in terms of what to drink with the main meal. If you’re having something like turkey go for a rich white or a light red. If you’re having goose or duck, ditto. If you’re throwing convention out the window in favour of a prime rib of beef go for something red, but herbaceous rather than too fruity (keep that for sipping round the fire). Actually, what I really think about wine-pairing at Christmas is drink whatever you love, because ultimately that’s always got to be a winner, but there are a few stellar bottles around that are worth looking out for.
The following are stylistically very different wines but offer something for everyone.
Everyone is talking about La Multa Old Vine Garnacha El Escocés Volante 2007 from Calatayud (and by everyone I mean Jancis Robinson and Hamish Anderson, two of the most influential critics in England). It’s big and spicy, with a bit of earth, tobacco and bitter chocolate in the mouth, mellowing into a smooth, satisfying finish. It will completely overpower poultry, but if your beef is rare it’ll work wonders.
If you’re a wine drinker in Spain over Christmas it almost seems churlish not to include something from Rioja. I like the new-wave more than the old style, which always seems a little too oaky and thus headachey to me (I guess I haven’t had enough of the good stuff), and I’m mad keen on the boutique winery Baigorri which presses everything by gravity (the winery is quite literally dug into the ground, with a glass cube crowning the top—well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area). The Baigorri Crianza is a classy easy-drinker, a dark-cherry red colour, creamy textures, lots of lush, ripe berry fruits, a touch of spice, but not so much so that you can’t drink it with food. The Reserva is this, magnified a thousand-fold, lovely for drinking on its own as a treat, but overpowering for most food. The Garaje is as near to perfection as a fruit-bomb can get, but it’ll cost you.
The venerable Robert Parker (America’s top wine critic) gives Celler de Capçanes Mas Donis Barrica 2005 (Montsant) 91 points on his rating system (basically translated it means it’s excellent), for structure, nobility and an ingenious balance between blueberries (Grenache) and steely minerality with a splash of spice (that’s your Syrah talking). That means we’re talking serious food wine that will work with whatever you are serving, but get it open well in advance. It needs air to bring it to life.
Finally, if you’re planning to drink bubbles, then white, then red, keep them the same throughout. Ploughing through several different wines will make you groggy. Bones Festes!