I’ve been wary about writing a general guide for wine at Christmas - it’s something that was always a bit of a bone of contention at work - because one size does not fit all. There are general rules about wine and food matching, but there are also a lot of variables so bespoke advice is better. Those variables include, but are not limited to, what you’re eating, how it’s flavoured, how many people there are, how many of them are drinking alcohol, what people like, what traditions people have, how much money they wish to spend, and how serious they are about their wine.
People who are serious about their wine will have all of this covered, because we’ve been thinking about it for weeks now. If you need a last minute present for someone who you know is a wine enthusiast when you are not, go somewhere you can get advice.
A decent wine merchant or dedicated wine specialist will be able to tell you what they have that’s interesting or unusual. When you’re selling it’s considered bad etiquette to ask how much someone wants to spend, but it can save a lot of time if you say the figure you have in mind. There’s a lot of good stuff to be had between £10 and £20. Do also look at dessert wine and sherry. It might not be your thing, but people like me love it.
Champagne. As a guideline, the more people there are the less I would spend per bottle, the reason being that the more conversation there is the less people are paying attention to what they’re drinking. If you have 20 people round for Christmas a case of a decent sparkling wine will be perfect and it’s not necessarily a compromise on quality. Quite a few of the big champagne houses make sparkling wines in other parts of the world and these are worth looking for too. I particularly like Jansz.
If you have a really nice champagne you want to drink, consider having it on Christmas Eve when all the chores are done and you have a bit of peace before the chaos of the next day. If it’s you on your own, or just 2 of you, half bottles are brilliant. If it’s got to be fizz for breakfast consider something sweeter like an Asti, or a sparkling moscato. They’re lower in alcohol, and don’t have the mouth puckering acidity of champagne which is quite hard work first thing. If you’re having Bucks Fizz use fresh (ideally freshly squeezed orange juice) it is so much better.
Turkey works well with a whole lot of wines. Chardonnay in many of its forms works well with it - is go for something big and buttery, and not be shy of the oak. Towards the other end of the scale a citrusy Macon Village is also good. Pinot Noir is a classic red match, however a good fruity new world Sauvignon blanc, an apricot filled Viognier, Rioja (red or white), a decent Chianti, Claret, most Rosé’s (according to taste) or a Pinot Grigio if you want something fairly neutral are all going to be fine. As will plenty of other wines. Frankly there’s so much flavour on the plate that a specific match is going to be tough. Go with something you know you like.
Goose will prefer a red, again a Pinot Noir would be a classic match - new world ones will be fruitier than old world ones, how you choose between them comes down to preference, budget (if you’ve paid for a goose don’t be mean about the wine though) and the trimmings. Rioja will be good here too, and Barolo (or a good Nebbiolo from elsewhere, if you’re lucky enough to find some please tell me). A good Claret won’t let you down (but again, be prepared to spend on it if you’re going that way).
With Beef a new world Cabernet, a Shiraz (Australia or Cotes Du Rhône - also fine with the turkey) or whatever you’re preferred full bodied red might be, will all be good.
Port is a Christmas staple, if it’s red port (Ruby, L.B.V, single Quinta, or vintage) look to see if the bottle says it’s filtered or not (Ruby port and a lot of L.B.V is). Filtered won’t need decanting, unfiltered means a sludgy bitter sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting isn’t difficult but you don’t necessarily want another job to add to your to do list either.
Tawny port is aged and a little bit more like a sweet sherry. Both will be good with cheese, the tawny will be better with cake/pudding/mince pies. Also have a look at Australian Liqueur Muscat’s which are a similar beast. I like a Sauternes, often instead of a pudding- it’s a great cheese match, but it won’t particularly like mince pies etc. A good sweet Tokaji is the middle ground between them.
Finally, for this post - there’s a lot more I could say about wine - consider the non drinkers and potential hangovers. Good coffee, tea, fruit juice, sparkling water (excellent mixed with fruit juice or cordials) grown up cordials, and alcohol free punches are excellent options for everyone.