Splash out: The good wine guide to the festive season

Sparkling, as well as white and red wines, to treat your guests, and yourself

 

As I write, large parties are out, or at least inadvisable, but small gatherings will certainly happen, so instead of buying budget wines for the masses, why not treat your carefully-selected guests (and yourself) to something special?

Wine consumed without food has nowhere to hide, so it needs to be good. Sparkling and white wine have high levels of acidity, so snacks or nibbles of some kind are important both for sobriety and to line the stomach. Two easy wins, that go really well with wine, are cheese sablés (equal quantities of Comté, butter and flour) and a childhood favourite of mine: cheese straws. Potato crisps are fine, crunchy deep-fried foods are good, as are almonds, but if you are serving nice wine, try to avoid peanuts and sweet and spicy foods. 

Sparkling wine will certainly create a festive vibe. Good Champagne is expensive but hard to beat. There are rumours in the trade of a shortage this Christmas, so buy early. Of the better-known brands, Charles Heidsieck, Louis Roederer and Ruinart are my current favourites. There are some brilliant cavas from Spain available too (look out for names such as Raventós i Blanc, Llopart and Torelló Matá).

I may be guilty of foisting my own prejudices on readers, as I have neglected prosecco, but there are so many better options available. For a sparkling under €20 I would prefer the Langlois-Château L’Extra par Langlois NV (€18.95), or the Canals Nadal Cava Brut Nature Reserva (€19.95), both from O’Briens, or a crémant from the Loire, Burgundy or Alsace. Aldi has their very good Crémant de Jura (€13.99) back in stock.

The Geal featured here is certainly worth buying in quantity for the coming season. Great value at €20, this is the perfect all-purpose wine to drink alongside all kinds of fish and seafood, as well as party nibbles. It is a collaboration between O’Briens’s wine director Lynne Coyle MW and Sonia Costa of Lagar de Costa in Galicia.

For red wines, go for lighter, tannin-free wines; Beaujolais would do nicely, as would a Bardolino or Valpolicella. The Valpolicella featured here is not the cheapest option, but it is one of the best. In the distant past, a dry sherry might have been the only wine served as an aperitif or at a drinks party. You could do that (Callejuela Manzanilla, €19, from independents would be a smart choice), although I would choose my audience carefully – not everyone likes sherry.

Make sure you have a decent alcohol-free option available and plenty of water. I will return to sparkling wines for the festive season in a few weeks’ time.

Geal Albariño 2020, Rías Baixas
13%, €19.95
A wonderful, succulent wine with real depth and mouth-watering ripe fruits that are balanced perfectly by a streak of mineral, saline acidity. Perfect solo or with all things fishy.

From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

Valpolicella 2020, Allegrini
13%, €21.99
A very stylish elegant wine with silky smooth red cherry fruits and a gentle soft finish. Perfect posh party wine, great with grilled vegetables and mixed canapés.

From Alain & Christine’s, Kenmare, acwine.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, Clontarfwines.ie; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Latouchewines4u.ie; McHughs, D5, mchughs.ie; The Bear Paw Deli, Co Wicklow, Thebearpawdeli.ie; Wineonline.ie; The Corkscrew, D2, thecorkscrew.ie.

3B Sparkling Rosé, NV Extra Bruto, Portugal
11.5%, €24-€26
This delicious, sophisticated fruit-filled dry rosé offers fantastic value for money. The crunchy ripe redcurrant and raspberry fruits would go nicely with a wide variety of nibbles and snacks. 

From Lilith Wines, D07; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, Clontarfwines.ie; Green Man Wines, D6, greenmanwines.ie; Pinto Wines, D9, pintowines.ie; Loose Canon, D2, loosecanon.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; Mannings Emporium, Co Cork, manningsemporium.ie; D-Six Wines, D6; peggykellys.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Provider, D6W. 

Champagne Antoine Bouvet 2015, La Grande Vallée
12%, €73
A superb small-production grower champagne. This will charm all present with its lovely richness, brioche, developed red fruits, savoury element, and bone-dry finish. A lovely aperitif with cheesy biscuits. 

From 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Green Man Wines, D6, greenmanwines.ie; Lamplight, Clifden, thelamplight.ie; Neighbourhood Wine, Dun Laoghaire,Neighbourhoodwine.ie; Lilith Wines, D07; Note, Dublin 2; Fish Shop, D07; fish-shop.ie; Table Wine, D08; Lennox St Grocer, Dublin 8, lennoxstreet.ie.

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