PUBLISHED: 13:53 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:25 20 February 2013
This year more than ever, supermarkets and high street chains will compete to lure buyers with cheap deals on wine, from straight price cuts to 'three bottles for £10'.
This year more than ever, supermarkets and high street chains will compete to lure buyers with cheap deals on wine, from straight price cuts to three bottles for 10. There are plenty of bargains around, but before you part with your cash and commit to buying a case of Chateau Cheapo simply because it's on offer, stop, take a deep breath, buy a single bottle, take it home and try it. That is part of the fun of choosing wine, taste sessions are always good. Then if you like it, you can buy more. If you don't, you won't be stuck with it.
While it's sensible to have a good supply of decent, serviceable wine for the party season, do your guests and yourself the favour of buying some good stuff, too. Have a few impressive bottles on hand to serve for Christmas lunch. After all, if you can't splurge on the good stuff at this time of year, when can you? The beauty this year is that you will be able to buy pretty good wine at reasonable money.
If you will be having a large number of guests coming and going, or if you have a party or two planned, it makes sense to have a ready supply of decent, everyday drinking wine around that tastes good but that won't break the bank. For the sort of wine that people will be sipping with canaps or on its own, versatility is the key. For white wines, choose crisp, dry whites. Avoid ones that have had lengthy ageing periods in oak barrels. Lots of people enjoy the resulting vanilla notes, but the flavour can quickly become cloying, and can clash with food. Pinot Grigio has become hugely popular in recent years. It's not the most characterful wine around but if you want something light and fresh that goes with a wide variety of foods, a good Pinot Grigio is hard to beat.
The other standard choice of 2009 is Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand or Chilean would be the best value for money or, for a little more money go for French styles, such as Pouilly-Fum or Sancerre, which are less exuberant. For red wines, the most versatile (and good value) styles tend to be young wines from New World countries such as Australia, Chile, California, South Africa and Argentina. Basically, you want wines that dont have too much chewy tannin and that aren't too acidic. There are plenty of these wines around at the 6 mark but do shop around and taste before you buy. Grape varieties that make good all-round party wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.
Christmas lunch is the perfect time to splurge on the good stuff. Good doesnt necessarily mean expensive but spending a few extra pounds tends to make a huge difference to the quality. Choose wines that will go with the kind of food youre serving.
Here are a few quick guidelines for some favourite Christmas dishes
Smoked salmon: Chablis, New Zealand Chardonnay, white Burgundy, Champagne
Turkey: Californian Zinfandel, Argentinian Malbec, Beaujolais, French Merlot (such as Saint-Emilion from Bordeaux)
Goose: Pinot Noir from France (red Burgundy), California or New Zealand, Italian Barolo
Roast beef: good red Bordeaux (Claret), California Cabernet Sauvignon
Christmas pudding: sweet sherry made from the Pedro Ximenez grape
Cheese: have a selection of reds and whites on hand and include a bottle of Port for the Stilton
* Edward Symonds runs Saxtys of Hereford.
For Christmas party bookings call Emma on 01432 357872. The New Years Eve party is a 70s and 80s night with tickets priced 5.