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Christmas

Raise a glass with Cathal McBride's Simply Better wine picks

Cathal McBride selects perfectly festive wines to enjoy this year from the Dunnes Stores Simply Better range. Brought to you in association with Dunnes Stores Simply Better

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Selecting the perfect festive wines can be a daunting task, but Cathal McBride is here to help you out.

From party pleasers suitable for a crowd to the best wines to pair with turkey and ham, there’s an art to getting it right. Remove the stress with my simple guide to these twelve great wines of Christmas. With the Dunnes Stores Simply Better wine range and my suggestions every angle is covered this yuletide season.

The Champagne: H.Blin Champagne Blanc de Noirs, NV (ABV 12.5 per cent) €36.79 

Made from 100 per cent of the red grape petit meunier, which makes it a blanc de noirs, this is a Champagne of style and substance made from grapes grown in the Marne Valley, northwest of Epernay. A deeply heady and intoxicating perfume of ripe pears takes hold, uplifted by lemon citrus, toasted hazelnuts and notes of buttery brioche. Refreshing and fruity with a fine effervescence it leads directly onto the palate with juicy red apples and pear, refined acidity and a persistent finish. This is excellent value for a sophisticated Champagne that would make a perfect start to the Christmas day celebrations with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

The Cab Sav: Morandé Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 (ABV 14 per cent) €13.79

From the Maipo Valley in Chile, renowned for its red wines, comes this stylish cabernet sauvignon. Chief winemaker at Viña Morandé, Ricardo Baettig has created an exciting wine with inviting aromas of dark fruits such as ripe plums, a touch of green pepper, cocoa beans and cola on the finish. The palate is deep and juicy with tart fruits and complexity from 12 months ageing in French oak barrels. An ideal accompaniment to a roasted rib of beef, other red meats, or pair with hard mature cheeses for your Christmas cheeseboard.

The Sparkler: Sacchetto Prosecco Spumante DOC, Extra Dry NV (11.5 per cent) €15.19

For those who want a more convivial, crowd pleasing style of sparkling wine, Prosecco is the answer, with this expression a touch on the sweeter side of dry. The nose opens to an enticing bouquet of orchard aromas, with added complexity coming in the form of wild honey and white flowers. The palate presents notes of green apple and white peaches with expressive bubbles. Ideal as an exciting and refreshing aperitif to welcome your guests.

 

The Clever Cava: Torre Oria Cava Brut Reserva, NV, Spain (ABV 11.5 per cent) €12.79

Cava makes for a wonderful and especially affordable alternative to Champagne this Christmas. Made in the same style as Champagne, the méthode traditionnelle, this uses the grapes chardonnay and macabeo from Requena DOP in Valencia. Aged for a minimum of 12 months for complexity, there are initial yeasty notes that settle into a fruity bouquet of crisp green apple and summer peach. While light and approachable, this is an elegant wine, allowing you to wow your friends and family with some great value fizz.

The Fruity White: Peter & Peter Riesling, Aus Der Steillage, Trocken, Mosel, 2020 (ABV 11.5 per cent) €11.99

From the Mosel Valley in Germany, a region famous for its riesling, comes this wine with a bright expression and an added depth of flavour. Offering an instantly evocative bouquet of fresh apple and peaches, this is distinctly crisp on the palate with apple and pear fruit freshness but with aromatic qualities that present a floral and honey sweetness background. A perfect pairing with a host of dishes and seasonal occasions, from oysters or prawn cocktail as a Christmas day seafood board, to goat cheese or spicy finger food for an informal gathering.

The Lighter Red: Château de Pierreux Brouilly Rouge 2019 (ABV 13.5 per cent) €15.99

From Brouilly, the largest of the ten crus of Beaujolais, comes this exciting wine made from gamay grapes which are hand harvested using organic and biodynamic farming methods. With a lighter and softer style, it presents a delicate nose of ripe raspberries and strawberries with a semblance of spice and minerality. From a good vintage which should hold for the next few years, ripe forest fruits explode on the palate in a juicy yet fleshy and rounded expression. Uplifted by fresh acidity, the tannins are supple and silky before leading into a clean yet extended finish.

The Crowd Pleaser: Santa Margherita Laundato Pinot Grigio, Venezia, 2020 (ABV 12 per cent) €10.39

Looking for the perfect party white? This Veneto offers an all-round, crowd-pleasing option. The 2020 vintage produced some higher quality grapes, even though there was a lower yield, with a fine balance of sweetness and acidity. This is a universal, light and refreshing wine that is quaffable and accessible with medium acidity and a mild mineral finish. A well balanced and easy drinking structure allows it to be paired with party food such as chicken satay skewers, lightly spiced fish tacos or other seafood-based canapés.

The Rich Red: Tyrrell’s Shiraz, Hunter Valley, 2019 (ABV 13.5 per cent) €15.99

From one of Australia’s oldest wineries, the vines for this spicy and supple shiraz average 40 years of age. Coming from an excellent vintage for the region, this is a modern style shiraz, with juicy red and dark fruits on the nose, encased in soft spice. This offers good value for money and is also a superb food friendly wine. Pair with red meats like roast lamb, hearty casseroles such as a warming venison or beef stew, or indeed with the Christmas turkey, especially if served with cranberry sauce. 

The Exciting Albariño: Nai E Señora, Albariño, Rias Baixas, 2020 (ABV 12.5 per cent) €11.99

If you’re seeking an exciting, crisp alternative to sauvignon blanc this winter season, albariño is for you. In northwestern Spain, the region of Rias Baixas takes on the qualities of the Atlantic sea breeze to provide a saline minerality reflected in this expression. Refreshing, clean and crisp with lemon citrus rounded by tropical fruits, it leads into the salivating saline finish synonymous with this variety. Given its qualities, think of the sea when pairing, and this vibrant wine would be perfect with a host of simply prepared shellfish dishes.

The Guaranteed Hit: Tiki Grey Label Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (13.5 per cent) €11.99

New Zealand sauvignon blanc still retains its hugely popular status and with wines such as this from the McKeans in Marlborough, one can see why. Coming from an excellent vintage with warmer than usual temperatures, we see this quality reflected in an energetic nose. A fantastic price for a wine of this calibre, this is a multi-faceted and layered wine with clean and crisp gooseberry acidity that leads into a fruity finish. A classic style for a reason, pair with smoked salmon, lobster, oysters and all types of to shellfish, soft cheeses or a herb and lemon roast chicken.

The Elegant White: Tyrrell’s Semillon, Hunter Valley, 2021 (ABV 11.2 per cent) €15.99

Another fine example of one of Tyrrell’s flagship grapes, the unique micro-climate here offers the same qualities for a semillon from the cooler climes. A wine of personality and style, the nose is abundant with floral aromas and lively citrus inflections. A wonderful wine with a lower alcohol level for those who want a lighter expression, this does not lose out on flavour. It’s a strong white wine option for serving with Christmas turkey and ham but is also especially good with all types of seafood, nutty cheeses or white meats.

The Cosy Night In: Chianti Classico Campomaggio 2017 (13 per cent) €12.79

Robust and comforting winter dishes require a similarly rustic wine. From the heart of Tuscany comes this Chianti Classico from the Campomaggio Estate. Presenting the cherry fruit and racy acidity characteristics synonymous with the region and style, this 2017 vintage produced noteworthy wines of finesse despite difficult conditions. Expressive cherry and raspberry red berry fruits define the nose along with some baking spice. Finely balanced and full-bodied, the palate is enlivened by crunchy redcurrant and black fruit, with depth coming from mild liquorice and balsamic. Try it post-Christmas Day with rich tomato-based ragùs or pizza for cosy evenings in by the fire.

All wines available at Dunnes Stores, always drink responsibly

Brought to you in association with Dunnes Stores Simply Better