Last-minute bottles for Christmas

Useful tips for bottles to save your blushes – and don’t forget to drop down the chimney of your local producer or brewery

I don’t know about you, but my idea of hell is having to go to the shops on Christmas Eve, and, if I do, it’s more likely to be because I’ve forgotten the sprouts than the sauvignon blanc. Be realistic, though: there’s a fair chance that the relatives will have already drunk you out of house and home, that you suddenly have extra bums on seats or that you’ve forgotten a last-minute present and a smart-looking bottle will save your blushes.

You may be so frazzled that a trip to the supermarket seems the only option (you can pick up those sprouts at the same time), but if you actually want to enjoy yourself and talk to a real live human being, may I suggest you spend a happy half-hour in your nearest bottle shop/winery/brewery/distillery or anywhere where you can support a local producer? And, for a start, how about a bottle of English fizz rather than champagne?

You’re also unlikely to have time to go bargain hunting, so let me give you a couple of tips. First of all, bordeaux. It’s not all expensive, as you can see from the Asda recommendation in today’s pick, but, again, if you’re going to splash out on a margaux, say, try to spend it at an indie. Anything from the southern Rhône is good with turkey, as are malbec, zinfandel and shiraz. Christmas wine doesn’t have to be French, after all.

Magnums always look festive, but are less good for whites or rosés, because the fridge is already likely to be rammed. So, red-wise, Marks & Spencer has the lovely, mellow Lomas del Marqués Rioja Reserva 2016 (14%) in its “classics” range for £17, which works out at a very affordable £8.50 a bottle. (Don’t go for M&S’s chateauneuf in magnum, though, which is considerably more expensive and not nearly as good.)

Run out of fizz? Don’t overlook cava, which is generally better value, and drier, than prosecco – the Lidl Arestel in today’s pick is a particular steal. You may also have totally forgotten the non-drinkers in your party, but they’re not going to thank you for pouring them elderflower cordial in the middle of December, so lay on some Belvoir Mulled Winter Punch (widely available from about £2.70 for 750ml).

And how about treating yourself, too? Is there a guilty pleasure that you enjoy that the rest of the family are a bit sniffy about? Yes, I’m thinking of cream liqueurs or rather, if you’re vegan, non-dairy ones such as Waitrose’s Amarula Vegan Liqueur (£15, 15.5%). Vegan and liqueur are not words you normally find in the same sentence, but this one’s actually rather good.

Five last-minute bottles that will save your bacon

Arestel Cava £5.49 Lidl, 11.5%. Perfect for an impromptu Boxing Day or New Year’s Day brunch.

Marqués de los Zancos Rioja Blanco 2021 £5 Tesco, 12.5%. Fridge cleaned out by offspring home for the holidays? Stock up with this bright, clean, citrussy white.

Zarper Malbec Gran Reserva 2021 £7 Morrisons, 14.5%. Crowd-pleasing, everyday Christmas red at a great price.

Asda Extra Special Château Leboscq Médoc 2016 £13, 13.5%. Need a bottle to take to the in-laws (especially if they’re cooking a wellington)? This smooth, plummy bordeaux should do the trick.

Belvoir Farm Festive Edition Mulled Winter Punch £2.70 Sainsbury’s. Good mulled wine alternative for non-drinkers to go with the Christmas Eve mince pies.


Fiona Beckett

The GuardianTramp

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