The best drinks for the festive season

From the main course to the pudding, wine columnist Leslie Williams has the perfect drinks list for the festive season 

Leslie Williams. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

CHRISTMAS is the one time of year everyone thinks hard about what wine they will have with dinner. If you have a large family gathering around your table remember that you are highly unlikely to please everyone so I’m recommending a different wine with every course. You will note that I don’t mention Argentinian Malbec or Marlborough Sauvignon so if your guests really want either of these wines of the moment, encourage them to bring their own bottles. The wines and drinks I suggest below are just as on-trend and worth a try at any time of year.

First up are party wines; ideally you will want a crowd pleaser that will also serve as a match for turkey sandwiches.

Trésor de Gascogne, Loire, France — €8.99; stockist: Lidl

A blend of floral Colombard and crisp Sauvignon (pictured below), this is 11% ABV which might be wise at this time of year. Lemon and peach aromas, fruity and fresh, clean bright fruits, light and clean and perfect for parties. If you are in Lidl I also recommend their Val de Salis Languedoc Syrah at €7.99.

Venturer Series Costières de Nîmes 2016, Rhone, France — €7.49; stockist: Aldi

Pictured far right, this is a blend of Grenache (70%) with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Marselan and packed with dense black and red fruits and a pleasing fruity freshness. Strictly a party wine rather than for the Turkey, I also like Aldi’s Toro Loco. For an Aldi white party wine I recommend their Albariño.

Naturally Cordial Strawberry Cucumber and Lime Cordial, 0% ABV — €6; stockists: Cinnamon Cottage Rochestown, Ardkeen, SuperValu nationwide

For the designated driver you need an interesting non-alcoholic alternative. Richmount Elderflower Cordial is what I suggested last year but this year I discovered Naturally Cordial from Co Wexford and their intriguing flavours. I love the Pink Grapefruit and the Lemon and Raspberry but my current favourite is the Strawberry, Cucumber and Lime. Simply add sparkling water and extra slices of cucumber and lime.


Christmas surely is the one time of year we can all spring for a bottle of Champagne. If the Deutz below is a little more than you can afford the Tesco Premier Cru Champagne, Aldi Veuve Monsigny (especially the Rosé, €24.99) or perhaps opt for Crémant de Bourgogne (eg, Cave de Lugny from O’Briens, €17.95).

Deutz Champagne Brut Classic NV, Champagne, France €54.99; stockists: O’Donovans, Number 21, World Wide Wines, Martins, Vintry

Gold Star winner in the Irish Wine Awards this fine old Champagne House (1838) has always been a little underrated. This is packed with ripe apple and warm brioche aromas, persistent tiny bubbles, an elegant pear-apple fruit driven richness and is textured and balanced.


Champagne or sparkling wine is excellent with most first courses such as smoked salmon or with pastry based starters but why not serve Rosé this year. The best rosé in the country is Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé from Karwigs (€30).

Réserve de la Saurine Rosé, Vin de France — €11; stockist: M&S

This is a light and slightly spicy Grenache-Cinsault blend from the Gard in the Languedoc. Ripe strawberry and raspberry fruits, textured red fruits following on the palate and a clean fresh dry finish.


Roast turkey is an easy match as the meat is neutral enough for almost any wine, red or white. But I think you should go with richer styles of wine – Chardonnay over Pinot Grigio, Syrah over inexpensive Merlot. Bronze turkeys and goose are a little richer and match very well with Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo (Barolo/Barbaresco), particularly the brown meat. Matching the trimmings is more of a challenge so if you are a particular fan of Brussels sprouts a rich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is about the only wine that can cope with the bitter little monsters.

Produttori del Barberesco Nebbiolo Langhe 2014 — €22.50; stockists: Cinnamon Cottage, JJ O’Driscolls, Vanilla Grape, Wine Centre, `Karwigs Carrigaline

I love Nebbiolo for its aromas of inky cherry and blackberry mixed with wild flowers and for its crunchy red fruits and for its lingering freshness and complexity. This is a textbook example at a great price compared to many a Barolo or Barbaresco. If you are feeling a little flush any of this Co-Op’s Barbarescos (€44) are even better.


For the Christmas pudding or for sipping while you watch Christmas movies it is hard to beat Port.

Taylors 325th Anniversary Tawny Port, Portugal — €35.95; stockists: O’Donovans, O’Briens, Mitchells, Jus de Vine, Sweenys, Whelehans, Terroirs, Petits

Released to celebrate the founding of Taylors Port in 1692 the tawny ports in this have an average age of around 15 years. The port has blueberry, fig and mocha tinged aromas with rich poached plum and dried fig flavours. Smooth and concentrated but with a pleasing lightness of touch and long, long flavours.


There are now an abundance of interesting Irish whiskeys to explore. Some highlights this year for me included the Green Spot in Chateau Montelena cask and the Method & Madness Pot Still.

Teelings The Revival Vol. IV, 46% ABV, 70cl - €120; stockists: Castle Tralee, Celtic Whiskey Shop Dublin & Killarney, James Fox

Apologies for the price but this whiskey had to get a mention as it is one of the best I have tasted all year as well as being the winner of the top award at the 2017 Irish Whiskey Awards. Matured for 14 years in Bourbon Cask this was finished for 12 months in Muscat casks. Floral and fruity with peach and pineapple aromas, along with cinnamon and allspice touches.


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