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Wine notes: Bring these crackers starting from £10 to the Christmas dinner table this year

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If you’re “bubbling-up” this Christmas with another household, John Kelman of Rutabaga recommends some quality bottles to bring some festive cheer…

Whether you’re organising who will be in your Christmas bubble or finalising the meal for you and your own household, ensuring you have the right wine to enjoy your festive dinner with is a must.

Within this week’s column, John outlines his favourite Yuletide tipples over a variety of styles including red, white, sherry, dessert and sparkling.

Toasting to a brighter 2021, the opportunity to meet in Christmas bubbles is a welcome relief for many, especially around this time of year, and is a great opportunity to look forward to a more positive year ahead.

If you’re not overly familiar with sherry and fancy giving it a go this festive period, sherry is a fortified wine from Cadiz, Spain.

Fortified wines are made from Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez grape varieties with Manzanilla, Fino, Palo Cortado, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso amongst the main varieties. These casks are re-used in our Scottish whisky industry so by purchasing a bottle you’re not only supporting the wine making industry, but Scotch, too!

Sauternes is a French sweet wine from within Bordeaux. The main grape varieties used are Sémillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are affected by a beneficial grey fungus called Noble Rot which helps give them that over-ripened sweet flavour.

Tokaji wines are from the Tokaj wine region in Hungary. The common grape varieties you’ll find there are Furmint, Zéta, Yellow Muscat and Hárslevelü. Noble Rot also affects these grapes to  help create wines from dry to sweet styles.

John Kelman of Rutabaga.

For Christmas, why not invest in magnum-sized bottles? A magnum may be double the size of bottle, but it is perfect if you’re entertaining for the maximum of eight people across three households in your Christmas bubble during the relaxed restrictions between December 23 to December 27 inclusively.

Delving into the wines you need to know about, these fantastic bottlings John has selected are available throughout December and into the New year in Sainsbury’s and local and online retailers Wine Raks and Rutabaga.

With decades of experience with food and drink in and around Aberdeen and Scotland, John has also suggested some perfect pairings for you to try out, too.


Pelorus, Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand, N/V, – 12.5% alc./vol. (Sparkling)

This bottling is a well-established and recognised quality sparkling wine from New Zealand. The Champagne process followed in creating this now Antipodean classic builds it into being a Chardonnay-driven wine with a touch of Pinot Noir.

With lemon and maple on the palate and a lovely rich mouth feel, think madeira cake. How about some smoked Scottish salmon or trout served on a homemade beremeal bannock with some soft herb crowdie.

£28.95 from Wine Raks, 75cl


Moscatel Soleado, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía Jerez, Spain, N/V, – 15% alc./vol. (Sherry)

Using the Moscatel grapes which have been sunned over sand in the “pasil” process and laid out yo dry for 12 days before use helps intensify their rich flavour.

A dark hue with sweet intensity it is best served at room temperature or chilled. A wonderful pairing with your favourite festive fruit treat over Christmas, a mince pie makes for this perfect pairing.

£11.95 from Wine Raks, 37.5cl


Pedro Ximénez, San Emilio, Lustau, Jerez, Spain – 17% alc./vol. (Sherry)

A rich, deep flavour of dates and dried fruits, this wine is a real Christmas cracker. With a very long finish, it coats the palate and is enjoyed desirably slightly chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy this syrupy sherry poured over homemade vanilla ice cream for a simple but delicious Affogato. Enjoy!

£11.95 from Wine Raks , 37.5cl


Tempranillo, Crianza, Sierra Cantabria, Rioja, Spain, 2011 – 14% alc./vol. (Red)

We revisit this well-regarded house with a large format wine. This wine is to be savoured and will satisfy your group of eight with its large magnum size.

A wonderfully balanced Rioja with a little spice, the vanilla notes from the oak ageing come through and make this number a real crowd-pleaser. If roast leg of lamb is on your festive menu, laden it with rosemary and garlic to tick off that ideal pairing.

£29.95 from Wine Raks, 150cl


Chapel Down, Brut, N/V, England – 12% alc./vol. (Sparkling)

This English sparkling wine has hints of savoury orchards with lingering bubbles dancing on the palate.

If you have not tried an English sparkling wine before, it is about time you sampled one. And with Brexit around the corner there’s no extra tariff to pay! Pair it with an iced parfait or lemon tart for some extra fizz.

£20.00 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl


Manzanilla, La Gitana, Bodegas Hidalgo, Spain,N/V – 15% alc./vol. (Sherry)

Pick this little cracker up for a wonderful pre-dinner aperitif. Best served chilled, the crisp freshness on the palate brings a slight nutty flavour with it.

Best enjoyed on its own or perfect when grazing over your own festive tapas, which of course must include chipolatas!

£8 from Sainsbury’s, 50cl


Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Hungary,2019– 11.5% alc./vol. (White)

A young desert wine using the over-ripened Hungarian grape varieties including Furmint, Yellow Muscat and Hárslevelū, there’s plenty of stone fruit flavours in this number.

Featuring a crisp sweetness, serve it slightly chilled. It will be the perfect accompaniment to your cheeseboard offering, specifically with your Scottish blue cheese of choice.

£10.00 from Sainsbury’s, 50cl


Sauternes, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Bordeaux, France, 2018 – 12.5% alc./vol. (White)

A super sweet wine using a 100% Semillon grape variety, this wine is like honey glazed peach in a glass. Serve slightly chilled to get the best out of it.

Traditionally served with dessert, it can be enjoyed with savoury dishes, too. How about pairing it with your favourite pate or terrine? Serve against a rich chicken liver parfait, date compote and melba toast for the ultimate flavour explosion.

£10.00 from Sainsbury’s, 37.5cl


Champagne, Palmer and Co, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Reims, France, N/V – 12% alc./vol. (White)

Simply decadent, this bottling boasts a wonderful brioche-like flavour. This Blanc de Blanc has fine and delicate bubbles and a light zing on the palate with subtle buttery notes. Open pre-dinner to celebrate or pair with fish/shellfish. Pan fried scallops, with lots of butter, black pepper will do just nicely.

£45 from Rutabaga, 75cl


Pinot Wine, Between Five Bells, Victoria, Australia, 2019 – 12.5% alc./vol. (Red)

A fine blend of mostly Pinot Noir but with a touch of Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier in there too, only a small volume of 14,000 bottles have been produced.

A wee cherry bomb, this red is a definite festive treat. Savour and enjoy with the Christmas turkey and all the trimmings – there’s no need for cranberry sauce if you’re pairing it with this Aussie beauty!

£21 from Rutabaga, 75cl


Collina 21, Il Borghetto, Toscana, Italy, 2014 – 20% alc./vol.  (Red)

A plummy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, this wine has spent two years in oak barrels which gives it a great roundness on the palate. With almost a velvety softness it too has experienced a low production of just 3,600 bottles.

Treat yourself and pair with a delicious rib roast on Boxing Day.

£19 from Rutabaga, 75cl


Malbec, Felino, Viña Cobos, Mendoza, Argentina – 14.5% alc./vol. (Red)

This number really will tick all of the box when entertaining guests. With its round tannins and full plummy fruit flavour, it boasts a rich dark hue and juicy dark fruits, too.

With organic principles, there’s not much you won’t enjoy about this wine. This can sit as your red option throughout Christmas or New Year dining and has a very affordable price tag so it is worth picking up a few bottles.

£16 from Rutabaga, 75cl


When not scribbling down wine-tasting notes, John Kelman can be found hosting virtual tastings and more at www.rutabaga.co.uk. You will also find a full list of wines and spirits on the site.


For more wine inspiration…

Wine notes: Kick off your festive break in style with these top ports priced from £4.99

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