Tip #1 - Buy your wines with your guests and not just the meal in mind

Think about who your guest(s) are? What do you know about them? Will they appreciate that special bottle you’ve been saving or that exceptional bottle you splashed out on? Whoever your guests are, make sure you have a “nice red” and a “dry crisp” white and keep that special bottle close by for your own refills or for that guest you feel will appreciate it. Remember, we all taste differently and it’s important to drink the wine you like, but your guest(s) may not like the wines you like!


Myth #1 - Screw cap equals low quality wine

So, if your guest’s favourite wine has a screw cap don’t hesitate in picking up a bottle or two. “But, it’s Christmas. I can afford to get something special for me and my guests!” Yes, you can, but screw caps have now become mainstream in numerous wine-producing countries, including France.They’re popular and convenient because they’re easier to open and store, and preferred by many winemakers and importers as they cause fewer faults to occur in the wine. Screw Cap technology is always improving, and if you look closely you will find wines at all quality levels and most price points sealed with a screw cap.


Tip #2 - Get everyone’s appetite going with some Festive Fizz

It is always nice to start any occasion with a toast - everyone loves to hear the pop of something at Christmas time. My toast of choice would be Crémant. Of course, if you’re going all out then the Crémant can be replaced with Champagne. Fizz freshens the palate for all that lies ahead and is also so versatile when it comes to food pairings.


Myth #2 - A silver spoon will keep your fizz fresh

You may know someone who puts a metal spoon or a fork inside the bottle of sparkling wine before putting it in the fridge, thinking it keeps the wine fizzy for longer. The rationale behind this sounds very convincing. The theory goes - as a good conductor, the metal spoon is quickly chilled in the fridge, the cold metal then emits cooler air around it, supposedly making it more difficult for the gas to escape from the bottle. However, this has been tested by many respectable researchers and it’s been found ineffective.

Top Tip: If you don’t finish your bottle of bubbles in one sitting, invest in a good quality sparkling wine stopper.


Tip #3 - Prepare your wines so that they taste at their best

Make sure you have your reds served at “room temperature” and whites/sparkling chilled in advance of your guests arrival. Medium - full-bodied reds are best served at 15-18 degrees celsius such as Bordeaux, Rioja, Shiraz, Châteauneuf du Pape, Barolo, Amarone, or Vintage ports. If you wish to decant your red wines then this will need to be done at least 2 hours in advance of your meal.


Myth #3 - Red wines should never be chilled

One of the first things most beginner wine drinkers hear is “only keep white or sparkling wines in the fridge” and “reds should always be served at room temperature”. Although in many cases red wine flavours are at their best at warmer temperatures than whites, there are some exceptions. The best red wines to try chilled are usually light- to medium-bodied with low levels of tannins, such as wines from Beaujolais or most of our Delicate & Fruity style reds. and those made from the Pinot Noir grape. Don’t be afraid to experiment this Christmas!


Tip #4 - If you have a thirsty crowd, volume is best!

A 750ml bottle of wine serves (on average) 5 glasses. However, everyone’s pour size varies! Everyone always wants a second glass so 2 bottles of any wine is essential if you have a few around the table. A magnum is a 1500ml bottle of wine and comfortably serves 10 glasses of wine. It is perfect at Christmas time for a number of reasons:

It is a showstopper, a conversation starter and makes for a great centrepiece. It guarantees a glass for 10 people. The wine in a magnum can also have more body and sometimes more complexity and can age better, making it more ready to drink.

[Shop Magnums here]


Myth #4 - You can impress your thirsty crowd with your wine’s great legs!

Sadly not! Those clinging dribbles of wine that ooze down the inside of the glass once you’ve swirled are often called ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ and some believe their appearance indicates the quality of wine. This is not the case - in reality, they can give you a clue as to the wine’s alcoholic strength, colour intensity or sugar content, but not its quality.


Tip #5 - Be prepared for leftovers

Leftover wine, is that even a thing? Our eyes are bigger than our bellies this time of year, and sometimes the excitement of the day and the mountains of food can get the better of us and we have to admit defeat when it comes to another glass or two of wine. Don’t fret, it won’t go to waste. To best prolong the life of your wines the following will help:

  • The general rule of thumb is that reds last longer than whites. On average, whites last up to 2 days and reds up to 3 days if stored correctly.
  • Seal the wine with the cork immediately after opening unless decanting the red.
  • Place a white wine in the fridge immediately after opening. Reds can also be stored in the fridge to preserve longevity.
  • For sparkling wines, stopper immediately with a specialised sparkling wine stopper and place in the fridge. Once in the fridge, the cold temperatures can maintain bubbles/C02 for at least 24 hours.
  • Pour the leftover wine into an ice-cube tray/bag and freeze.
    • Use the ice-cubes for homemade ragu, pasta sauces or any seasoning for any winter stew or hotpot etc.
  • Use leftover wine for mulled wine. Mulled wine is always a crowd pleaser, and the spices actually enhance the flavour of the [leftover] wine and saves on the cost of opening a fresh bottle for what is essentially cooking!!


Myth #5 - Wine always gets better with age.

So you might think that the longer you keep that expensive special bottle you were gifted for either an occasion, or a special anniversary, the better as you’ve seen wines bought for astronomical prices at wine auctions and therefore, assume that all wine gets better with age. In reality, only a small number of wines benefit from ageing. These tend to be of exceptional quality and often have notably high levels of tannins and/or acidity, as these elements help to preserve wine. Most wines are meant to be drunk within a couple of years after bottling.

Top tip: Dust off that special bottle and drink it this Christmas before it's too late!

December 07, 2023 — Louise O'Brien