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Wine bores: how to avoid ordering the obvious this Christmas

<span>Photograph: Xsandra/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Xsandra/Getty Images

There’s something about this time of year that makes us go all retro and buy food and wine we never normally eat or drink. When it comes to wine, that tends to mean French classics such as chablis, Saint-Émilion and châteauneuf-du-pape, all of which are usually heavily promoted over the festive period. Arguably, they’re all good with traditional Christmas fare, but their prices generally reflect that: sancerre, for example, routinely costs between £18 and £25 these days.

I’m also betting that a significant number of readers will not be celebrating Christmas with turkey, and may well be having something from an entirely different culinary tradition. So why not branch out on the wine, too? This year, I’ve been drinking Greek, Georgian and even Brazilian wine. More about those in the new year, though I do quite like the idea of being disruptive and serving a Georgian saperavi such as the exotic Tbilvino from Kakheti (£13.99 Majestic, 13%) with Christmas lunch, particularly at the current mix-six deal price of £9.33. That would be great with a Middle Eastern-style feast or anything aubergine-related.

There are also excellent alternatives to all the wines I listed above. Instead of bordeaux, say, substitute another cabernet/merlot blend from the new world. Similarly, English chardonnay such as Black Chalk’s very cool-looking Rumour Has It (£33 The Solent Cellar, or direct from the winery’s website) is an interesting, albeit no less expensive alternative to chablis, while any big, lip-smacking GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre) blend or simple grenache will do duty for châteauneuf-du-pape. I totally love the 2020 Rebellie grenache from Van Niekerk Vintners (£23.50, or £20.95 as part of a mixed case, Lea & Sandeman, 13%).

And if you’re after richer styles of chardonnay, there are some brilliant examples from the southern hemisphere that are a lot more affordable than white burgundy. Tesco, for example, has the seductively creamy Rustenberg Wild Ferment Unwooded Chardonnay 2022 (13%), from South Africa, at £13. You could also try white bordeaux – yes, I know it’s French, but it’s not quite what people expect. The Co-op has a luscious one, Château Olivier le Dauphin Pessac-Léognan 2021 (13.5%), for £17.50.

Finally, if you’re going to take or send a case to someone you’re staying with for Christmas, why not make it an offbeat one such as the Christmas table case from Westwell in Kent (£140 for six bottles); I visited them back in the summer and liked their wines very much, though, sadly, their fabulous Naturally Petulant Pink pét nat is sold out. The double pinot, however, is cracking.

Five alternative wines to drink during the holidays

M&S Expression Vermentino 2022 £8 Marks & Spencer, 12%. If you’re a sauvignon fan, you’ll enjoy this fresh, zesty Sardinian white.

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier-Roussanne-Marsanne 2022 £8.50 The Wine Society, 14%. A classic, Rhône-style white … from Chile. A deliciously smooth and peachy alternative to chardonnay.

Estevez Chilean Shiraz 2021 £6.49 Aldi, 13%. A bright, juicy Chilean red that would make a cut-price alternative to côtes du Rhône.

Forrest Pinot Noir 2019 £16.99 Adnams, 13%. A light, elegant Marlborough pinot that would do duty for red burgundy.

Vasse Felix Filius 2020 £14.99 Majestic, 14.5%. Really elegant cabernet/merlot that’s more appealing than most bordeaux at a similar price – plus it’s currently £12.99 on the mix-six deal. Good with lamb or beef.