Image: The alpine wines of Italy’s mountainous Valtellina are perfect for a white Christmas

There are plenty of sure things when it comes to eating and drinking at Christmas time. The meal is going to be long, filling, and often messy. Friends, relatives and neighbours are going to be dropping in, leftovers are going to be devoured.

The vast amount and often bewildering array (four sauces with the turkey, anyone?) of fare a small family gets through in just a couple of days render food and wine matching redundant, and the duration of the meals and extra guests mean that even though this is a special occasion, you are going to be drinking a little more than usual so it pays to have plenty of the right sort of wines stashed away.

Because of these things I tend to stick to a similar sort of formula each year. I start by armouring myself with fizz and lots of it, to begin the days, to awaken one from an afternoon slumber and to accompany a cheeky midnight snack. Whites must be bright, crisp and clean with plenty of acidity, and reds much the same: joyful, nimble wines to energise, with good times in mind.
The following fit the bill:

Fizz
For some on Christmas day it just has to be Champagne. Fair enough. If you are going down this route I would look beyond the big brands and seek value in the thrilling wines being made by smaller, artisan vignerons across the region. Bereche’s Brut Reserve AC (£35, The Winemakers Club) offers a fresher, more detailed style that the often over-the-top cuvees of the big houses and is as good a way to start your day as any.

If you’re planning on opening a few bottles or want to try something different, Italian organic grower Quarticello’s Cascina Ronchi 2013 is your guy (£23, Noble Fine Liquor). Gently floral, a little fruity and just a touch saline, this is a wonderfully vibrant wine and might just be the perfect aperitif, especially with a few oysters while opening the presents.

To mix things up a little bit, I’d also grab a few bottles of dry, sparkling cider. My favourite in the UK at the moment is the Skyborry’s Keeve No 4 cider (£12, Noble Fine Liquor) hand made by the Davies brothers  in Hereford. This is at once brisk and earthy, with just the right amount of barnyard funk to make it a winner with properly-aged farmhouse cheese. An energising drink, it’s handy to have a few bottles of this around.

White
My go-to Christmas white without a doubt is good Chablis. Dry, and mineral, it is sport on with oysters and cured salmon but has enough flesh to work with the bird and ham too. Anything from Raveneau, Dauvissat or Pattes Loup will be great if you can find it, or try the excellent Bel-Air et Clardy 2013 from small organic producer Alice and Oliver De Moor (£25.00, Berry Brothers & Rudd), which has Chablis’ classic saline character in spades.

Natural acidity and an ability to convey a site’s minerality are also the hallmark of good Riesling and in any of it’s many guises, this is another grape that makes a lot of sense in your glass during the festive season.  Clemens-Busch, a biodynamic grower from Germany’s Mosel is one of the best in the business and his Riesling Trocken 2013 (£15.99, The Winery) punches way above its weight, offering an elegance and supreme refreshment that make a lot of sense when sat around a table feasting.

For those who like their whites a little richer, have a look at Domaine Matassa’s Cuvee Marguerite 2012 (£23, Toast), a blend of Muscat a Petit Grains and Viognier from old vines planted over slate in France’s Roussillon. Dense, nutty but wonderfully balanced, it’s a real winter white and pretty hard to beat with the flavours on the table.

Red
If your family is anything like mine everything is going to be plonked on the table at once, a massive joint of ham, a novelty-sized Turkey and all manner of sides. The point is, you just aren’t going to find a wine that is going to go with everything. That’s why I would go for something like Patrick Bouju’s Lulu 2013 (£22.60, 40 Maltby Street), a Gamay from old vines in France’s  remote Auvergne. This is juicy, nimble and most importantly incredibly refreshing. Something to drink all day long.

Another wine that fits the bill is Ar.Pe.Pe’s Rosso di Valtellina 2013 (£27, Burro e Salvia), an elegant mountain Nebbiolo made by a family who have been making wine in Italy’s alpine Valtellina for over a hundred years. This wine has a freshness that positively screams of it is from, pairing mountain fruits with herbs and spice, it seems to have a natural affinity with winter’s larder and is just the ticket on a white Christmas.

Fot those after something a little deeper, Tom Shobbrook is making some of the best wines in Australia at the moment from old vines in the Barossa Valley. His biodynamically grown Syrah 2013 (£40, The Winemakers Club) is vibrant and spiced, flying in the face of the suggestion that Aussie Shiraz is all brut and jam.

Sweet
The top value here comes from biodynamic Spanish producer Bernabe Navarro. Their Ramblis Dulce 2013 (£12.50, Toast) is a late harvest Monastrell that is full of ripe fruit cut with salty notes from the vineyard’s proximity to the sea. It’s this savouryness that makes it a versatile sweet, just as suited to Stilton as pud.

If you want to splash some cash on something amazing to finish the meal, look beyond the big ticket names and head to Gaillac in southwest France to try the wonderful Vin d’Autun 2008 from Plageoles (£56, Noble Fine Liquor). Made from the grapes which have been dried naturally in the vineyard by the local Autun wind, the wine wine combines remarkable concentration with a freshness and verve you just don’t expect. A real treat.

UK Stockists
Noble Fine Liquor, 28 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH and online at noblefineliquor.co.uk

40 Maltby Street, 40 Maltby Street, London SE1 3PA

Burro e Salvia, 52 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP

Berry, Brothers & Rudd, 3 St James Street, London SW1A 1EG & their online store at www.bbr.com 

The Winery, 4 Clifton Road, London W9 1SS

Toast, 36-38 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8HJ

The Winemakers Club, 41A Farringdon Street, London EC4A 4AN

Alex Whyte is the co-owner of Tutto Wines, a specialist importer of artisan wines from Italy tuttowines.com

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