Virgin - and two superior standards
My general rule-of-thumb at Christmas is not to try anything too different - keep to stuff you like and maybe spend a bit more on a slightly better version; Bordeaux from a smarter appellation and a superior vintage, say, or Grand Cru Chablis rather than Petit Chablis.
But what's the point of Christmas if you can't break a few rule and have some fun? So here are three wines from Virgin that, like Twelfth Night when everything gets turned upside down and all the rules are reversed, will both subvert your expectations and entertain in equal measure
Chiarli Medaglie Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC 2018 (£11.99) get the party started with some red fizz. Lambrusco has a bit of historic baggage in this country, but done properly this light sparkling red from Emilia Romagna matches brilliantly with local parma ham, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. Or just serve it lightly chilled as a pick-me-up.
Schnaitmann Simonroth Lemberger 2016 (£24.99) Lemberger, aka Blaufraenkisch, is the great black grape of central Europe and shows great versatility. In milder climates, it is cherry-fruited and elegant, a lighter, fresher yet serious red that rivals Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. As with this wine from southern Germany, warmer temperatures bring something more akin to Bordeaux with deeper colour, plumper fruit and more tannins.
Solevari Reserve Feteasca Neagra 2017 (£12.99) Romania makes wonderful wines from international varieties, but Feteasca Neagra is its signature red variety - plump, supple and spicily dark-fruited, it matches brilliantly with steak or rare roast beef. Serve as an alternative to a Rhone or a northern Italian red.
And if you want to keep it straightforward and conventional, here are two superior classic wines:
De Martino Niebla Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (£13.99) De Martino is one of the pioneering wineries of Chile, making subtle, nuanced wines in an elegant food-friendly European style. This is a single vineyard Sauvignon from the cool, foggy Casablanca Valley. Drink this with smoked salmon on Boxing Day.
Heranca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012 (£14.99) with figgy, raisiny flavours and a warming sweetness, port is synonymous with Christmas. Best served with mince pies, a crackling fire and the Queen's Speech, LBV is a vintage port that is aged in barrel for several years and is ready to drink without further aging. If you manage not to finish it off all at once, drink it on Boxing day with a plate of cheeses or a chocolate-and-cherry torte.