I was watching the downshift challenge on Daybreak TV recently (don't ask). Drop one brand level lower and you can save 40 per cent, claimed Martin Lewis, because people are fooled at Christmas into thinking they must have the best. He tried out two Christmas trees on children, one cheerful, the other deeply depressing. The suggestion that the depressing cheaper one was better because it was cheaper lacked conviction. He then road-tested a Christmas pudding and mince pie on a blindfolded Adrian Chiles who guessed both the more expensive ones correctly. Which suggests that while it may be worth saving on basic brands, when it comes to matters of taste, wine in particular, it's a false economy not to take the upshift challenge and enhance the enjoyment.
Time was when wine's answer to the downshift challenge was to think of a premium French wine and then downsize to the New World for better value. It's often still the case that you can downsize from a Pauillac to a Chilean cabernet sauvignon, a Burgundy to a New Zealand pinot noir, a Châteauneuf to an Australian shiraz. Not always. You may equally be better off looking for value to go from a classic region to an up-and-coming one. So let's not be too Scrooge-like this week but give ourselves the option of choosing great value or upsizing to great quality in a variety of styles suitable for the festivities.
Obviously, ample supplies of fizz are required to get you in the mood. Cava is often the obvious choice because it's cheap; while the Codorniu Vintage Cava Rosé, £6.49, down from £12.99, Tesco, is pretty and strawberryish, the Okhre Natur Organic Cava, £9.99, M&S, is worth the extra for its deliciously dry, appley bite and fresh mousse. Ditto New World fizz, where the likes of the Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Brut, down to £9.74, from £12.99, Waitrose, is bordering on a bargain, but then so, in its own way, is Tesco's aptly named Tesco Finest Vintage Champagne 2004, £24.99, with its biscuity aromas and silky mousse.
For fish starters, you won't go far wrong with Tesco's apple-dry Finest Chablis, £8.94, but the 2008 Chablis Fourchaume, 1er Cru, Domaine Séguinot-Bordet, £19.95, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440), will take you into another realm of complexity of stonefruit flavours backed by minerality. For anyone looking for a basic claret style, the blackcurrant opulence of the 2009 Taste the Difference Chilean Merlot, Curicó, £5.99, Sainsbury's, should satisfy undemanding palates, but for sheer class of merlot-based fruitiness, the 2006 Château Feytit Clinet, £35, waitrosewine.com,will do wonders for the turkey.
And Burgundy? Yes, go for value in the juicy, cherry-fruit succulence of the 2008 Ara Composite Pinot Noir, Marlborough, £9.99, down from £14.99, Co-op, but for true pinot seduction, try the savoury, cherryish fruit of the 2008 Domaine Roux, Volnay, £20, Marks & Spencer. Finishing on a sweet note, let yourself be seduced by Chile's refreshingly smoky 2009 Tabalí Encantado Late Harvest Muscat, half-bottle, £7.49, but don't miss out on the exotic lusciousness of the 2005 Clos d'Yvigne Saussignac, half-litre, £19.99, Majestic, with its nutty, orange marmalade undertones. To complete your Christmas wine shopping, see this week's 50 Best Wines for Christmas in The Information.