Christmas uncorked: Kick-start the festivities with our guide to the finest reds and whites

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BEST PARTY RED

Under £10

2010 Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhône-Villages

This classic southern Rhône blend from the charismatic Rhônemeister Michel Chapoutier punches above its not inconsiderable weight with an invitingly spicy aroma and huge dollops of vibrant blackberry fruit supported by a lively, textured succulence. £6.99, Sainsbury's

Splash out

2011 Pizarras de Otero, Bierzo

A new wave Spanish red made from Bierzo's mencia grape, this is dark, brooding and vibrantly aromatic, delivering a powerful punch of sweet dark cherry and blackberry fruit with spicy undertones and a satisfying damson fresh bite. £8.99, Majestic

BEST FOR SMOKED SALMON

Under £10

2011 Le Manoir du Baron Chardonnay

More like a Mâcon-Villages than a southern French chardonnay, this bright, refreshing dry white is appley and buttery in texture with the creamy lees-like richness you find in white burgundy. A steal. £5, down from £7.14, until 23 January, Asda

Splash out

2011 Morgenhof Estate Chenin Blanc, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch

Old vine chenin blanc is one of the Cape's great white resources, and it shows when crafted, as here, partially in oak for oatmeal-leesy complexity allied to concentrated stonefruit flavours and a citrusy freshness from stainless steel. £11.99, Waitrose

BEST PARTY WHITE

Under £10

2011 Moncaro Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Marche

Consistently one of the best value and most versatile dry Italian whites on the market, or at least from the Marche, this is the epitome of the approachably peachy, deliciously juicy verdicchio grape with its food-friendly appley bite. £5.29, Waitrose

Splash out

Dominio de la Vega Cava Brut, Utiel-Requena

This stylish Spanish cava from Utiel-Requena is a complex fizz made from the macabeo grape, which, with suitable ageing on the lees in bottle, produces biscuity aromas and creamy-textured bubbles supported by a toasty, champagne-like quality. £12.25, Jeroboams shops (020-7288 8850)

BEST FOR FISH

Under £10

2009 McHenry Hohnen 3 Amigos, Margaret River, Western Australia

The sum of the three amigos of marsanne, chardonnay and roussanne is a floral dry white with an opulent vein of tropical fruit moderated by oak and finishing refreshingly racy. £9.99, Wine Rack, Tanners (01743 234 500), Adnams (01502 727200)

Splash out

2010 Vincent Girardin Le Limozin Meursault

It wouldn't be Christmas without a high-class white burgundy such as this stylish meursault which combines seamless peachy richness with complex, nutty crafting in oak and the mineral character of its vineyard location. £23.99, down from £29.99, to 5 December, Waitrose

BEST FOR CANAPES

Under £10

2011 The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia

Aldi's answer to Asda Extra Special and Tesco Finest, Exquisite Collection may be overstating the case, but no argument with the value of this pure cabernet sauvignon with its blackcurrant succulence. £6.49, Aldi

Splash out

Fino Inocente Valdespino

Fino is the ultimate, appetising dry white for food, especially when as richly full-flavoured as this intensely yeasty-savoury example from Valdespino, whose mouthwateringly salty, bone-dry nuttiness takes it beyond a simple apéritif. £12.95, Lea & Sandeman shops (020-7244 0522)

BEST FOR TURKEY

Under £10

2010 The Society's Exhibition Morgon Côte du Py

Three more friends, this time Morgon growers, whose combined beaujolais grapes together make up an exceptionally fragrant red packed with cherry fruit and fine, supple-textured tannins to make this an approachable little match for fowl. £8.95, The Wine Society

Splash out

2010 M Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage 'Les Meysonniers'

An exceptionally great northern Rhône syrah from Michel Chapoutier with a classic violets-and-milled-black-pepper fragrance and peppery smoky-sweet, blackberry-fruit quality infused with spice and balanced by elegance and freshness. £15.99, Sainsbury's

BEST FOR GOOSE OR GAME

Under £10

2008 Araldica Corsini 2008 Barbaresco, Piedmont

Behind the fresh cherryish aromas of the nebbiolo grape lies an attractive quality of delicate sweet-and-sour cherry fruit and typically firm tannins; the ideal rosso for dark and strong meat. Try Waitrose for the delicious 2009. £9.99, Booths

Splash out

2009 Savigny-Lès-Beaune, Leroux, France

Supremely elegant Côte de Beaune red burgundy, thanks to a youthful vigour and juicy raspberry and plum fruit aplenty with a touch of spicy oak and the fleshiness and balance of an excellent vintage. £25, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440)

BEST FOR CHRISTMAS PUDDING

Under £10

Sainsbury's House Dessert Wine

We wouldn't claim that this is a poor person's Château Yquem, nor would Sainsbury's, but this bona fide Beerenauslese from the Rheinhessen is deliciously peachy and has sufficient zestiness to balance the richness of an Xmas pud. £3.99, half-bottle, Sainsbury's

Splash out

Matusalem, Oloroso Dulce Viejo 30 Años, González Byass, Jerez, Spain

Voluptuous liquid bottled history, a palomino-pedro ximénez blend containing spicy, tarry caramel aromas and an intense butterscotch nuttiness underscored by a raisined fruit richness and burnt walnut twist. Around £17.99, half-bottle, Tesco, Waitrose, Majestic

BEST FOR HONEY ROAST HAM

Under £10

2009 Peyres de Loubert Fronton

Nicolas Selle's négrette-based blend from Château Bouissel in France's South West is classic Toulouse with a primary, juicy, dark-red-berry-fruit quality framed by spicy oak and grip and a robust twist of fresh acidity. £9.99, Marks & Spencer

Splash out

1994 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva

A special 1994 vintage parcel, this classic blend of tempranillo, mazuelo, garnacha and graciano shows the classic marriage of mature fruit and oak while the savoury, balsamic notes of leather and game are underpinned by a youthful vigour. £17.99, Majestic

BEST FOR MINCE PIES

Under £10

2012 Vistamar Late Harvest Moscatel, Limarí, Chile

From juicy moscatel grapes dried outdoors under a hot Chilean sun, this is a luscious sweetie whose grapey perfume is underpinned by a peachy fruit character topped off by honey and fig notes. Half bottle, £6.24, buy 2 = £4.99, Majestic

Splash out

2011 Leitz Reingau Riesling Spätlese

This delicate riesling from top Rheingau producer Johannes Leitz is sweetly aromatic enough to complement a mince pie with an exotic sherbet lemon-and-lime zestiness to cut through the richness and leave the palate suitably satisfied. £12.99, Sainsbury's

BEST SPARKLING

Under £10

2010 Tesco Finest* Vintage Cava

Add chardonnay to the local grapes and this vintage fizz from García Carrió* takes cava to a new level of flavour and sophistication with its vivid fresh aromatics and textured toasty-nutty mousse contributing to a smart, apéritif-style sparkler. £8.99, Tesco

Splash out

2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs

A sheer hedonistic luxury, with a tantalising bouquet blending the crisp apple of youth with toastiness of bottle age and a light-as-a-soufflé lemon chiffon mousse. Around £147, Berry Bros, Jeroboams, Fortnums, Hedonism Wines

BEST FOR STILTON

Under £10

2011 Montalto Nero d'Avola Appassimento IGT

Recalling Veneto's pricier amarone, this is a distinctive Italian rosso whose sweetly spicy cherry-fruit quality, fine succulence of texture and approachable cherryish juiciness will match blue and hard cheeses as an alternative to port. £60, case of 6, tesco.com/wine

Splash out

1998 Quinta De Cavadinha, Warre's

Warre's aromatic single vineyard classic blending of the five main port grapes displays plenty of liquorice spice linked to walnut-rich, liquid-plum and prune flavours with a chocolatey sweetness and lively bite. Stilton, or Beenleigh Blue, please. £30, Marks & Spencer

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