For Christmas lunch, Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sothebys wine department, suggests a double magnum of Richebourg 1976 (price pounds 484). "Even better, if you're a rich crowd, why not plump for a double magnum of Romanee-Conti" (price pounds 1,210 for the 1986). Wouldn't it be lover-ly, as Eliza Dolittle might say.

Those of us without the odd grand or even pitiful hundred to spend on a bottle of wine might invest pounds 2.95 in the Sainsbury's Pocket Food & Wine Guide. Here Independent on Sunday pundit Kathryn McWhirter and her husband Charles Metcalfe ruffle a few festive feathers with some quirkily experimental as well as traditional wine and food matches. Ms Sutcliffe suggests Rhone with pheasant and good old claret with turkey, all traditional enough. McWhirter and Metcalfe's prescription for roast goose is mature red Bordeaux or Barossa or Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon. Pheasant needs Oregon Pinot Noir or Crozes Hermitage. And turkey? Most New World cabernet sauvignon is good, they enthuse, but "the star is Australian shiraz", pointing out all the while the palate-numbing effects of cranberry sauce and the dangers (for imbibers) lurking in stuffings and sauces.

These are all useful ideas, as long as you bear in mind that matching food and wine is an inexact science. There are few absolute rights or wrongs, and many more cases of chacun a son gout. Experiment by all means, but if you're in the mood for the traditional, stick with what you feel most at home with - and for many, home will be your Bordeaux chateau. With poultry or game, I would be equally happy with red burgundy, Rhone or a sweetly mature Rioja. If you're feeling adventurous, try an assertive Piedmontese barolo, a savoury Tuscan rosso or a quality New World red. And remember to aerate the wine a little in advance by decanting or, better still, pouring yourself half a glassful.

Value for Money

1994 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs pounds 4.95, Sainsbury's. Although still young, this mini-St.Emilion-style claret is one of the few decent, gutsy Right Bank clarets under pounds 5 worth the money

1991 Tesco Spanish Merlot pounds 4.99, Tesco. American oak gives this red from the modern Catalonian winery, Raimat a charry veneer with underlying, sweetly mature, blackcurranty fruitiness in a Rioja-meets-St Emilion style

1992 Barbaresco Cantina Gemma pounds 4.99, Asda. The supermarket has managed to secure a parcel of this normally hideously expensive Piedmontese red, with its tobacco spice and fresh, lively acidity to shift at a bargain price

1994 Cono Sur Pinot Noir pounds 4.99, Oddbins, Safeway. "Poor person's red burgundy" from Ed Flaherty at Concha y Toro's boutique Chimbarongo winery in Chile which is nicely perfumed, with ripe, raspberry jam fruitiness. An extra leavening of spicy oak adds complexity to the 1994 Reserve Cono Sur Pinot Noir, pounds 5.99, Waitrose

1992 Rouge Homme Shiraz Cabernet pounds 4.99, Oddbins. This polished blend stood out from a crowd of 38 sub-pounds 5 Aussie reds at a recent Australia House tasting in the implausibly named Bruce's Rooms for its classy vanilla oak veneer and intense mulberry-rich fruitiness

1992 Conde de Valdemar, Rioja Crianza Martinez Bujanda pounds 5.49, Rioja, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. The newly released1992 is a fresh, elegantly oaked, concentrated blend of tempranillo and mazuelo with sumptuously rich, smooth strawberryish fruit.

Foothills of fine wine

1993 Chianti Classico, Castello di Fonterutoli pounds 5.95, Waitrose. A fine, subtly oaked bouquet, lively acidity and harmonious pure black cherry sangiovese fruitiness characterise this excellent Tuscan estate chianti

1994 Carmen Grande Vidure Cabernet Reserve pounds 5.99, Safeway. Made by one of Chile's top homegrown wineakers, Alvaro Espinoza, this aromatic Bordeaux- style red is full of opulent, seductive blackcurrant fruitiness with a spicy note of aniseed and liquorice

1993 Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve pounds 6.49, Asda. Unsubtly, but effectively, the Barossa's Peter Lehmann lays on mint and blackcurrant flavours with a trowel and spicy American oak sweetness with a shovel. Not for claret aficionados

1990 Chateau Suau, eleve en futs de chene, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux pounds 6.99, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Classy, extremely well-priced St Emilion-style, beautifully oaked claret with the supple tannins and fine fruit concentration of a great vintage

1988 CVNE Rioja Reserva pounds 6.99, Tesco. A mature Rioja with a traditionally gamey, sweetly concentrated, almost red Burgundy-like fruitiness. Only available in 14 stores, but the more widely available 1988 Tesco Rioja Reserva, pounds 5.49, attractively mature with vanilla undertones, is an excellent buy

1990 Chateau Saint Bonnet, Medoc pounds 7.45, Sainsbury's. Classic medium-ranking claret from the finest recent Bordeaux vintage, this is a juicy, supple, well-oaked Medoc with good fruit concentration and richness

1991 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley pounds 7.99, Majestic Wine. A powerful vanilla spicy bouquet is underscored by voluptuously ripe, sweetly oaked minty Napa notes and supple, concentrated berry fruitiness

1990 Jose de Sousa Garrafeira pounds 7.99, Victoria Wine Cellars and Wine Shops. Smoky, tobaccoey oak on the nose with rich, mature, prune and plum flavours and a hint of aniseed make this succulently mature, concentratedly rich Portuguese red a sumptuous, velvet-smooth treat

1992 Chorey-les-Beaune, Domaine Maillard pounds 8.95, Waitrose. Often one of the best affordable red burgundies on the market, this attractively rustic village red burgundy with its flavours of red fruits confirms its class.

Fine wine peaks

1985 Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva pounds 9.95, Waitrose. At under pounds 10 for a mature, decade-old, top Rioja, this is still extraordinarily youthful and concentrated with scented vanilla spice and the leathery undertones of maturity poking through

1989 Les Plantes du Mayne, St Emilion Grand Cru pounds 9.99, Marks & Spencer Fine Wine. This classy Right Bank claret from a hot, ripe vintage has a blackcurranty, stylishly oaked bouquet and the rich, chocolate-sweet flavours and tannins of a near-Californian year

1990 Reserve de Leoville Barton pounds 11.99, Majestic; pounds 11.75 case/bottle, Lea & Sandeman, London SW10 (0171-221 1982). From a great St Julien chateau in a great vintage, this excellent second label is seductively cedary with the Anthony Barton hallmark of silky fruit and stylish oak treatment

1990 Gevrey Chambertin, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet pounds 12.99, Safeway. From a good estate, a fine vintage and one of Burgundy's most prestigious wine villages, it's quite a coup on Safeway's part to offer such an elegant, raspberryish red Burgundy at a reasonable price

1992 Gevrey Chambertin, Burget pounds 14.95, Sainsbury's top 40 stores. Aromatic, seductively spicy pinot noir with fine pure raspberry fruit characters and elegant tannins in this classic village red burgundy

1990 Cote Rotie, Guigal pounds 15.99, Bottoms Up; pounds 18.99, Victoria Wine. Hugely rich and spicy, this classic northern Rhone syrah from Marcel Guigal has a gorgeously seductive crushed pepper character and middle palate richness with beautifully integrated oak and elegantly smooth, silky tannins

1991 Barolo Preve pounds 16.99, Oddbins Fine Wine. Sweetly aromatic pipe tobacco, violet and black cherry aromas give way to a seductive, liquid cherry fruitiness and a compact framework of smooth, typically dry, nebbiolo tannins. Seductively drinkable for such a young Barolo