- Chris Shanahan's guide to Christmas beer
- Karen Martini's Christmas mule recipe
- From $24.99 to $350, champagne for every budget
- Rosewater and raspberry ice with sparkling wine
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Christmas Day wines. Go with the usual suspects, those safe, bullet-proof wines that are classic matches with Chrissy fare. Or not.
Either way you can drink well. Sometimes you just need a little inspiration …
Wine to start
Usual Suspects: Is it a beer, a mixed drink or a sparkling wine? Or all three? If it's beer try a newcomer to the Victorian scene, Dainton Brewing, and its full flavoured, lightly spiced amber ale, Dainton Red Eye Rye ($10, 500ml). Some serious blending of hops and malts has produced the complex taste.
A mixed drink means gin and tonic and that means Hendrick's ($65) and Fever Tree tonic. Don't forget to add the cucumber garnish (or strawberries and rose petals) and don't fall for the cucumber gin copycats about. Coldstream Hills is usually associated with chardonnay and pinot noir but this year it is the Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling Wine ($35) that is in the news for its many awards, including best sparkling wine trophies at the Perth and Melbourne Wine Shows.
Alternative: Riesling as a sparkling wine? It works, trust me. Moorilla Estate's Praxis Series 2012 Sparkling Riesling ($22.25) is one of the Tasmanian wine company's biggest sellers and little wonder. A finely structured dry sparkling with a green apple delicacy, dusty lemons and thrilling acidity, this sparkling riesling could easily be mistaken for a smart blanc de blancs.
Prosecco is such a summery, all-rounder kind of wine. If you want a relaxing entree into the big day, go to 2013 proseccos from Coriole ($20) or Pizzini ($19.50).
For the seafood
Usual Suspects: Normally you're looking at something with acid bite and a touch of refinement to match the delicate flavours of prawns, crayfish or scallops. Kilikanoon Mort's Block 2013 Riesling ($22) from Clare Valley is from an excellent vintage, with subtle florals and limes and developing texture.
For the complexity of tastes that comes from a fully mature riesling consider one of the country's great riesling makers, Peter Lehmann Wines and its Masters Wigan 2008 Riesling ($32).
Alternative: New Zealand winemakers are reinventing sauvignon blanc, looking to the grape's wild and savoury side. Dog Point winemaker James Healy helped pioneer the new direction with wild yeasts, maturation in old oak and lees contact. Dog Point 2010 Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc ($32) is ripe peaches and citrus with a rousing fresh and dried herb impact.
Keeping with the savoury theme, Jack Rabbit Vineyard on the Bellarine Peninsula has a stunning, super dry 2013 rose with a gentle savouriness that will fit the entree bill.
For the turkey, pork, game
Usual Suspects: It used to be sparkling red was all the rage with the ham and turkey at Christmas but in recent years pinot noir has smashed it through to the outer. Pity. Domaine Chandon Sparkling Pinot Shiraz shows real class ($25), while Morris Wines Sparkling Shiraz Durif ($20) is all round bigger, bolder and meatier.
Pinot noir has a number of expressions. For something fresh and leafy go for Lightfoot and Sons Myrtle Point 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from Gippsland Lakes ($26). Stonier KBS Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir ($75) lifts the bar with a deep core of juicy black fruits and finesse.
Otherwise stay with shiraz. Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch 2010 Shiraz from the Strathbogies is lifted and spicy.
Alternative: Go crazy. You might be asleep by the pud, so make the most of the main course event. Savoury sauces and game meats love savoury wines. Oliver's Taranga 2010 Sagrantino walks the earthy road ($40) and a new fave, Topper's Mountain 2010 Nebbiolo ($38) from the New England region is tannic, dry and lean; just the thing for rich, fatty meats. Malbec is in the spotlight for all the right reasons - medium weight, fleshy fruits, aromatic - so try the Hay Shed Hill 2011 Malbec ($30) from Margaret River. It can take the richest sauce.
For the pud
Usual Suspects: Sweet and white, botrytised or fortified is usually the way it goes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
De Bortoli's Noble One Botrytised Semillon ($30, 375ml) is a classic with botrytis-led marmalade richness and stone fruits. It is impossible not to be happy drinking this sweetie.
In my grandparents' day the pud was always served with sherry. It's a tradition worth revising using a local style, Pfeiffer Seriously Nutty (a name that immediately evokes the wine's dominant and delicious nutty, warm flavour) at $49.90 for 500ml. Can be chilled too if the heat is on.
Alternative: Consider champagne, or to be precise, consider rose champagne, a wine bursting with cherry, strawberry red fruits and more, ideal with fruit-based desserts. Andre Clouet Rose (distributor: Beaune and Beyond) is 100 per cent pinot and bone dry, while Louis Roederer 2008 Rose is blended with 30 per cent chardonnay and reveals just a little sweetness and spice.
In Australia, look to Tasmania where 45 per cent of the state's pinot noir and 60 per cent of its chardonnay goes into producing sparkling wine. Australian sparkling roses such as Kreglinger 2004 Vintage Rose ($65), Jansz Premium Non-Vintage Rose ($27) and Vintage Rose 2009 ($38) are among the state's best, offering flavour intensity and texture.
Before the nap
After all, over-indulgence goes with the day. Morris Wines 2004 Vintage Fortified ($25) is what we once would have called a vintage port but no more. At nine years of age it is showing stacks of liquorice, all spice and fruit cake. It comes in a 750ml bottle. That shouldn't be a problem, should it?