News straight from the grapevine.
Never drink the same wine twice. That's my motto. Being open to new flavours and new styles is the best way to discover unexpectedly delicious bottles – wines from regions and grape varieties you didn't even know you didn't know about.
The next time you walk into your local wine shop – stocking up for Christmas, say – find a bottle of your favourite wine, one you're familiar with, and buy the bottle next to it.
Yes, it might turn out to be a dud. But it also might turn out to be your new favourite wine.
I know it sounds risky, embarking on a vinous adventure at a time of year already full of fraught family functions and present-purchasing peer pressure.
But think about it like this: splurging on a few unfamiliar wines to drink over the holidays could revive the tantalising promise of unexpected pleasure you used to get when you were a kid on Christmas morning, bounding out of bed to stare at the oddly shaped packages under the tree.
Except this time, the packages are bottle-shaped.
Wines for Christmas Eve
Don't let your grandparents have all the fun with the sherry and port this Christmas. If you've never tried a rich, intensely flavoured, top-shelf fortified wine with spiced nuts and mince pies, you haven't lived. Winemaker Hugh Cuthbertson has snaffled a few barrels of very old nutty amontillado "sherry" and raisiny "tawny port" (as the Australian wines used to be called) from a merchant who'd been maturing them for many decades. He's now selling them with new names: Sipping Bliss Aperitif ($45 for 375ml) and Sipping Bliss Digestif ($65 for 500ml). They are extraordinarily delicious, and amazing value given the age and quality. mrhughwine.com
Wine for a barbecue
Look, it could be the power of suggestion (the label features an image of sheep on the Guthrie family's farm, where the grapes for this wine are grown) but tasting the tangy, succulent 2019 Grampians Estate Longest Drive Tempranillo ($28) does make me crave garlicky, paprika-scented, Spanish-style chargrilled lamb. grampiansestate.com.au
Wine wish list
Who: Primo Estate, McLaren Vale.
What: Joseph Sparkling Red NV.
Why: It's hard to imagine a better match for turkey and ham sandwiches on Boxing Day than this deeply rich, savoury, purple foaming wine.
When: See above.
How much: $90.
Noble Rot started life as a quirky wine magazine before the founders, Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, opened two brilliant wine bars of the same name in London.
Now the pair has distilled the best of the mag and the culture of the bars into a book, Wine from Another Galaxy ($50 Quadrille Publishing), a fabulously visual, deeply rewarding compendium of wine knowledge, hospo stories and travel memoirs. Great fun.
Available in Australia from booktopia.com.au
Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about wine and drinks for close to 30 years.