Top Tipples – Buying wine at Christmas

Words: Shamim de Brún

If you’re not a cork-dork the act of buying wine at Christmas can rank as one of the season’s most unpleasant tasks. Between labels, years, regions, countries and grapes it feels like you’re expected to know all kinds of things just to even walk through the door. But you don’t. You really only need to know one thing to buy wine; what you want from it.

If you know what you want then you can ask for it. There isn’t any prerequisite highfalutin knowledge required to decide what you want. Take stock of what you already know and go from there.

You know who you’re giving it to.
You know how much you wanna spend.
And you know how you want them to feel about it.

We have been taught to think about wine excessively rationally and to describe it in terms of detectable aromas and flavours. But it’s more effective to consider the emotions that an event conjures, and find a wine that matches. It’s a really easy and much more fun way to buy wine at Christmas.

Usually, someone at the wine shop is dying to pick things that aren’t “Rioja, everyone likes Rioja right?”. Which they do. Rioja rocks and is a home run of a safe bet, but if you ask, you can get your hands on liquid gold. After you’ve asked for your suggestions always finish with a “would you drink it?”. If they’re sales targeting they’ll usually do a 180 after this question. Everyone loves to talk about what they drink, especially winos. If they show you something a little too off the wall then ask them what they buy for their mam. This will give you their favourite classic wine and their favourite flex wine.

It’s a way of using the knowledge of the knowledgeable in a way that helps you. But we are getting all kinds of close to a wine-fueled yuletide so here are a few select choices with an Irish twist that will make you feel something. These wines are all specially selected as gifts and are made by Irish people in the wine world. Unfortunately, they run a little more than you would usually spend on the one bottle but they’re intended as special gifts. They’ll stand up to the scrutiny of even the fussiest uncle.

05 Feel Like an Insider

The Charlatan

The Charlatan is the first wine from Dublin’s newest winemaker, Killian Horan. There’s only 420 bottles in total and there’s definitely less left by the time you read this. This Cote du Rhone style wine slaps with buzzy energy and tastes pretty damn good. It’s a talking point wine that hits all the insiders buzz words. Organic, low intervention, whole bunch, semi-carbonic maceration, Irish designed label art, and sealed with yellow wax for extra classiness. This wine is perfect for the “I knew them before they were cool” vibe.

Available from €27 at Neighbourhood Wine, Station to Station

04 Feels Revelatory

Roisin Curley Aligoté

Roisin Curley is Mayo’s vagabond winemaker with an unbelievably impressive amount of knowledge. This Master of Wine gets stuck in and makes everything with her own bare hands. Not as common as Chardonnay, Aligoté is often forgotten in the melee of Burgundy but this one is cracking paired with gooey cow’s milk cheeses. The 2019 vintage was a marred one but this juice will open your mind like someone has taken a crowbar to your notions.

Available from €30.95 at Mitchell and Son, 64 Wines, Neighbourhood Wine, Jus D’Vine, and more

03 Feels Like Celebration

The Trouble with Dreams’

Made by Limerick man Dermot Sugrue, this wine earned him the 2020 award for the best boutique producer in the UK.  The Trouble With Dreams is simple. Sugrue makes one wine per year that expresses itself freely. A wine with the soul of a hobbit allowed to wander and roam it always surprises. A wine that somehow designs itself that every year is allowed to be what it wants to be. It’s fizzy and buoyant with a real purity of flavour. Perfect for a celebration.

Available From €75 at Le Caveau

02 Feels Like a Night with the Lads

Les Trois Terroirs

Les Deux Cols is a collaboration between three Irish lads Simon Tyrrell, Gerard Maguire and Charles Derain (Irish by way of France, but we can claim him). Les Trois Terroirs is a once-off blend born of pandemic necessity. It’s an elegant and silky juice that unites people across the wine drinking spectrum.

Available from €26.50 at Green Man Wines, 64 Wines, Fallon and Byrne

01 Feels Like a Rebel

Garnacha Not Guerra

This light, tart wine made by Dubliner Mick O’Connell, Master of Wine, in Sardinia is fresh and savoury. O’Connell doesn’t make it every year but it’s a big pivot from most of Sardinia’s output. It has more in common with Burgundian Pinot Noir than the Garnacha from whence it’s made. Drinking it feels like giving the finger to someone who dismissed you early in the game after you win it.

Available from €30 at Nude Wine Company, Green Man Wines, Brown Thomas

Keep an eye out for next weeks Top Tipples for supermarket selections.

Elsewhere on Char: How to pick the best booze for every Christmas occasion