Reds for Rudolph’s nose

Top scorer - Baron de Ley

Top scorer - Baron de Ley

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It’s always tempting to bring out your best bottles at Christmas, but that can be a big mistake.

All those flavours on the plate and all the other distractions around the table mean the wine can sometimes get a bit lost.

Reds that can work with turkey and won’t battle all those other flavours and are also general crowdpleasers are a good place to start and Rioja and pinot noir fit the bill very well.

Baron de Ley Reserva 2010, Rioja (Co-op £7.99 on offer from £10.99 until January 5) recently top-scored in a Decanter Wine Magazine tasting, which is a remarkable effort at this price.

This is classic Rioja aged in American oak with black olives, dark fruits and vanilla followed by silky tannins and a long finish.

Terrazas de Valpiedra Crianza 2012, Rioja (Majestic £14.99 or £9.99 if bought as part of six bottles) is made in a more modern style with blackcurrant and plum fruit to the fore with background notes of cinnamon and vanilla before ripe tannins and a long, smooth finish.

Australia is not the first place you may turn to when it comes to pinot noir, but there are some serious wines being produced now, especially in Victoria.

Stonier Pinot Noir 2013, Mornington Peninsula (Waitrose £11.99 on offer from £14.99 until December 29) is a lovely affordable example with cherry, strawberry and dried herbs followed by a medium-bodied, silky palate.

Similar but slightly lighter is Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2013, Casablanca Valley (Majestic £14.99 or £9.99 if bought as part of six bottles).

This is very aromatic with almost sweet wild strawberry fruit and spices in the background. Both of these would work really well with goose or turkey as well as Lawrence Murphy’s wild duck recipe this week (see below).

If you fancy something a little more robust then Trizanne Shiraz Grenache 2013, Swartland (Waitrose £7.49 on offer from £9.99 until December 29) is a really great value Rhone-style blend from South Africa with dark fruits and savoury notes. I enjoy the fact that even though it’s a blend, it manages to retain great elegance.

Turning up the volume considerably, Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2013, California (Majestic £19.99 or £14.98 if bought as part of six bottles) comes in at a whopping strength of 15 per cent.

This is big and bold with plums, chocolate and coffee followed by a ripe, juicy, warm palate. It’s not to be messed with, but it’s a bottle which will certainly stand up to all those flavours on your Christmas plate.

Lastly my guilty Christmas pleasure has always been a bottle of Australian sparkling shiraz.

This unique style of wine is admittedly bonkers and a definite marmite wine, but that’s fine as I love it and it’s brilliant with turkey.

Seppelt Sparkling Shiraz 2011, Australia (Morrisons £14 on offer from £16 until January 3) has loads of frothy cherry and raspberry fruit and dark chocolate on the nose, followed by a rich, spicy and, of course, effervescent finish.

The very taste of Christmas.

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