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Article: Your Guide to Christmas Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Your Guide to Christmas Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Your Guide to Christmas Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Welcome to this month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club, the UK's most exciting wine subscription for the curious drinker. Each month, we will introduce you to a new wine region as part of our promise to deliver no two wines the same for a whole year. Not a member yet? Subscribe here.

Looking for an older guide? See all the Explorer's Club guides here.

What's in this month's Explorer's Club?

As a wise man once sang: ‘Its Chrrrissstmmaaaaasssssssss!’


Ahem, anyway the festive season rolls round again so we’ve decided to do something a bit different to our regional exploration and select wines that make for perfect Christmas Lunch pairings.


This month’s Explorer’s Club is chosen to provide a wine for every course, from a sparkling that is ideal to really get lunch started to a favourite sweet wine made to cap off a feast. With this collection you can still Explore the world but you can do it from the comfort of your dining room table. With a paper crown on.


What do we mean when we talk about great pairings? As Seasoned Wine Explorers you’ll know that usually pairing wine with food means balancing acid with salt to ramp up fruitiness or upping the acidity and freshness to ‘cut through’ fat and richness. All are present in the wines this month but Christmas lunch throws in a lot more challenges that make this so much fun to think about. Often lunch is multiple courses, meaning palettes get jaded quickly; the wines served with the meal usually aren’t the first of the day; and the main course has lots of delicious sides, all of which need to be thought about and can trip up the unwary. We’ve included a couple of whites and reds, each of different body and weight to make things a bit more simple.


If you already have the wines planned then they also just make for a tasty glass of wine over the holiday period, whether that’s a pick me up on Boxing Day or a celebratory glass of fizz on New Year’s Eve. So, sit back, open a bottle and we’ll begin…


This is the flagship sparkling wine from the Istenic family, based in the eastern rolling hills of Slovenia. It’s named for the founder Janez Istenic’s career as the goalkeeper for the Slovenian national team before he made the move into winemaking in the 60’s. It’s all traditional method, exactly the same as in Champagne but the Pinot Meunier has been replaced by an indigenous grape, Rumeni Plavac. This adds an enticing peachiness that make it very smooth. This is combined with time on lees that gives it breadiness and complexity.

With the latest vintage, Istenic have reduced the sugar dosage to increase the acidity. This makes the wine ideal for pairing with fattier, salty foods like smoked salmon, prawn cocktail or dressed crab. It’s a smart wine to start a meal with but is light and balanced enough to drink by itself.

The first of our still whites, this is another wine to pair with fish as a starter but also works so well with roast turkey. Holdvolgy are modern winemakers with a long history. The winery itself sits on tunnels from the 16th century that are still used to age wine. They’re situated Tokaj, in the heart of Hungary’s winemaking capital and Vision really shows this. Hungarian furmints are all about minerality and its here in abundance but barrel aging adds additional layers of Williams pear, cedar and quince.

The minerality and natural furmint acidity will complement turkey and refresh palettes that might have already had a few different tipples by lunch but its complexity means it won’t be competing for attention with the variety of strongly flavoured sides. A real ‘food wine.’


This is a new wine for us this year as we’ve grown our range from the Republic of North Macedonia, a small country with an ancient viticultural tradition and an increasing international reputation. Viognier needs heat to ripen well so it really flourishes in this warm region but there is still a freshness and delicacy here, as there is in good Rhone versions where its most famously planted. All that heat really brings out the abundant stone fruit, chamomile, floral, honey and apple notes of the variety.

While it still has Viognier’s lightness, this has more ‘weight’ and body than the Vision and so it makes sense to have this after that if drinking with the meal. Or serve to fans of more mid-weight wines and keep Vision for the ‘crisp white’ drinkers. It should shine alongside a herby, lemony buttery turkey. 


Janos Markvart Jnr is the winemaker at this brilliant winery in the south of Hungary. The grapes grow on mature vines in two vineyard sites, in the Sauli Valley and the Right Hermit respectively, with the latter consisting of hundred year old vines. A long time Novel Wines favourite, the final wine is a Kadarka that is bright and fresh, bursting with red berries and showing similarities to Pinot Noir.


As a pairing wine it has a balanced acidity that works well alongside an indulgent meal. Although you may not be thinking red, light reds are a classic Turkey pairing and this Kadarka is no exception. Think cranberry sauce with its bright, red fruits and sweetness and you can see how this works. Its also fantastic with duck and contrasts nicely with rich meats and sides like pigs in blankets.


For our final red, we’ve stepped up on body and intensity and picked a wine for those of you treating yourself to a rib of beef this Christmas. Feketeleanyka, otherwise known as Feteasca Neagra, has a deep intense hue. Indigenous to Romania, the grapes are picked from the famous Minis vineyard in Transylvania, the home of Balla Geza. With this wine you get loads of blueberry, black cherry and warm spice notes, perfect for Christmas!


With an eye to food pairing, all the wines we’ve selected this month have a touch of acidity. When pairing wine with beef, its easy just to go with a big, oaky red but the tannins will clash with the fattiness of the meat and the spice in some of the sides (eg star anise in red cabbage.) Tannin is often a challenge and while there is big fruit here and some tannin from barrel aging, due to its tang it should play more nicely with beef while delivering the weight and punch of a hearty Chianti.


Christmas is a time for friends and Tundermese is certainly close to our hearts, being the first wine we ever listed! A blend of Furmint and Sargamuskotaly from Tokaj, Hungary. It’s a great dessert wine due its to its fresh, fruity flavour. There are layers of, melon, quince and pear over a fresh acidity. It’s a sweet finish but its well balanced by a fresh acidity that will pair nicely with the stilton or a mince pie.

However you’re doing Christmas this year, we hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing time. Thank you for your support as ever and look out for some exciting new boxes next year.

Merry Christmas from Novel Wines Ramblers and Globetrotters!

Where can I find out more?

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