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Christmas Wines 2023: A Festive Feast in Three Acts

"A lucky group of customers had the opportunity to taste Cellar Magnifique’s annual recommendations for wine to enjoy on Christmas Day... Roland has chosen to share his notes from the tasting"

A filled red wine glass and bottle with a festive backdrop

Prologue: A Culinary and Oenological Delight


On Wednesday 15th November, a lucky group of customers had the opportunity to taste Cellar Magnifique’s annual recommendations for wine to enjoy on Christmas Day. We set up the tasting in three Acts, each of which represented a different dimension of a traditional festive culinary experience. Those fortunate patrons enjoyed food morsels, lovingly prepared by Miska, which captured typical yuletide flavours.


Cellar Magnifique Proprietor Roland Foxcroft and winemaker/ex-sommelier Sam Kemp went head-to-head recommending their choices for the year. On each Act the audience was decidedly split, hopefully indicating robust competition. Roland has chosen to share his notes from the tasting to allow all of our wonderful guests to consider some of our ideas.



Act I: Presents and Canapes


Festive music and the slightly garish public decorations over the last few weeks have set today’s scene. However, only now have the stresses of Christmas planning and day-to-day life begun to recede – we are finally there. Our homes are decorated and we have gathered loved ones together. We are about to open presents with much Christmas cheer when…


 … Roland reaches for Domaine Champalou’s Vouvray Brut. This sparkling wine is made with Chenin Blanc grapes using the Methode Traditionelle. Expect hints of apple, pear, and a touch of honey with a long creamy finish. Catherine Champalou’s family has been producing excellent wines in the Loire valley for twenty years and is committed to sustainable viticultural practices.


 … Sam reaches for the Domaine Schoenheitz Cremant d’Alsace. These bubbles are made with a blend of Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc, also using the Methode Traditionelle. Expect hints of fruit (apple, lemon, and strawberries), developing into more toasted notes. Henri and Dominique Schoenheitz took over the estate near Colmar in the 1980s; their son Adrien is following in their footsteps after training at a range of other great estates.



Act II: The Main Event


Presents have been unwrapped and the first Christmas drinks have been polished off. Perhaps we have watched a few TV favourites or else played some parlour games. The oven is nearing the end of its festive toil and the kitchen smells wonderful. We have set the table and are busy corralling the family when…


  … Sam reaches for the Illahe Vineyards Pinot Gris. This wine hails from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA, from sites influenced by Mount Pisgah’s idiosyncratic weather patterns. Expect notes of crisp apple, lemon, ginger and honey to be complemented by lingering flavours of almond butter and cardamon. Winemaker Brad Ford mixes his passion for wines with a sense of place with his interest in historical wine-making techniques.


  … Roland reaches for Damien Martin’s Escargot Bourgogne Rouge. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir, from the Mâconnais district in the south of Burgundy. A fruity heart of raspberry and cherry is well balanced with more savoury notes and a silky texture. A refreshing acidity will help cut through a rich festive feast. This wine is made by a father-son team (Robert and Damien): both foster a deep love and respect for local winemaking traditions.



Act III: Sweet Treats


We have enjoyed the main course and have thoroughly complemented the (domestic) chef. Competitive cracker-pulling has commenced, safe in the knowledge that everyone eventually wins a paper hat (and endures the same terrible jokes). A sweet smell fills the air and our appetite regroups as we begin to anticipate further culinary joys. Just then…


  … Roland reaches for the Château Simon Sauternes 2018. This is a sweet white Bordeaux made with a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by Botrytis (noble rot) and hand-picked. Expect barley sugar notes, accompanied by exotic fruits and candied apricot. Château Simon boasts two centuries of heritage, owned continuously by the Dufour family. They seek the best from ancestral and modern production techniques.


  … Sam reaches for Blandy’s Duke of Cumberland Madeira. This is a medium rich red from the eponymous Portuguese island in the Atlantic. It is made with Tinta Negra and fortified with brandy before cyclic heating and cooling over three months and a minimum three years of aging. Enjoy notes of nuts, raisins, and caramel. The Blandy family has been making wine in Madeira for two centuries and has played a leading role in the development of the unique local style.



Epilogue: Your Own Christmas Celebration


We are delighted to offer all of the choices above as options to pre-order for delivery or collection ahead of Christmas. As ever, we offer a 50% discount on all take out wines. Additionally, we are offering an option to enjoy all three of either Sam or Roland’s wines alongside carefully matched cheese and charcuterie presented in a traditional wicker box. These hampers might be a one-stop-shop for all festive wine needs and are priced at just £99; they will be available for collection or local delivery in the week before Christmas. Please place orders in the bar or email


Roland’s selection of wines will also be offered as a flight, or individually by the glass, to be enjoyed in our bar throughout late November and early December. Do pop by if you would like a try and discover your own Christmas choices!

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